All things being equal, I wouldn’t trot out the “if you’re in a hole, stop digging” adage for this piece. Because it’s cliche and hacky. But then again, Gary Neville peddles in cliche on television and Sky Sports pays him handsomely for it, so, you know, screw it.
Neville, who’s still trying to rebuild his life following his embarrassment as Valencia manager, used his considerable media platform on Sky Sports this weekend to re-litigate the public spat with Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius and the club (previously: here and here). When asked where responsibility lay for an argument that has spun wildly out of control, Neville’s answer was fairly simple: “Definitely Not Me.”
“(Karius) can have a dig at me for the next six months. I would always say to a player going into an interview ‘what is going to help you win games, what is going to make you play better?’ The fact he took on the interview is fine but did it actually help him? Did Jurgen Klopp’s interview help him? From my point of view, calling it bullying young players is absolutely ridiculous. I was critical of David de Gea a few years ago and he’s gone on to prove me wrong through silence and good performances. There was nothing personal against Karius, it was an observation. At the time, the statement ‘he transmits anxiety to his team-mates and around the stadium’ was correct.”
Lest you think that Karius was alone in his persecution of poor Gary, rest assured there were many, many others at fault. Except him. Definitely not him.
“Two weeks ago (on Super Sunday) my most critical comments were about a United and an Everton player. No one will remember what my comments were because Manchester United and Everton never reacted to it, the players never reacted to it and they were forgotten about. I called Marouane Fellaini pathetic and idiotic and I battered Maarten Stekelenburg for his part in Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s goal. I said Karius transmitted anxiety and nervousness to his team-mates. The other two stories have disappeared to the point at which no one can remember them, that’s how I would expect press departments of football clubs to deal with these things. Once Karius did his newspaper interview I knew he would be out of the team in four or five days, I knew he brought pressure upon himself. I always say young players should always do interviews. Me saying, ‘stay clear of the situation’, which was my advice to Karius after doing the interview - and also Phil Neville and Jamie Carragher saying ‘shut your gob’, we weren’t actually talking as pundits. From our point of view as pundits, we’ve done our job. We created the debate. I’d say we were more guiding him as an ex player or a coach, saying ‘this is not a fight for now’.”
See guys? He was just trying to help. And we were all so, so mean to him. We should be ashamed of ourselves.
We’re a bit over 24 hours away from kickoff of the Merseyside Derby. Hopefully Klopp and the players can put aside their debilitating shame at victimizing poor Gary Neville aside long enough to play. Hopefully.