Gary Neville has his fill of Fruit & Nut jobs on social media

Sky pundit predicts demise of email while lamenting online aggression

Gary Neville launches Cadbury’s third year as ‘Official Snack Partner’ to the Premier League in Dublin. Photograph:   David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Gary Neville launches Cadbury’s third year as ‘Official Snack Partner’ to the Premier League in Dublin. Photograph: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

 

During his lengthy career at right-back for Manchester United and England, Gary Neville never claimed to be the most gifted of players, instead putting his success down to not just hard work, but to focus and discipline too.

And he displayed plenty of the latter qualities in Dublin on Wednesday, the fella not once dipping in to the carton of Heroes placed in front of him while chatting to a gathering barely visible for all the Crunchie, Flake, Twirl and Fruit & Nut wrappers that had mounted on the table before he arrived.

And those qualities were evident too when he resisted even throwing a glance towards the Premier League trophy, bedecked in provocative sky blue and white ribbons, that was sitting in the room when he walked in. Him being an entirely affable fella, nobody was unkind enough to point out that this might be the closest anyone with a United connection might get to that trophy for a while yet.

Neville, who, alarmingly, made his debut for United 27 years ago this month, was in town to launch the third year of Cadbury’s partnership with the English Premier League, that collaboration earning the company the grand title of “Premier League Official Snack Partner”. His PR minders would have been mightily relieved that he wasn’t there to promote, say, Gmail.

Spicy spat

“I’m coming off email, I am,” he declared.

What led to this pronouncement was Neville’s take on this week’s spicy Twitter spat between Michael Owen and Alan Shearer, all of which was kick-started by the publication of extracts from Owen’s forthcoming book in which he laments the “downward step” that was his 2005 move to Newcastle. The pair tore shreds off each other.

“I actually quite enjoyed [the spat], but If Michael and Alan were in a room together, they wouldn’t have said any of it. You sometimes say things on social media that if you were sat across from the person you would never say. But Twitter is not reality, it’s a mob. I constantly have negative things said to me on Twitter that are never said to me in real life, literally no one has ever come up to me and said those things – and I’m in Manchester city centre almost every day of my life.

“If only everyone just got in a room and talked. I’m moving away from written communication now, the world is becoming all about that, whether it’s WhatsApp, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. And I think that’s what’s happening with Alan and Michael, basically they’ve not rung each other up.

“So yeah, I’m weaning myself off email now. I think it’s an aggressive form of communication that people use to protect themselves. Everything is so formal, people have forgotten how to speak to one another. They all have WhatsApp groups rather than having a conversation. I just say, ‘ring me up’. I think email will die. I think it will go in the next 15, 20 years.”

“Any way, just a little rant there. About Cadbury and the new Dinky Deckers . . .”.

He wasn’t finished, though, unlike the Dinky Deckers.

Thick skin

“In my day, we were exposed to a critical media, but the media now is so much more intense – there are so many outlets debating football every minute of every day. The reality of it – and I hold my hands up, I am part of this with Sky – is that players are subjected to far more scrutiny now, and if they’re going to be on social media and they’re going to be reading every comment about themselves, they need a thick skin. I have 4.2 million Twitter followers and they can be aggressive at times, even United fans, but I’ve never blocked one single person and I never will, you can’t just filter the messages to be positive.

“But I do think we are being socially engineered – I’m not going to the levels of Cambridge Analytica here – but I do think we’re having messages being forced down our throats that are influencing people’s minds and it is almost always towards the negative, certainly in football. It takes someone to die or retire for things to be positive. It’s a disconnect between the reality in a stadium where there is a warmth towards a player, a warmth towards the club, compared to somebody sat five or 5,000 miles away in a bedroom, just being in their own angry world.”

And with that he was off to prepare for the evening’s Cadbury-sponsored event at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre where his old mucker Roy Keane would accompany him. “Share Good Times,” as the ad for Heroes puts it. The audience, you’d imagine, would have been hoping for a few Careless Wispas from their United days.

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