Phil Neville joins Match of the Day as BBC unveils new line-up

Aug 7, 2014
Bill Mann

Not everyone is pleased to hear that the former Man United defender will be on the sofa

Ian Walton/Getty Images

Louis van Gaal might not want him on his backroom staff at Old Trafford but fortunately the BBC still believes in Phil Neville. The former England defender assisted both David Moyes and Ryan Giggs last season during United's torrid season but new manager van Gaal has decided that the 37-year-old Neville will not be part of his coaching set-up this season.

But where one door closes another one opens, and BBC Sport have ushered Neville into the Match of the Day studio as one of the new faces tasked with replacing the inimitable Alan Hansen.

Hansen's Scottish brogue and mordant eye will be sorely missed on the Match of the Day sofa and the BBC are looking to Neville, Ruud Gullit and Rio Ferdinand to assume the punditry responsibilities.

Former Holland star Gullit has a proven track record in the TV studio while Ferdinand – who last season famously turned down the chance to play for England to appear in the Al Jazeera studio – worked for the BBC during last month's World Cup.

So too Neville, although unlike his former Manchester United teammate, who passed muster as a pundit, his  debut as a co-commenter during England's 2-1 defeat to Italy drew a whopping 445 complaints. Lambasted on social media for his monotone delivery and anodyne comments, Neville later admitted: "Co-commentary is harder than I thought it would be. I will get better. I'm glad I helped everybody sleep!"

He did improve marginally in the month that followed but the BBC clearly believes he has something to offer with the corporation's football executive, Mark Cole, saying Neville  offered "tactical analysis" and adding: "After 22 years, Alan Hansen will no longer be with the show, but the World Cup really showcased the strength of the new BBC punditry team. We will continue to evolve the Saturday night panel and... we are confident we have put together a varied team full of insight and opinion, led by Gary Lineker, who has consistently proved to be amongst the best presenters in the UK."

Judging by the public's reaction to the BBC announcement, however, Neville and the new panel of pundits have some way to go before they win over the Great British public. "Inexplicable, so mundane it's painful. Apart from Lineker it would be nice to have some pundits that don't struggle with words containing more than 3 syllables," wrote one reader of The Guardian.

Over at the Daily Telegraph opinion was similarly hostile: "Thank god for playback TV now I can just edit Neville out myself," wrote subscriber. "He really is the audible version of watching paint dry." 

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