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Gary Neville’s Struggles and Criticising Critics

Countless times, I’ve heard friends, pub-goers and general people criticising life, art and culture. I fall foul of it myself daily. The ease by which we can criticise the work of others has given voice to anyone and everyone: the prevalence and ubiquity of social media given rise to outbursts of obnoxious opinion at any and every happening, be it sporting events, a celebrity making an error or political machinations.
The most recent instance which has brought this issue to the forefront of my conscience, and the lens through which I intend to examine my problem with critics, was the 7-0 thrashing of Valencia at the hands of a potent Barcelona side. The manager of Valencia is Gary Neville, a legend of English football and punditry; Neville is an immensely popular critic on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football programme where, along with Jamie Carragher, he would explain the minutiae of a football match so that anyone with a modicum of footballing experience could understand as though they were a knowledgeable manager.

Picture: Sky Sports

The more I watch Monday Night Football, the more respect I have for the mental attributes it takes to play football to such a high standard, and my level of respect for Neville is as high as a 60s music festival. When Neville’s appointment was announced in December, I was a little surprised but pleased that he was going to apply his tactical nous to a struggling side in Spain. It was remained a marvel, then, that Neville’s managerial record is five draws and four losses from nine league matches and includes the aforementioned humiliation by Barcelona. How can a man who has structured his recent career around demonstrating his immense insight and acuity struggle to apply his evident ability to an actual team?
One possible reason for Neville’s poor record at Valencia is that the team and squad is simply not talented enough. I do not follow Spanish football closely enough to be able to give an analytical insight into the squad, but researching on various news outlets has informed me that consensus is that the Valencia squad lacks experience and leadership. Neville acknowledged this issue in his squad by transferring the captaincy to a striker, Paco Alcacer, from midfielder Daniel Parejo. Alcacer, however, was injured later in the match and a newly appointed captain Shkrodan Mustafi was sent off for a badly judged sliding tackle in his first appearance as captain against Barcelona.


While it is the manager’s responsibility to provide guidance and leadership to a team, there is only so much they can do. That said, Arsene Wenger was critical of Neville’s appointment, saying ‘I believe experience plays a big part when you don’t start well. When you have a difficult start you have no credibility through your history because you haven’t shown you can do it’ (Mirror Sport). Considering my theme is critical analysis of events, it might seem hypocritical of me to give my views on Neville when I’m vastly underqualified to do so. In fact, you could call me a hypocritic (no need to applaud).
Neville is clearly a knowledgeable and intelligent critic on the subject of football. Does his plight then demonstrate that, if such a perceptive man does not have answers, that no-one else should have the right to comment on such issues? In comparison to Neville, very few people understand football as well, and those who do are in careers in management already.
Well, no. Everybody is entitled to their opinion. Everybody has the capability of being a critic. But so many people go about criticising the wrong way. I shouldn’t need to point out the difference between Match of the Day analysis and Big Stan down the pub giving you his two cents on why Hazard is a cheating snake.
I believe that for a critic to be taken serious and be respected, they should have to demonstrate a level of insight or an original angle on a problem or matter. In my world, where friends bemoan Ozil’s inability to put the ball past Fraser Forster by yelling “Put it in the goal, you ” (though, guiltily, this was my own utterance), long termism and patience comes across as far more intelligent than reactionary, expletive-filled tweets and Facebook posts calling for a mob to oust the unfortunate target of the hatred from their position for their indisputable incompetence.
I have tremendous sympathy for anyone in positions of authority because of the amount of scrutiny under which they are placed in our culture. Everyone has an opinion and a perfect way of sharing it. I am uncomfortable with this. Maybe it’s elitist to posit that only certain people should be able to share their views, but I prefer watching Carragher on Monday Night Football than read why Wenger should go and expletive himself because an angry fan has had enough.


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