Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Neville is right, so prove him wrong

GARY Neville was the special guest on Sky Sports Sunday Supplement over weekend and provided a fascinating insight into football writing, journalism and the way ahead for our industry.

The former Manchester United full back and well established Sky pundit almost invited himself on some weeks ago when he took issue with some of the more modern aspects of the sports journalism industry.

But to say he is no fan of journalists would be a mistake, with every criticism there was praise and the desire for players to be MORE involved with journalists not less.

For me as a journalist it was a fascinating snapshot of where we are in 2016, where something needs to be 
published seconds after it happens not in a few hours.

He was particularly good on the row with Loic Karius which saw the Liverpool keeper and indeed Reds boss Jurgen Klopp bite back at some of Neville's criticisms of the man between the sticks.

No personal offence seems to have been taken, instead there was a frustration that actually a relatively mild form of criticism (what Neville is paid to do as a pundit) became such a story.

Neville criticised the goalkeeper after Liverpool lost to Bournemouth but later that afternoon saved his stronger criticism for Maarten Steklenberg the Everton keeper and memorably labelled Marouane Fellani 'pathetic' for conceding a last minute penalty.

Yet the Karius story stuck and became red hot when Karius decided to have a go back and Klopp chimed in by pointing to Neville's not great record as Valencia head coach.

But Neville provoked scorn by saying 'shut your gob' to Karius – his appearance on Sunday Supplement allowed him to elaborate on it. Neville simply said it was advice from an old pro to shut up, play well, win the title then ram his criticism down his throat.

Because that's how players should take criticism, think 'Right, I will prove you wrong!'

I don't get this 'rise of the super pundit' stuff, Neville (and for that Carragher, Souness, Keane et al) are simply being honest.

The best analysis of football is when the former pro doesn't make excuses and simply calls something for what it was.

Neville is searingly honest, which for me as a fan is what I want to hear not the cosy Match of the Day dressing room banter with Gary and his mates or BT Sport's 'look at us we are all new' approach.

Is he always right? No of course not. Is he biased against Liverpool because of his Manchester United career? No, if you have listened to Neville in the last three years he has eviscerated Van Gaal and certain Manchester United players.

Can subjects of his criticism and scorn prove him wrong? Of course they can. That's the beauty of a nine month football season.

We need journalists to bring us the insight and match reports and pundits to analyise the matches as former pros.

Long may both parts of the Beautiful Game continue.