Sunday 3 January 2016

Gary Neville - Talk is cheap

I am no admirer of Gary Neville. Not as a player,  a pundit or a coach / manager. I take nothing away from his great achievements as a player although I have read a few informed comments that suggests he wasn't blessed with great ability but grafted to become the top player that he was.

As a football pundit, he blew many away initially. He took to punditry like a duck to water and made football understandable to many. I dare say he offered lots of insights into on - the - pitch football decision making and some of the behind the scene stuff.

Also, I think Gary as an assistant to Roy Hodgson in the England set up has handled his role with some dignity and class. There have been no rumours or briefings of Gary's unhappiness or manoeuvres  as some are inclined to do in other set ups. The England camp appears to be a happy one and I am of the opinion that Gary has played a part in this. You never hear him talk about his England job as a pundit and I respect his ability to separate those roles & manage any potential conflict.

Back to Gary's punditry. A lot of hype has surrounded his ability as a pundit. Some will say deservedly so,  however I am naturally against hype and started to view Gary's punditry with caution. I took a strong dislike to this article on Jose Mourinho. It represented everything I disliked. It was hype personified. Yes Jose & Chelsea went on to win the league that season but look at the state of all of them now - Jose is unemployed and looks like a vagrant and tramp polluting the streets of West London. Chelsea are in a relegation scrap and Gary Neville as the Valencia manager is the personal embodiment of 'Talk is Cheap'.

What did I dislike about that article? It made Chelsea's win at Anfield when Steven Gerrard infamously slipped something of a tactical masterstroke. When did defending in numbers become a masterstroke? When did playing on the pride of an opposing manager you know so well become a masterstroke? It was a routine day in the office for Jose. 

Brendan Rodgers was complicit in the 'Gerrard Slip' and in losing the match and Liverpool's title hopes in the name of some yet to be established reputation as a ball playing side.

Liverpool didn't need the win, so there was no need to staying true to some ridiculous philosophy by a manager in his first big job. Win the league, establish an enduring reputation and talk about philosophy. Not the other way round.

Back to Gary. By the time, he stopped analysing football and started commenting on managers especially Arsene,  he was a lost case to me. Mate, you are a good player. Some say very good. Some might even say world class on your day. You have established yourself (somewhat) as an astute business man. Great. You are a brilliant pundit. Fantastic. But you are learning the ropes as a manager. What qualifications do you have to definitively tell a very experienced manager he doesn't know what he his doing and that you know better? And when he offered some clarity, you disagreed and insisted you were right. 

Gary TALK IS CHEAP. Employ some of that fabled punditry skills to dig Valencia out of the hole they are in now. It shouldn't be too difficult to move some of the dials on your big punditry screen, offer some weasel words and the benefit of hindsight. Turn Valencia's season around mate.   

Anybody. Even me, can tell what Obama, Cameron, Merkel and Buhari what they are doing wrong. We even know how Messi can do better as a player.  We know what the managing directors of FTSE100 companies are doing wrong. But guess what? We will never be given the opportunity to perform any of their roles. So our theories about what they are doing wrong and can do better are unlikely ever to be tested.

But Gary. Its hilarious you didn't see this coming. You walked into a trap set by Peter Lim the Valencia owner.  Just imagine how many times you have mouthed - off to him about what managers are doing wrong in your private conversations. Remember that when you face the Valencia Board at all and every inquisitions after matches. I hope you are bold enough to critically analyse the team's and your performance and blame the manager as you are wont to do in your time as a pundit. I wonder how long before the Spanish pundits start a campaign to question your competence, your appointment and Peter Lim's patience in not pulling the trigger after a poor run of results. 

I know it doesn't matter to you as I have recently read that you have no intention of managing permanently. I don't blame you boss. TALK IS CHEAP. I was privileged to meet a former pundit at a social event a few weeks ago. He is now into coaching and he said  that his old job was million times easier than what he is doing now. The good thing is that he never slagged off any manager as a pundit. He never got into any media slag - off with any.  He was humble, he was modest and he had enjoyed success as a footballer. Unfortunately, he didn't play well as a pundit with today's generation who love exaggerated gestures and definitive comments.

You are privileged Gary. You played under the great Sir Alex Ferguson. On the back of your successful playing career, you were fast tracked into a top pundit role and the England job. You were even fast tracked onto the Valencia role on the back of your association with the owner / your friend. I am certain you will come back as a pundit but please be aware that your words will carry less weight if your failure as the Valencia manager continues. I hope when you do return, you truly realise that -


& you couch your pronouncements about managers with wriggle room.