The year is 2015, another year in which the same music is regurgitated out to an audience who appears to have such little choice in this modern world of the internet and thousands of outlets. The biggest films of the year will be re-boots, re-makes and sequels. Another James Bond instalment, the future after the trilogy of Jurassic Park films and the much anticipated new Disney Star Wars, all will surely be fantastic but all lack something different, all lack some initiative, something truly original, something that may then influence others in the future. That is what Gary Neville is doing for football fans.
On ‘Monday Night Football’ Gary Neville takes complicated aspects of the game and breaks them down making them simple and interesting. His quality analysis is well documented along with his co-analyst Jamie Carragher but it’s his outlook and his understanding of his role and how it influences those who watch the show and listen to his co-commentary that makes him a very important figure in contemporary football.
When Neville was growing up and even playing, punditry was ‘incident led’ where they simply described what had happened and gave a brief opinion on the incident. Unfortunately, that still happens now and no channel is exempt from such crimes. There are often those moments where you sit and think for a second and say ‘I could have said that.’ There are too often times when the pundit literally just says what you can already see as a viewer and it is horribly dull.
However, Neville believes it’s not what happened that is interesting it’s ‘why’ and in particular ‘how’ because those were the questions he had to ask himself as a player on the pitch during the game. He understands that he shouldn’t treat the audience as if they’re stupid, unlike most media outlets, that they are intelligent and want to be informed, want to see and hear something different that increases their knowledge of the game they love. They can then go on and pick up on patterns of play and systems at the games they go and see themselves, increasing their understanding of the game and their own team.
The way in which the game is talked about has changed since the arrival of ‘Monday Night Football’ as we know it, especially in younger people, it’s not often you hear a fan of a younger generation shout at a game ‘hoof it up there’ something I have heard too often this past season from some elderly gentlemen who are growing increasingly impatient with age. There is an elevated debate regarding the pro’s and con’s of different systems, how player’s attributes can win or lose an individual battle opposed to whether how good a goal was or how rubbish a certain player is.
Not only is he influencing how fans view and talk about the game but he also has strong and smart ideas around coaching that can only make you believe that there could well be hope for the England national side if not now then in the near future. He has spotted that where young English players may be lacking is not their technique, which is widely the accepted excuse, based upon lack of kids playing on the street but is more to do with their lack of mental ability to fix problems. He believes they don’t ask themselves those important questions of how and why. They need to actively look to solve problems they face on the pitch by themselves, instead of waiting for their manager to speak to them at half time or bellow some instructions. There must be a desire to learn and an ability to adapt during a game by solving issues by themselves.
Gary Neville the passionate former Manchester United right back is no stranger to controversy thinking back to when he over celebrated in front of Liverpool fans or when he kicked the ball, albeit gently, at an Everton fan. However, he understands the importance of keeping calm and keeping everything relative, how every word needs to be chosen carefully. This being of unsurpassable importance on live television but for writers also who need to have an understanding of how words set a precedence, if you call someone a genius, there is nowhere to go from there it can’t get any better. Too often we hear the likes of Philippe Coutinho being called a magician or a genius so what do we then call Lionel Messi?
He understands that true success comes not from copying, has anyone got the same success that Barcelona did under Guardiola from copying the possession game? No. Winners use their initiative, create their own ideas. New thinking isn’t happening in British football, it hardly happens in football writing and in any sector of the world these days. Music is being ripped off, films are being re hashed and League 2 teams are splitting their centre backs but on ‘Monday Night Football’ they are telling you, fans of football how and why things are happening during elite matches, not just telling you exactly what you can see and may they continue to do so we can all learn that little bit more about the game we love.