The like that dare not speak it’s name

There are worse players who have played for England and Manchester United than Phil Neville, and better ones too. But he seems to me to be singled out as he forms several functions.

He’s the archetypal player who everyone’s granny is better than, proof of the idiocy / fallibility of whatever manager happens to pick them; the Carlton Palmer of the late 1990s, if you like.

He’s a convenient scapegoat for all things a team might not be doing well. I’ve marvelled at how whenever he gives the ball away, he’s excoriated much more than when other players do that. It’s like a whole heap of hate gets unleashed thanks to the pass going into touch, and it’s only him who gets it. Even when he has good games, which he does, because he’s a very good footballer, it’s not noticed. Or if it is, it’s noticeable by it’s supposed novelty, up with George Bush not making an ass of himself in a press conference.

I’ve heard someone display how he wasn’t an arrogant Manchester United fan of the lazy stereotype, but humble. His proof – he was embarrassed on behalf of the club that Phil Neville got picked for England.

Some would argue that giving away a penalty in the final minutes of the England-Romania game in Euro2000 started it. I disagree; the fact that he got singled out is instructive, as I was almost glad we went out of that tournament as we were so awful. The blame could have been apportioned with Nigel Martyn for fumbling the second goal, Kevin Keegan for not playing Kevin Phillips, Kevin Keegan for being tactically inept, or Kevin Keegan for just not having a clue. But nope. Lets blame Phil instead.

He’s had this heap of hate on him for a long time, and I can’t help thinking that the reason he gets it is because he’s not the prettiest lad. People take a great degree of joy these days from ugly players. Luke Chadwick got lots of approbrium for not having superstar looks. They’re footballers, not icons. Modern media might make them icons, but they’re in teams because they’re good at football.

Thinking about why, all I could think of was simple schadenfreude. They’re rich, but ugly – hahahaha. Hating people because they’re not so pretty? Now that’s ugly.