on 9 March 2012
Those of us with little natural footballing talent tend to have a soft spot for Gary Neville. He is like the fan who practiced really hard, and, darn me, got picked for for the team he supported, Manchester United. It's the fantasy we all have. But in his case it came true.
Malcolm Gladwell has argued that, beyond a certain level of innate ability, it is 10,000 hours of practice, and a dollop of luck, that makes for brilliance. And Neville's brilliance was precisely knowing that only application could enable him to compete with the best. So he applied himself very, very hard. Neville relates that dedication with honesty and humility, never for a moment claiming to possess the sublime skills of his peers Giggs, Beckham or Scholes - but revealing how much application those three talents also required to make it to the very top.
Those who think of Neville as blindly, almost oafishly, dedicated to the United cause, may be surprised by the self-awareness and intellect that enables him to objectify both himself and his sport. This isn't an autobiography that will give you sensation or salaciousness; nor is it a work of huge literary merit. But in its modest way it will give you real insight into the professional game in England. And if, like me, you are interested in the minute detail of what it is like to be a top flight footballer - in how extraordinarily mundane it can be, as well as how privileged - this is for you.
Neville is smart enough not entirely to trash anyone - with the exception of the blazers at the FA, for whom he makes no attempt to disguise his well-merited contempt. Cleverly however, he takes us inside the bizarre - and alarmingly hopeless - management styles of successive English coaches without ever quite damning any of the individuals out of hand. After all, he may have to sit beside them as a TV pundit one day. And he never excuses himself from a portion of the blame.
The most striking part of the book however is its early sections. Being an apprentice at Manchester United in the 80s and 90s was clearly something like being in the army: rites of passage; humiliation; physical tests that bordered on abuse. It's all described here in hair-raising detail. It got so out of hand Brian Kidd eventually stopped it. But it's not hard to see why, when the famous Fergie Fledglings finally took off in the Premier League, they could mix it with anyone. Their blend of ability, resilience, and commitment to the team may never be seen again in a single cohort of players. As Neville admits, it was a blend that could simply frighten opponents into defeat.
One is left revising the original fantasy: most fans could never go through what Neville had to endure to get into the first team - let alone emerge as one of the best full backs of their generation. After reading this, you won't necessarily want to become his friend (his OCD rituals would drive you insane); but you would always want him on your team. It will also explain why he could - with similar application and intelligence - become, in time, the best football pundit of his generation. And whoever would have thought that?
United fans love him for his passion and other fans may not enjoy his uncompromising style and his passion for United, but his significant achievements can't be denied. Publishing this after his retirement (Theo Walcott take note) this is an articulate and perceptive view of his career and is refreshingly honest and humble "I wasn't even the best sportsperson in my family". It is short, 300 pages and I had no problem in reading this in an evening, short chapters usually with a focus on a specific event or person (the Treble, Terry Venables, Sven, etc).
I personally found the early stuff the most interesting, as he joins United, the initial `beasting' by the older generation and then the real drive for excellence that seeped through his generation of players, the golden generation of the likes of him, Butt, Scholes, Beckham and Giggs and even Robbie Savage! Neville captures the fear of young players about if they will make it and what it really takes to make it at a club like United. His is honest about his love of United and the desire to get one over the likes of Liverpool, but he is also respectful of the other clubs like Liverpool and Arsenal and their players. Throughout the book he does not feel the need to overly spill the dirt, but you can tell who he respected and who he didn't but with context and example, the contrast between England under Venables and Hoddle for instance.
But ultimately this is a view of his career through his eyes, it's important to note that because many big United names come and go but generally they are on the periphery of his personal story. Likewise this is about his career, not his family, so not much in the way of the personal element of his life.
It is too easy to call players `legends' but in the eyes of United fans Gary Neville deserves that accolade, his achievements with United, his drive and desire to win and the fact that he was United through and through.
on 5 May 2014
I'm a lifelong City fan and an avid reader of biographies and autobiographies. So after exhausting all the genres which I enjoy including football. I came to Gary Nevilles book. Could I bring myself to read the book of someone who I considered arrogant unsporting, and egotistical ?? Surely not. But I'm glad I swallowed my pride and read on.
Firstly I must apologise for assuming Gary to be as I described him. - Because he certainly doesn't come across as that.
Yes, he's a committed decicated player of Manchester United, a team he supported since childhood. A team who he would literally die for if he had too. He always gave 100% and had no tolerance for collegues that gave anything less. Yes he emphasizes how he had a dislike for Liverpool and Arsenal football club, but he also praises their players who also have his work ethic, such as Steven Gerrard... More than that Gary shows what a brilliant football brain he has, tactically and technically, and how he never stopped learning until the day constant injuries brought his career to an end.
He praises fellow players in other clubs when they deserve it and is not afraid to criticise his own clubs shortcomings. He describes pinnicle occasions at Old Trafford such as winning the treble and many other tiles and trophies that went United's way with enthusiasm, describing the euphoria it gave him, he also describes the lows he felt from United's poor performances and his own.
He is first to admit he's not the world's greatest footballer and that it is sheer hard work and undeniable commitment that has driven him into the heart one of the greatest United teams of all times.
He is honest, and openly criticises the F.A., pointing out weaknesses and highlighting occasions when their actions beggar belief. He has strong opinions and not afraid to air them ( which we knew anyway). He also indulges us in his England career, and expresses how disappointing many managerial regimes have been. He highlights his favoutrite English manager as Terry Venebles and also has praise for Sven and even positive words for the early Capello..
But it's manner in which Gary writes this book which sets it apart from other footballing autobios. He finds a balance between telling all, yet holding back enough so as not to incur the wrath of his fellow professionals - but you can read between the lines and know exactly what he's getting at.
If only other's, not only footballers but people in other walks of employment, had Gary's commitment and work ethic, the country would be a better place.
There is no doubt the ability, tactical and technical know how, of this Bury born and bred battler ( as evidenced on Sky Sports too) will take him much further in his nonplaying football career. He will most certainly be England manager one day, and quite probably United's too and as a City fan, I'd be happy with that.
It's a great read and I'd highly recommend it even to my fellow City supporters. It's extremely revealing, fascinating and often surprising, and there are lots of 'behind the scenes' ongoings which make it a must read book !!
My only disappointment is that he's not been on the blue half of the City, but I won't hold that against him now. Great book !
A book I couldn't put down.
on 26 November 2015
Like many non-Manchester Utd fans, I used to view Gary Neville as this average, whiny fullback who got lucky by playing in Britain’s most successful side of the modern football era. It wasn’t until his new-found career as a pundit for Sky Sports that I began to see him a different light. His forthright views and intelligent insight on the beautiful game has made him, in my opinion, the expert to listen to. With this new-found respect, I was eager to read the story on his career and on one of the most interesting periods of English football.
But unfortunately the biography lacks the insightful observations that Gary has now become famous for.
Gary Neville is a red. He has always been a red and he will always be a red. But because of his fierce loyalty to Manchester United, any views or revelations about many of the events that unfolded during his time at the club are tempered with a (noble, maybe) determination to protect the players and manager he served with and under for so long. It’s a pity that so many of the infamous incidents that occurred during his 20 year playing career are watered down to such a diluted extent that you’re left wondering more about what else may have happened rather than reflecting on what actually happened. Incidents such as the famous Sir Alex’s hair dryer talks; the David Beckham fallout; the Roy Keane fallout; the incident between Roy Keane and Alf Inge Haaland; Rio Ferdinand’s missed drug test; the events in the tunnel between United and Arsenal; the events in the tunnel between England and Turkey; they’re all mentioned but are disappointingly lacking in detail which prevents us from learning anything differently from what has already been written in newspapers before. This was an opportunity for Gary to reveal to the world what really happened at one of the biggest clubs in football during the 90s and 00s. But his loyalty to the club, and to the manager in charge (who obviously means a lot to him), prevents his story from being a really captivating one.
It’s a decent enough read. There are some really interesting anecdotes and Gary does come across as humble, decent fella who only wants what’s best for his club and the sport he loves (which has made me re-evaluate his playing career). But in terms of a warts and all story of his time at United, this could have been (and should have been) so much more.
on 4 March 2014
The football biography is not always the most salubrious of things; they sometimes reflect back on the worst times of a player’s career and then dedicate an inordinate amount of time on their one big success. This is not the case for Gary Neville’s ‘Red’, a player who may not have lit up the pitch in his day, but one whose trophy cabinet would make most professional footballers blush. ‘Red’ is a book packed with success stories, perhaps too much success! When was the last time you read a book in which a player rattles through a championship winning year in mere paragraphs because some of the other championship wins were more interesting!
Neville come across as a likable bloke, who may be opinionated, but keeps it straight. What is good from such a straight talking fellow is that he does not drag anyone through the mud. Just because you are telling home truths does not mean you have to be an idiot about it. Neville has good words to say about most people involved in his career, so some of the more entertaining parts of the novel centre on his disdain for FA members of staff from the past. It does feel a shame that he does not dish more dirt at times, but he has so many victories to talk through, he does not have the time.
Manchester United fans will love the book. Gary Neville was a consummate professional who bled for the club. However, even none Man U fans will enjoy it. The book reads like a highlights package of the past 20 years of Premiership Football; talk of Beckham being hit by a boot or Pizzagate are great memories for any listener of Radio 5 Live or TalkSport. The real issue is that so much happened to Neville that the book does not delve deep enough. It is a quick and fun read, but not a biography that will go down as a classic.
Gary Neville, one of the legendary Class Of 92 at Manchester United, has written one of the more thought provoking of autobiographies concerned with the modern game. Obviously, for any ex player who has played his entire career with one club there is going to be a bias towards United - with twenty years of experience at the highest level it would be bizarre if it were otherwise - yet Neville is not afraid to praise or criticize opposing teams accordingly. Even some of his colleagues at both United and England come in for some unkind words in a book which tells his story in a matter of fact style with little space for sentimentality. In many ways Neville writes in a not dissimilar style to how he played his football with the crunching tackles and single minded purposefulness apparent in virtually every page. Other reviewers have remarked on the lack of space in the book devoted to Neville's family life and while it would have been interesting to read something about his domestic side - he used to cook occasional meals for David Beckham in their earlier days - I feel that this is truly indicative of Neville in that he will always be remembered as a footballer and so that is what he chooses to write about, fluently and knowledgeably.
In a laudable final chapter Neville self-deprecatingly narrates the events leading to his decision to retire. His last appearance in a United shirt, barring his testimonial against a full strength Juventus, came against West Bromwich Albion and Neville spares little emotion when recalling the effort it took to last as long as he did in that match - every retired football player regardless of amateur or professional status, regardless of club affiliations must have some sympathy with Neville at this point. And the last word in what is a very entertaining read is when Neville is naming his ultimate United XI. Denis Irwin dons the number two shirt and the author spiritedly finishes with "I'll be lucky if I make it on to the bench". Praise, indeed.
on 16 January 2012
I enjoyed this book.Neither being a great supporter of Manchester United or a fan of Alex Ferguson,it was still interesting reading about some of the behind scenes of the club, and insight into the personalities that have made Manchester United a force to be reckoned with in English football.
Gary Nerville,as another reviewer stated, mentioned almost nothing about his family,the only reference to his wife being when he was unable to sleep when he was making his decision to retire from football,ad her comment it did not really matter what she thought and there is a picture of his two daughters at his testimonial,how refreshing.
Gary Neville has proved that you can be successful without hitting the headlines,without disputing your contract,and show real loyality to club,who nutured and developed you, and incidentally probably invested in you financially. It could be said he is a one off, but I am sure there are many more footballers out there who ply the trade quietly and with no fuss.
This was an honest and refreshing book, which gave you hope that not all footballers are bad boys, and that there are people who care about clubs, and the future of football. I did not think it was particularly controversial, as was stated in the blurb. A good and enjoyable read.
on 18 March 2014
My brother and I grew up in the 90's watching Fergie's Fledgings, so I found this a very interesting read.
This is a great autobiography. I had known Gary's book was out for a few years but wasn't that interested to read it. I have always liked Gary, but he just isn't interesting enough to compel me to buy his book. However, I bought Fergie's autobiography as soon as it came out (Gary's is much better) and was hungry for more United stories, so thought I'd give Red a try. Gary had me hooked from the first chapter and I read this autobiography very quickly. It's well written and really interesting. He's very honest and has some interesting stories. It is not very "juicy" but he has a great story to tell and I found it fascinating. I would recommend to any United fans who grew up watching Fergie's Fledglings.
Immediately after finishing the book I bought another copy for my brother as a Christmas present, along with Fergie's autobiography. I told him to read this one first, and he did! He absolutely loved it as well.
on 2 December 2015
I really like Gary Neville. Working class hero and also one of England and Manchester United's best ever defenders.
His book is engaging and also humble and you cant help but like him and feel hios passion seeping from his pores for the club he feels is the best in the world.
Big respect for Gary Neville
on 20 May 2012
...was one of the more surprising lines in Gary Neville's autobiography, but for me it typified the book because of the insight it gave into the growth and development Neville experienced throughout his career. Whether you like or dislike Manchester United, whether you're a Red or a Scouser or a southern softie, this is a good book to read if you've never really understood why United have been so extraordinarily successful during the Ferguson era.
I'm not saying the book is a great work of literature, but its value is that it goes beyond the platitudes and banal rhetoric of most "My Story by ..."s and gives some sense of what it must have been like in that United dressing room, of the culture and the attitudes. I've never liked "The Manager", as Neville calls him out of a combination of respect and fear, but I now have an even higher regard for him.
Red is worth a read whether you are a thinking football fan or one that doesn't...