Gary Neville: Analysing the Analyst

Before I tell you about Gary Neville, how fervently and interestingly he speaks in this podcast, the first, of what I hope to be a series of substantial interviews, I think it’s important to explain why you and I are here together.

His views on everyone from Leo Messi via Gareth Barry, Pep Guardiola, Richie Benaud, Alan Hansen, Eric Harrison are coming right up. But I’m writing this blog entry and you are reading it because of BackPage Press – my publishers for my books on FC Barcelona and Spain.

What I mean by that is that Neil and Martin, who formed the company, wanted to know, specifically, what it had taken to produce the brand of football which FC Barcelona played between 2008 and 2012. The Pep era. They wanted details.

The chain of events was: they had the bright idea, they, literally, badgered me into writing Barça – the Making of the Greatest Team in the World and it turned out that they were right.

Such was the reception for the books that they added the idea of the podcast that we are launching today. Set-piece interviews with people I admire, like, find funny or find inspirational. And we started with Gary for obvious reasons. In terms of his unrelenting demand to know not what happened, but why and how, he’s cut from the same cloth as these guys.

What Neville does now is, in my opinion, easily amongst the most spell-binding, most riveting, most thought-provoking analysis of sport I’ve ever heard. Radio, television, in person. Anywhere. He’s both forensic and able to communicate an electrifying degree of ‘THIS MATTERS!

It would be easy for him to achieve one, but not the other. In fact many lesser talents would find the two concepts mutually incompatible.

For years and years football in the UK was described only in terms of win/lose, happy/sad, personality, declarations, ball in the net/ball not in the net.

Sky, over the years, has first tried to address that analytical deficit and then to completely rip up the form book. And in Gary Neville, the excellent Jamie Carragher and also their shrewd orchestra leader Ed Chamberlin, Monday Night Football has taken that quality of analysis to an entirely new level.

In this interview Gary is particularly interesting on: when and why he stopped enjoying watching FC Barcelona playing football; Alan Hansen’s broadcasting career; how disinterested he is in goals (normally the staple diet of a football co-commentator or analyst); Luis Suárez; Paul Parker; Denis Irwin; the intelligence deficit in English football; the ultimate sin which Kevin Miralles committed and whether he believes Bayern Munich will be European champions.

Pep Guardiola features … so does Jupp Heynckes, Richie Benaud and, naturally enough Leo Messi. Buried in there, too, is just about the single best and most practical suggestion for the betterment of English football I think I’ve ever heard.

Listen to it. Enjoy it. See whether you feel, like I do, that this is one of the great football brains which the UK has at its disposal.

If you like it, if you think we’re giving you value, then please take a minute to leave a short review on iTunes here.

Thank you!

G

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