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Day: April 8, 2011

Gary Neville hired by SkySports to fill the Andy Gray void

So SkySports have decided that don’t want to bring us good coverage of football any more. Ok I’m down with that. There can be no other explanation for this appointment. Gary Neville is woefully inept and is only a few months removed from playing football at the top flight level. I know he only played twice this season and should have seen red on both occasions only for the referee to bottle it but still, technically he played at the top-level this season.

SkySports have been doing a bit of a merry-go-round trying to fill the hole left when they hired Andy Gray with the likes of Ray Wilkins, Kevin Phillips, Big Sam and Cookie Coleman all sitting in the co-commentators chair. They seem to have not promoted Smudger Alan Smith who is a first-rate co-commentator and instead gone for a plethora of names hoping one of them would stick. This culminated with one of the worst co-commentary calls I’ve ever heard on Tuesday night with Ray Wilkins pathetically biased and woefully inept calling the Real Madrid v Tottenham Hotspur game. I think Ray is a first-rate pundit but clearly not good to be on the gantry.

The Gary Neville appointment had been rumoured for months and now it is official. I know there have been excellent people who have come straight off the sporting arena to become enjoyable and informative commentators. Martin Brundle is the clearest example of this but even Steve Cram, Jonathan Edwards, Andy Gray back in the day, Michael Atherton and the legend that in Richie Benaud all stopped playing and went straight into calling action live on air (although Richie did have a BBC course behind him) but still – they’ve all done a great job so why can’t Gary Neville?

The problem is his impartiality will always be in doubt. None of those guys listed above would ever have had their impartiality questioned to any significant degree even though some of them had horses in the events they were calling (Martin Brundle managed David Coulthard for example) but listening to them you wouldn’t have got that sense. Gary Neville will no doubt call a Manchester United game early in his career and the first controversial decision that goes against the team it will be interesting to see how he reacts. Also the first time he calls any player by their nickname it will grate and the rest of the watching world will call him unprofessional.

This screams of an ill thought-out decision by the new powers that be at SkySports. They want to rid themselves of the Keys & Gray era but by doing so they’ll have already pissed off 90% of their viewers and in turn everyone will be baying for Neville’s blood the moment he makes a mistake. They can laud him all they like but until he shows us he’s great – everyone will think he’s crap and not only that – biased crap at that.

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