Gary Neville has had one of the most illustrious careers of any defenders in English club football. He's won multiple English Premiership titles, 85 caps for England and a couple of Champions' League medals to boot. It is easy to say that the man had a great career. However, in the fickle mind of the football fan there was always something about him though, something that just got on your nerves. Whether this was down to his absolute love of Manchester United, his determination to win at all costs or the fact he succeeded in most things he did, it can't be said. It was something though (his seasoned goatee, didn't help his cause) and if he was honest; he probably knew of this hatred and probably could not care less.
With all this in mind, when he first stepped onto the punditry scene I immediately thought I would despise him. You know he's going to ramble on about his glory days in Manchester, showering them in praise at any given opportunity, condemning anybody who objected his views. How wrong I was.
Neville has taken it upon himself to rejuvenate Sky Sports after smash-it-gate (featuring Gray and Keys) and along with Ed Chamberlain; he has already shown it was the correct decision to fire the culprits. His all-round knowledge of the game and impartial (almost) analysis is without doubt the best available to UK viewers. He mixes his down-to-earth persona with a wide array of facts and analysis to a joyous affect and - compared to his peers - makes the break in live action all the more bearable. One of his greatest assets is his alternate way of translating the game to his viewers, making his point in a modern manner, which catches the ear of his audience. To receive admiration from your audience, you must interact directly with them and speak on their level. The aim is not to condescend and yet make it simple to understand at the same time, an art mastered by very few football pundits.
The question is whether or not this is just his unique and personal input, or do we have more to come with the first batch of Premiership players retiring? Unlike Neville, pundits such as Mark Lawrenson and Ray Wilkins played in an era lacking in technology. Although some form of tactics have been involved since day one in football, were they as detailed as they have been over the past decade, or so? No. It seems outdated for players from such a contrasting period to be commenting - often so critically - on modern tactics and plays.
Neville's peak comes most Mondays of the season when himself and Chamberlain present Monday Night Football on Sky Sports. With only one game taking place on a Monday, they have the opportunity to delve further into the analysis. They do this efficiently with the use of their own technology, showing up the likes of 'Lawro' with their intelligent observations and opinions. Instead of just resting on the words they speak, they always have adequate evidence to support their claims. A far cry from their BBC and ITV counterparts.
Many types of pundits exist: some are better than others and there are more up and comers, like Gary Neville, showing they can support their views (Stan Collymore, Roy Keane). However, most do not have the platform on which to voice these skills due to BBC and ITV sticking with more conservative pundits.
Gary Neville has all the credentials to become a top coach or manager, but I am hoping he sticks with Sky for the time being.