7Cantonas.com contributor Kevin Pilkington gives us his thoughts on the retirement of Gary Neville. Pilkington was, of course, part of the 1992 FA Youth Cup team alongside Neville.
Out of all of Fergie’s fledglings, Neville was the one who went on to captain a Premier League winning team – United’s 17th league title overall, in the 2006/7 season.
Kevin cannot speak highly enough of Red Nev. To supporters, Neville personified their passion on the pitch. Kevin says that this is very much an opinion shared with the players, too.
“Gary Neville epitomises what Manchester United is all about. He loves the club and what it stands for and has had an unbelievable career. Like Rio said (on his Twitter account) he the best right back of his era.”
In the 24 hours since the shock announcement, the overriding message from journalists is plaudits for his achievements in the game despite not possessing the individual ability of a Scholes or Giggs. His determination has been cited as a possible example to young players everywhere, and this it’s that determination that is Kevin’s stand out memory of him.
“My most memorable thing about him is his all round work ethic. It wasn’t so much on the pitch, either – it was all the hard work and extra hours he put in in training. Going back out and practicing his heading or defending.”
With the timing of the announcement following last weeks high profile sacking of Andy Gray and Richard Keys by BSkyB, a high profile media role has been suggested. Kevin says, “I’m not sure (if he’ll want to go to Sky) but what ever he does I’m sure he will make a success of it. I always thought he would go into management and he would do a great job.”
As a supporter, and former team-mate, Kevin wanted to pay a special tribute to Gary as well.
“He was a fantastic professional and right back. He rubbed some supporters of other clubs up the wrong way but they can’t deny what a excellent player and professional he was. I would just like to congratulate him on a great and successful career.”