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Gary Neville: Man of the People 2022

Last Monday our little podcast won an award - The Armstrong Projects North West Football Award for Fan Media, Channel or Podcast of the Season. I'm writing this blog post to acknowledge that achievement and to have bit of a rant.

Those of you who have listened to the latest episode of our award winning podcast (gonna milk that for a bit) featuring the Darren Royle interview will have heard me dedicate the award on the night (in my drunken acceptance speech) to "man of the people, Gary Neville". Rowetta, who was part of the presentation party and who I think is a mate of Nev's, was made up with that, cheering and completely missing the fact that I was taking the piss (she wasn't alone in the room in that regard). The reason I referenced Mr Neville in my acceptance speech was to highlight, what I see as his hypocrisy. I've nothing against him personally, he's entitled to say and do as he pleases, but in many ways he symbolises the elephant in the room when it comes to football - rich people pretending to endorse that it's the working folks game, whilst creaming off the cash, status and celebrity for themselves.

Our Gaz is forever "standing up" for working people in his social media posts, not just in regards to football but in political issues too. He's on our side. In fact, he has written a book titled The People's Game: A View from a Front Seat in Football. A working class kid done good. Brilliant. I started to read the Introduction on Google Books - you can too here if you like. It doesn't take very long to see the glaring contradictions that GNev is either missing or doesn't care about making. In the opening few pages he is telling us how devastating the demise of his home town club Bury was and how he was part of a group called Saving Our Beautiful Game along with, amongst others, another man of the people, former head of The Bank of England, Lord King. He explains that the Tracy Crouch Report is a crucial reaction to the fact that owners of The Big Six "tried to steal the game from you. From us." in an attempted "corporate heist". He also states that the Saving Our Beautiful Game collective launched their "manifesto" for "football to make radical reforms".

Now all of the above may seem reasonable enough on paper, but unfortunately Gaz is playing sock puppets here. On his left hand is Sir Gary of Bury, sword and shield in hand bravely fighting the right hand, the Selfish Scary Fire-Breathing Corporate Dragon trying to steal our game. When Gary has finished playing, he takes off the glove puppets and counts the money he's made off Selfish Scary Fire-Breathing Corporate Dragon, namely from Sky Sports courtesy of The Premier League and from Bein Sports in Qatar at the FIFA World Cup, with one hand and the money he's made from being a Man of the People with the other. Nice work if you can get it. Or are willing to accept it.

Speaking of work, like GN I'm self employed, so I appreciate that it's not always easy finding jobs to pay the bills. Unlike Gaz, I didn't have a long and lucrative premier league playing career to leverage but that's okay, fair play to him, it's a genuinely impressive achievement to have had a playing career like he has. However, I did find myself in a position similar to Gary yesterday, when I received an email from a research company looking for football fans who have gone out of their way to contribute to the game in their community. I read the criteria and thought, "I could do that!", it's a paid gig, they want fans for an advert and I've just won an award for a podcast which chronicles the two years of unpaid work and commitment myself and my comrades have put in to try and help save our football club. The final amount to be selected for the campaign was upward of three grand, not an insignificant sum...but then I noticed who was paying - Sky Bet. Ah. The Murdochs. No thanks, I'm not having my face associated with THAT family (even if they don't own Sky anymore and I also have an issue with betting companies, but that's another story). I'm not going into detail here but we all know that the Murdoch media empire has backed the rise of the right wing, endorsed Trump, Brexit and inflated the price of football to name but a few. All things that our Gary is supposed to be against but who's money he is happy to take via his gig at Sky Sports. Then there's the human rights issues in Qatar, which Gaz and his mate Dave are happy to overlook for a few extra million quid. Nice one guys.

While we're on the topic of the Class of '92, let's address the fact the Neville and his millionaire mates are pumping ludicrous amounts of money into Salford City (who lose £90K per-week). They are attempting to take them from where they belong (in the non-league) to where they don't belong (the EFL), all the while pushing up wages in the lower reaches of the game in exactly the same way that the top clubs in the EPL are. Salford City is an unsustainable project lads, stop it. It's people like Gary who commit to fantasy projects like Salford City, who help create the environment for clubs like Bury to go bust, and then it's people like Gary who get on their high horse about it.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, people like me and my wonderful podcast team, supporters groups and fans, give up 100's of hours of time to voluntarily take action to save our football clubs from the brink of disaster. We put money we can barely afford into funds to keep the wolves at bay and we ask for nothing in return. We deserved this award because we worked our fucking arses off for our values, our principles and what we believe in - that football is for everyone, that it needs protecting and that it is at risk. Gary likes to think he has the same set of principles, but he hasn't. You have your price Gary and you sold yourself to the Selfish Scary Fire-Breathing Corporate Dragon a long time ago. And when you get bored, we'll still be here to rescue the People's Game.

Thank you for supporting the podcast, for listening and for wanting better for Oldham Athletic, football and what it means to our communities.


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