It’s not the most earth-shattering revelation to state that as a player Gary Neville was not particularly liked by Manchester City supporters. There was his teacher’s pet demeanour and tenacious, ratty style of play. He, above all his team-mates, seemed to enjoy the beatings administered from his far superior side in derby games and that was presumably because he ‘got’ what the fixture meant more than they did, being a local, lifelong Red.
To most Blues, for these reasons, and for many more, Gary Neville personified Sir Alex Ferguson’s long reign at Old Trafford and he was hated on accordingly.
Then he became a pundit with Sky. For his first game he covered Manchester City v Swansea and surprisingly emerged a fair and perfectly reasonable pundit, and that has pretty much remained the general perception of him ever since. As a pundit and co-commentator he is well-respected and even if he will never win a popularity contest among City supporters for the player he was, he is no doubt admired for how he handles a tricky media role in which impartiality is required despite obviously being very partial towards the Red Devils.
During Vincent Kompany’s testimonial, Neville was booed throughout but the manner in which he was booed displayed a begrudging respect. It was pantomime and only that.
Jamie Carragher also played in that game but nobody booed him. In fact the Etihad crowd studiously ignored his being there and that was the case because Carragher’s trajectory with City supporters has gone exactly the opposite way to that of his Sky colleague.
City fans never hated Carragher as a Liverpool player. Why would they? There wasn’t the rivalry between the clubs that there is today and besides, he was an honest, loyal player with a strong work-ethic. Such qualities tend to earn universal respect.
Then in 2015 the defender was one of a number of Liverpool stars – former or otherwise – to publicly criticise Raheem Sterling for his move to City and with the negativity such views fuelled it has consequently been partly blamed for the wider media treatment dished out to the winger that began to take the form of a witch-hunt.
In 2018 a group of City fans shouted abuse at Carragher as he entered a motorway services and though there is no excusing such behaviour his response was revealing. A video via Metro subsequently showed that the fans were parked in a vehicle throughout and that Carragher is some distance away heading through the services entrance. All he has to do is turn the other cheek. After all, by now he is an established member of the Sky punditry team. Instead he aims an obscene motion towards his critics once, twice, then a third time.
This should have been a warning sign for his employers at Sky and indeed it came to pass in the same year that a shouted jibe across a motorway lane led to him spitting into the face of a 14-year-old girl – the daughter of his agitator.
It was an act that appalled one and all and by every metric of morality should have resulted in the sack. Only Sky knew they were onto every good thing with their Carragher and Neville double-act. To the disgust of many he was instead suspended.
In 2019 another video emerged, this one showing Carragher claiming City had no legends and around the same time of this he willingly abandoned any pretence at impartiality by regularly rooting for his beloved Liverpool during his co-commentator gigs. Screaming out ‘Mo Salah, you little dancer’ is the famous example of this following a late winner against Tottenham but Manchester City fans – also Sky subscribers who pay the same amount of hard-earned money to watch their team as Liverpool fans do – vividly recall other incidents too.
The excitement when any opponent of City scored during that title run-in. The barely concealed despondency when City scored. Honestly, it was like paying through the nose to watch your team via LFCTV.
Carragher recently responded to a tweet by Manchester Evening News journalist Stu Brennan (see below). Again, he insinuates that Raheem Sterling is a money-grabber. He states that City are ‘bankrolled by a country’. He alludes also to City’s Etihad Stadium as being a ‘council house’. His tweet was later deleted.
— Joanne (@joanne1894) January 17, 2020
On taking the Sky job Neville immediately realised that impartiality was key if he was to be taken seriously. More so, to ensure that those who pay monthly to watch him via Sky are not short-changed.
If onlyCarragher could come to the same realisation.