Farewell Gary Neville: An Overly-Emotional Ode To The One Good Thing About Monday Nights

Before you go, there's something we need to say

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I'm going to miss you Gary Neville. It's a statement that just 5 years ago I never thought I'd make.

As a player, you were widely loathed. By fans of almost every club, even a few of your own. Looking back today of course, that's pretty hard to believe.

Perhaps it was the success you enjoyed that we interpreted as smugness; the tactical, analytical brain that we thought was you being whiney; or the will to win, that we just took to be a bit irritating. We just didn't understand you then. Sorry.

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Then that fateful day in April 2011 when Sky Sports announced you were joining them for the start of the 2011/12 season as their premier pundit.

At the time, the news was greeted with apathy and disinterest. Just another recently retired player in a grey suit to trot out the usual half-time platitudes. Again, apologies. But how were we to know?

How were we to know that you would fundamentally alter the UK football punditry scene, mainly by just being a bit better than everyone else?

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How were we to know, that for the following four years you were about to make Monday evenings on Sky Sports appointment television? Even when it was Stoke v West Brom?

Alright we were probably staying in anyway, it was Mondays after all, but still, something was happening here.

The way you commanded that strange blue studio bar like it was an arena. Even when you were perched so uncomfortably on that stool.

The way you held that stylus, occasionally jabbing it forcefully through the air to hammer home a point about the failings of Arsenal's midfield.

The way you effortlessly handled the clunky buttons on that archaic Sky touchscreen thing from day one when everyone else was so incapable. But you put in the extra practice hours, didn't you Gary? And, of course, as always, that work ethic paid off.

At the core of it all of course, was that you knew what the hell you were talking about. It's strangely rare to find a pundit who prepped, and watched and thought and analysed. And cared. Isn't that the job?

Gary in his element: at the touchscreen on a Monday night

On paper, yes. But while the rest of your colleagues were probably on the golf course, happy blurting out clichés for cash, you were rewatching the Crystal Palace game in slo-mo. 

Rarer still, you were brilliant at communicating these thoughts in a way that was digestible without ever dumbing down. Even when talking to your colleague Jamie Carragher. Which must have been so tempting.

But now you're off. It's sad, but we knew it couldn't last forever. You were too good to see out your days in an LED studio with no one but Ed Chamberlin for company.

We wish you well in club management where your borderline obsessive football brain will be put to best use. Just make sure you show Jamie how to use that touchscreen on the way out.

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