Friday, 8 January 2010
Why Gary Neville deserves a new contract...The Teddy Sheringham factor.
Its funny how people's perception of a player is sometimes born of how they look or what their style is on a pitch
At the moment, Ryan Giggs continues to defy the doubters with every month that passes of his career. Like a fine wine, he almost seems to improve with age. However that statement is a fallacy. Despite his wonderful consistency, he is not the same player as he was 10 years ago. The rose tinted glasses we wear are because of the spark of magic Giggsy boy can still produce. That millisecond of inspiration. Giggs has learned to taylor his game. Curb the natural instinct to run, run and run again at defenders. He passes with more precision. He has made sure that ageism doesn't affect his chance of being selected. And for that...we love him.
Gary Neville on the other hand, will never produce 'moments of inspiration'..at least not to the watching public. Last night, radio numpty Adrian Durham (drive time host on Talksport Radio) described Neville as 'Ferguson's nodding dog' and belittled his achievements in the game, saying that he was lucky to come through the United Youth system and was no better than an average full back. Yes. An average full back who happens to be England's most capped right back? Winner of eight league championships and 19 major titles in all? Who has been named the Premier League's right back of the season five times and was also named in the 'Premier League Team of the Decade'....Not bad for an average player.
There is no doubting that Gary Neville's unerring dedication to 'everything United', his lack of outright flair, and his less than pleasing features (when compared to his best mate Becks) have made him a hate figure to many and widely unpopular. He also has a big mouth and allegedly hates Scousers. Of course, all of this has made him who he is, and he was always going to be club captain at some point of his career.
I will admit that in the 90s i was not what you would describe as a fan of his. He had displaced Paul Parker for club and country, who i thought was a better player than him, and he looked small up against alot of his opponents (yes i know Paul Parker was a bit of a midget!). The biggest thing that used to get me though was that he was a bit error-prone. Not enough for you to want to bin him, but enough for you to notice..a bit like Wes Brown can be. My opinion of him didn't really change until the Noughties were upon us. Coinciding with the sale of David Beckham, he stepped up a notch and became a better player. His heart was as big as any striker or winger that would have a go at him. Tactically he had improved greatly, and his service, overlapping and crossing the ball going forward, was excellent. He totally won me over. And all of this when i would have sold him in the blink of an eye..its the sort of template that Darren Fletcher followed...'Zero to Hero'.
So after the Leeds game many are calling for Gary to hand the armband back to Fergie, do his little jog around the pitch with his daughter in his arms and wife shedding a tear of pride, and say goodbye to the Faithful one last time. Its just the end of his shelf life. Someones gotta take a bullet for United's poor form. But lets look at the facts:
Last season Neville made 29 appearances for the club. Not bad for a player who is not first choice. And again this year he has made 12 outings before the turn of the year. Yes he had a horrible game against Leeds...but so did ten other players. I'm still impressed with the way he crosses the ball..(for me he has provided the best cross i have seen at Old Trafford this season) and at 35 he still gallops to overlap like John OShea can only do in his dreams. There's no doubt that his days as first choice are gone. I want to see Rafael installed as first choice ahead of all other choices. But we have let players go too early before when as a squad we still could have benefited from them.
It was only recently that Sir Alex mentioned that one such case was when Teddy Sheringham left the club. At 35 years old we let him go because of his age. This was in-spite of him scoring 21 goals in 42 games in his last season. We all dictated that that was it for him. Time to hang up the boots for a team as big as United..so we let him trot of back to Spurs. Teddy went on to play another 7 seasons of football (5 of those in the Prem) playing an astounding 225 matches scoring 70 times. Not statistics for a washed up footballer me thinks. Its a lesson that when an old player has a few bad games that he may just be suffering from what the likes of a younger/fitter/stronger Micah Richards (Golden boy one day. Pile of trash the next) is..and that's a bad run of form. We allowed Denis Irwin to go, and he still managed another 75 games. At 30 we let Andy Cole go, and he went on for another 10 seasons with 7 of those being in the top division. The point is that with his knowledge and experience, is he worth just a measly one year deal? I believe so. The biggest question lies against his fitness, but if we can squeeze thirty games out of him like last year then i think that's a good return. Some fans wont accept this, as they will demand we send him off to the old peoples home and replace him with a faster, cleverer and better looking more 'United' like player.
But for me, there is not a player that embodies Manchester United more than Gary Neville. People talk of retiring the Number 11 shirt when Giggs moves on to that great big Sky Pundits executive box in the clouds. But i say we should retire the Number 2 shirt as well. 582 times that lad from Bury has put his body on the line for the club. I think he will make 600 before he is anywhere ready to stop running his gob off..