Disclaimer: The transcript that follows has been generated using artificial intelligence. We strive to be as accurate as possible, but minor errors and slightly off timestamps may be present.
You can click the timestamp to jump to that time.
That’s making me a little bit upset. Fantastic, incredible man. It’s the owners of that business, it’s really simple. Joke.
Steven Barlett (00:13):
One of the things that people don’t know about you is just the scale of your business portfolio. It’s quite honestly mental.
Gary Neville (00:20):
The only thing you can ever do in life is work as hard as you possibly can and never give in.
Steven Barlett (00:25):
What is the cost?
Gary Neville (00:26):
I basically collapsed at the floor and had a fit. I went to hospital, I had checks and then found that I needed to slow down a little bit. And I’d stop doing the things that kept me well and I’d just run myself into the ground. So I knew that at that point then I needed to see somebody. Manchester United are failing. I do feel sorry for the current players and that won’t go down well with a lot of Manchester United fans. These players go out onto the pitch now, they feel alone, but that’s where I am a little bit critical of Cristiano. You’re the star, now’s not the time to throw your arms around. Now’s the time to make sure you lead those people. Resilience and robustness and hard work can be taught and learnt. I don’t think it’s something you’re born with. The minute I joined at 11 to the minute I left at 36, Manchester United got everything out of me. Everything.
Of all the people I always talk about having the influence on my life, I never mention my mum and her mum and dad. They’re far better people than I am. That’s making me a little bit upset.
Steven Barlett (01:28):
So without further ado, I’m Stephen Bartlett and this is the diary of a CEO. I hope nobody’s listening, but if you are, then please keep this to yourself. We are a normal working class family. There are no famous sporting ancestors in our family. Yet somehow we won a combined 218 caps for our country at football and netball between us. Tracey Neville MBE, your sister, went twice to the Commonwealth Games and World Championships, representing England 74 times and coached the national team.
How and why is that possible? That three siblings in a family reach sporting greatness when there isn’t a long lineage of, you know, the granddad was at Manchester United, this person was at this club and they opened doors for me.
Gary Neville (02:24):
I don’t know really. I’ll start at the end because I was having a conversation yesterday about, it was as to how long should you take off after you’ve had a baby as a couple, whether it be the man or the woman. And I was thinking about my sister and she took like two or three weeks off and then she was back at it. And also my father passed away seven years ago and on the morning of his funeral, I went and presented our project St Michael’s at a council meeting and then went and got ready at home and went to his funeral straight after it. And someone said to me, it’s not normal that. And my sister, my dad passed away in Australia whilst he was watching my sister play for the Commonwealth Games.
And me and my brother flew straight over there. My sister was still coaching the team. She never broke stride and he was on the ventilator keeping him alive, even though he’d actually, to be fair, passed away. And they were just waiting for us to get over. The day after we got there, my sister said, I’ve got a game tomorrow. We can’t pronounce that he’s actually dead until after I finish the game and I come back to the hospital.
And when I think of that, that’s the end, I suppose, in terms of that sort of that feeling of just that drive, that commitment to what we do. People say it’s not normal. Someone said to me, say it’s not normal that we would continue our lives irrespective of. And that probably came from my dad and from my mum. But I think of it as in different layers for me personally. I don’t know what it was like for my sister or my brother. But for me personally, I think of it as being the first layer was my mum and dad. Their love for sport, their commitment to get there early to do things. My dad used to say, get up early, get there early, get your job done. And then when I got to United, I’m hit by Nobby Stiles, Brian Kidd.
Manchester United European Cup winners of 1968 and then Eric Harrison, a northern, tough Yorkshireman who every single day drilled us about what it was to be a Manchester United player. And then you’re exposed to Sir Alex Ferguson and Roy Keane and Peter Schmeichel and Mark Hughes. So these different layers of monstrous mentalities of people who are just massive leaders.
We’ve been exposed to them. I was exposed to them. And that’s why I always say that resilience and robustness and hard work can be taught and learnt. I don’t think it’s something you’re born with. And I think when you say like, how did we achieve that? I just think we’re very fortunate with our parents and the exposure that we had to brilliant leaders throughout our career and examples and the standard bearers that were next to us. Learning through words, those words that your dad would say to you about getting up and getting at it every morning is a great way to learn.
Steven Barlett (05:01):
But actions, I think in hindsight, seem to be the best way to really learn those lessons vicariously from observing our parents and how they’re behaving in their lives. I’ll never forget the day that I saw my mum. My mum stopped coming home. And then I asked my dad where she was and she said, oh, she sleeps in the back of a shop now, this corner shop she was running. And then going there and seeing this bag of rice that she was sleeping on that had all these rat holes in it from where the mice and rats had been eating it. That visual of that she was working that hard, even though she didn’t have to, to support our families, that she was sleeping in the back room every night and not coming home was a lesson that I learnt without her saying a word. What are the lessons that you learnt from your, because you cited your dad there as being a pretty go get them person.
How was he functioning professionally that taught you these lessons?
Gary Neville (05:53):
He was a lorry driver and he basically worked for Constellation Luggage, which was just luggage, you know, suitcases. And he had to do three drops a week at Daventry, which is south of Birmingham. And he had to get them there basically by the end of Monday, Wednesday and Friday. But we lived in a two up, two down terraced house and every time my dad got up, you can hear your dad get up when you’re younger, you just hear it because it’s obviously the lights come on and you hear the sort of noise, the floorboards are creaking.
We always get up early as a family anyway, but four or five o’clock you’d hear my dad. We lived in the back, we were in the back bedroom and his lorry, his wagon was parked at the back when he was doing a drop the next day. And he’d leave at four or five o’clock in the morning on the Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
He’d take the suitcases, he’d wait for the depot to open at sort of seven, eight o’clock, drop them off and he’d be back and have his job done by eleven o’clock. And then he’d start to go and do his, what would be his commercial work, the fundraising for testimonials, the thing that he loved for say, for instance, Lancashire County Cricket Club players, and that was his passion. That’s how he got into Bury Football Club as a commercial director. He had a sales mentality, my dad, but he’d get his main job done by eleven o’clock every single morning. He’d be Daventry and back in a lorry. And then after school, he’d take us to football and he’d take us to cricket. So the amount he fit into a day was unbelievable. He’d almost do two jobs, he’d do his job, which was his main job, which was earning him his money, which was a lorry driver.
He’d then come and do the job, which would be potentially, could he do some sort of like side job selling for Lancashire County Cricket Club or the Greenmount Cricket Club. He organised dinners and events and things like that. And then his family would come after school where he’d put them into sport and we’d go to United in the evening or we’d go, we were at United from eleven, eleven Monday and Thursday night. So this constant drive of trying to fit as much as you possibly can in the day. And that’s where I sort of, the attack of the day was from my dad, get up, get there early, let’s make sure we’re there. Even at United, we’d get there early on Saturday. There would never be any risk with time of being late.
I feel sometimes that that is a good thing. It’s put that into us, but sometimes to live by that now, particularly at the age I’m at, sometimes you sort of think. It’s hard to keep, yeah, it’s hard to keep on doing it. You wonder now, particularly what we know now, whether it’s the right thing. My dad had heart problems at a very early age, at the age of 42. You know, he’s a lorry driver. You know, he liked to go for a beer. He liked a night out. He did too much. He got stressed. All the things that I do now. So he thinks there’s a lot I can see in my dad of me, but I don’t think I can change it really.
Steven Barlett (08:38):
What is the cost? Because for everyone’s, I sat here with Tim Grover, who actually coaches a lot of the young United players now. Coach Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant for a span of 15 odd years. He was their best-sold coach. And he said, for everyone’s greatness, the thing that causes their greatness, in your case, you know, that drive and that ruthlessness and that dedication caused you to become a Manchester United legend and all these other things. But what is the cost on the other side that people don’t see? He referred to it as we have our light side and we have our dark side. The dark side is a consequence, an unavoidable consequence of the light side. What was that dark side for you and your dad?
Gary Neville (09:13):
Health, I think. And I’ve seen that in the last couple of years with myself. I think… Physical health? No. I’ve said this, to be fair, on something that I’ve done myself in the last week on the overlap. How did you feel about your dad? Actually, to be fair, Raheem Sterling scored the goal in the European Championships against Germany a year and a half ago.
And I basically collapsed the floor and had a fit. And after that, I went to hospital, I had checks and then found that, you know, I needed to slow down a little bit, basically. And it’s similar things to what my dad was told in his 40s. That, you know, ultimately I do too much, I think too much, I need to relax more. You know, to be fair, my wife says it quite often, you’re here but you’re not present.
Christ, I’ve had that. Do you get that? Oh, my God. So, I was doing an interview the other day and it was with Jeff Shreve. Jeff’s known me 15, 20 years and he said, the problem is when I’m asking you a question, you’ve got my question inside the first two seconds. Let’s say it’s a 10-second question. You’ve got my question inside the first two seconds. The next eight seconds, you’re thinking about what you’re doing after. I can see it in your eyes already and he’s right.
So, even during this interview, I’m speaking and sometimes I lose my way in an interview. I like to forget what the question was and quite often I’ll say, what was the question? If I’m on a stage doing like a Q&A, what do you actually ask me? Because I’ve actually drifted off whilst I’m answering the question into something that I need to do later. I’m never present. So, the consequence is that maybe I remember Sir Alex saying to me he missed his children growing up. I am missing my children growing up. That’s a consequence of my life. I’ve been in London for four days. You know, but what can I do?
I come down to Brentford Manchester United. I then stay down Sunday because I can’t get a train back. There was a train strike and then I’m down doing Monday Night Football and I’ll go back today. Last week I was down for another four days. But it’s what I do. I love what I do. I wouldn’t change it. But this afternoon I’ll get back to Manchester and I’ve got meetings till six. And then tomorrow I’m full all day. Thursday I’m in Glasgow doing a dinner with Sir Alex Ferguson. So, it is a constant sort of every single day that I feel like I’m filling days with things that I love and want to do. But then you say to yourself, you do have those odd moments more now. Why am I doing all this?
Why are you doing this now? You love doing it maybe. You know, it’s what you enjoy. But you sometimes have those moments, don’t you? I have more of those moments where I think, why am I doing those? Why have I got two hotels? Why have I got a football club? Why have I got a university? Why have I built an overlap channel? I’m already on Sky. Why am I doing these things? But it’s that idea of, I suppose, cramming as much into your life as possible thinking you’ve just only got this sort of short period of time. And Brian Kidd used to say to us, get your pace early, you can’t make it up at the end. And we used to sprint and sprint in our runs and sprint.
And that means if you collapsed at the end and you didn’t quite finish it or whatever, it’s better than managing yourself and thinking I’ll save a little bit. I have to say, the players that I played with at Manchester United, we never saved anything. It was all left out there on the pitch. And I think that’s how our lives are since as well, we just leave everything out there on the pitch. There’s nothing saved. So we just end up, I suppose, saturating every single second of every single day.
Steven Barlett (12:42):
I used to think that I was driven. I used to think that, you know, and that sounds like a very good framing, I’m driven, I’m motivated. I thought that’s what was, because you said, right, why am I doing this? After I do this podcast, there’s maybe, you know, 10 other companies that I’m running. I have zero time in the day. And then I try and cram in my girlfriend and my family and do a very bad job of that. I used to think it’s because I’m driven and I’m just whatever. And then I asked myself a question, which when I met Eddie Hahn, I saw the same thing. I mean, his book is called Relentless. Are we really driven or are we being voluntarily driven?
As in we’re making the choice to drive towards something. Or are we being involuntarily dragged by some kind of insecurity or some kind of discomfort with the prospect of not being busy? Because for me, I’m convinced these days that I’m probably being dragged by an insecurity.
Gary Neville (13:27):
Maybe. That I developed at a very young age. Yeah, maybe. I’m not sure. I don’t know. Could you stop? I don’t feel, not sure. Because this idea that, you know, if you stop, it’ll kill you and all that sort of stuff. Slow down. I do feel like I need to slow down. I read a book, I think, I can’t remember what it was, a few, a few years ago where it talked about, you can never really retire. If you love work and you are relentless. But what you can have is mini retirements during the year. And that’s what I’ve tried to do. I don’t do it very well. So for instance, this weekend, I’m going to Spain Friday till Monday morning. I call that like a mini retirement.
So. That’s a weekend. It’s a weekend. It’s a mini retirement. It’s where I basically can say for three days I’m there and I’m basically taking it, you know, I don’t think about work. And I will.
And sometimes my best ideas come when I’m on these types of trips. But then in six weeks, I’ll have another mini retirement for five days or four days, rather than thinking you’re going to stop for six months and sort of have a sabbatical. That’s not probably going to happen with people like you or I, because we just basically don’t work that way. So to have lots of mini retirements during the year is what I’ve tried to do in the last few years. I’m not sure I’m doing it very successfully. I’m not sure what’s wrong with us, if that’s what you’re asking. Is there something wrong with you? I don’t feel insecure or vulnerable. I don’t feel insecure or vulnerable at all. I feel.
I feel I feel so confident and I feel not confident. I feel like I’ve got coping mechanisms to be able to deal with things. So there isn’t any criticism. There’s very, very little criticism that I receive now that even touches the sides of me. And I get criticized heavily on social media through my football punditry, my opinions, whatever it may be. Because what I went through at United, losing that confidence at the age of 24, post-treble, going through that difficult patch where I didn’t want the ball, seeing the psychiatrist on my own, only the doctor knew, not talking about it till I was 35. But what that psychiatrist gave me was coping mechanisms and perspective. And I just ask, you know, if I go through a difficult moment now, I ask myself the question, will I come out of it to the side?
Did I expect every day to be a good day? No, I don’t expect every day to be a good day. So when the bad day comes and it’s a really bad experience or you ever make a bad business decision, did you think you’d make every decision would be a good decision in business? No, it wouldn’t be good. You’re not going to make the right decision every single day. You’re going to have bad decisions, bad choices, bad days. So when they come now, I can put them into perspective and move on really comfortably. So I feel like I don’t feel vulnerable or insecure.
I’m not quite sure sometimes, you know, people say I’ve got a strategy, I’ve got a plan. I’m not quite sure any of us have, really, because the reality of it is we don’t know what door is going to open next. You don’t know six years ago, five years ago, that Dragon’s Den is going to come and knock on your door. You don’t know that. You haven’t got a clue. Or 10 years ago, certainly. You don’t know that’s going to happen in your life. But when the knock on the door comes, you think, I fancy walking through that door. And probably the same with me when things have happened in my life where I thought, I didn’t expect that to come. Yeah, I’ll take that. So we are probably being dragged. It’s a little bit like jumping off. You go skiing, you go off the sort of black slope.
There’s no way out of it. You’re going down and you can’t stop. And it’s a little bit like, you know, I feel like, to be fair, my life’s a little bit like a black slope in skiing. I’ve gone over the edge. I’ve started. What can I do now? Say to my businesses, say to the teams that I work with, sorry, I don’t fancy this anymore. Well, thanks for that. But we’re here still. I’ve got no choice.
Steven Barlett (16:59):
I’ve got no choice. You’ve got no choice. Do you know why? I read this book called The Body Holds the Score. And I was actually speaking to one of my best friends yesterday who was an extreme workaholic. And then he started having panic attacks. He ends up in hospital. And he said to me, he said, I felt fine. But the body gives out first. The body will, you know, when the mind is telling you, you know, you can cope with this, you’re doing fine. The body will show you in a pretty drastic fashion that you’re not OK and that you need to listen to yourself. Ever since you collapsed on that day, have you made changes? Honestly, because I’m going to ask Emma.
Gary Neville (17:39):
I did. I have, I think. But then it’s the actual, it’s sustaining the changes and not dipping back into your old habits. That’s the problem. So what do I do? I train four or five times a week. I wasn’t always training pre that.
I try. I’ve got a sleep ring and it focuses me more on the time I need to sleep at night. And but then I don’t always wear it now. You know, it’s a couple of years later. It’s in my bag. It said I didn’t wear it last night and I’m annoyed to myself because I didn’t wear it last night. I forgot to put it on when I got back. So habits really that sort of do drift back into your old habits. I try not to pick my phone up when I first wake up, but I’m failing miserably at that. I’m failing miserably, but I have to take an email off my phone. I’ve taken WhatsApp off my phone. Because they’re things that I think work emails. I think if you wake up to an email at four in the morning, that’s an email that’s not a great email.
Let’s say it’s something that you think I’ve got to deal with that. You aren’t getting back to sleep. So I’ve taken email off my phone. It’s only on my iPad. It helps WhatsApp. I mean, WhatsApp announced last week that they were going to sort of this idea that you couldn’t you couldn’t be joined in groups and people didn’t know when you’re online. I just felt like it was an intrusion. What’s up? I felt like people were attacking me. A constant attack of added to groups and see that I’m online and things like that. Oh, no. Get off. Get away from me. So I just do iMessage now. And I say to people, ring me.
So there have been changes that I’ve made that are helpful because I do feel email is. I love speaking to people. So I lived in a dressing room where the camaraderie, we didn’t email each other at Manchester United. So Alex Ferguson didn’t email me. We had a brilliant team spirit in the club. We were there every single day. We spoke to each other. We socialized with each other. We’d help each other. We knew each other. And that’s how you build a team spirit. And I felt sometimes email can be. I know it needs to happen in businesses. I know that you need to see attachments. I know you need to communicate with each other. I do believe that they can be quite damaging to culture sometimes, particularly if.
The wrong tone on the. I think you can be misunderstood on email. I think it can come across harsh and they can put pressure on people. And I realized that the first five years out of football, I was emailing people five, six o’clock in the morning. But you imagine, you know, you emailing people at five, six o’clock in the morning, the impact that’s going to have on them when they wake up. I’ve got to deal with that. It’s like, that’s not fair. It’s not right. So I have made quite a few changes, but probably not enough.
Steven Barlett (20:21):
Yeah, I completely agree. I don’t. I’ll be on people. This will surprise people. I look at my emails once a week. So my assistant looks at my inbox and then if there’s she puts them on my list and then I go to my list when I’m ready. And also with all my WhatsApp and all that stuff, all notifications off. And it’s just for me trying to take back control of my time. So I choose when I go to it. It doesn’t notify me that it needs me now. And I used to have email dread, you know, early mornings, especially when you’re running a big company, you’ve got 600 employees or more. There’s always going to be something wrong. There is. It doesn’t care what time or occasion it’s going to interrupt you. There’s always going to be. And I don’t want that anxiety in my life.
Gary Neville (20:58):
Also, if there is a problem and something’s gone wrong, then just ring. They can call you. Yeah, ring me. Just ring me. Anyone can ring me and just say, look, I’ve got a problem. And then we drop everything, don’t we? I always feel like it’s the biggest responsibility I have is to the people that I work with. And if they ring me and they’re in trouble, they’ve got a problem. We have to deal with that. That’s an absolute immediate.
Steven Barlett (21:18):
You always going back to your early years in football and as you came through the ranks, you you always and I’ve seen this in multiple interviews, kind of a little bit self disparaging about your own abilities.
Gary Neville (21:28):
I just played with brilliant players. I mean, if you think about it, just go through the players who I played with. Yap Stam. You know, Dennis Irwin, Peter Schmeichel, Roy Keane, David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo, Dwight York, Eric Cantona. Every single one of them had more talent and ability than I did. You know, they just did. It was just obvious around me. When I got to United, do you think about insecurity? The only time that I ever felt insecure was when I got to United. I got to United at 11. And I joined at 11 and the Centre of Excellence group.
And then we got retained every single year. But at 14 is where it gets really serious. And they sign the school boys and the out of town lads come in. So all of a sudden you’re exposed to them, to Beckham, to Scholes joined at 14, all these brilliant players. And you think, how am I going to survive here? I could just, I’m aware. I know my own abilities. And I had to just do things differently.
I was a midfield player, then I was a centre-back, then I ended up at right-back. There is an element of truth in what Carriker said. No one wants to grow up to be a Steven Barlett, meaning no one wants to grow up to be a full-back. Everyone when they’re a kid scores goals or sets up goals. And then you find out that you’re not good enough to do that and you get pushed back the team. That’s what happened with me. I was one position away. That was my last hope, right-back. That was out of the team if I couldn’t play right-back. I’d gone from centre midfielder’s 11, 12-year-old at United, then centre-back from 14 to 18. And then told I wasn’t good enough by my reserve team coach to be a centre-back at United because Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister were there. And then I go to right-back.
So you are aware that you’re being pushed out of your positions by better players. And that that’s your only route to success is hard work and playing it right-back and trying to adapt to that. And then it was good enough for me in the end but it’s not disparaging. I knew the game. I could organise. I knew the game well. I read the game well.
And on the pitch I would never give in. So around me, this idea of being able to organise the team, I could see the game in front of me. So I believe I had an impact on the other players that I played with beyond my talent through my understanding of the game. And making sure that I never stopped going and we never stopped going. We keep going. We just keep pushing forward. So if we’re fighting for a goal, you know. I always think I never go into this level of grandiose. I probably never said this before. When people say to me, what’s the greatest moment in my life? I say it’s the final in 99 in Nou Camp when we won the treble. But I made a run from right-back.
I got the corner for the first goal. Because I sprinted over to the left wing and took the long throw to put it into the box. It came back out to me and we got the corner. It’s not an assist by any stretch of the imagination. It typifies my career of seven goals and very few assists. I am no Trent Alexander-Arnold or nor even a Dennis Irwin.
But you have to find a way to win. You have to just do everything you possibly can. You cannot leave anything on the pitch. You just sprint everywhere. You just do everything. And that to me typified what probably I was. That I could see something in that in terms of how to impact a game. Whether it be through impacting someone else by getting them going and giving them the ball and keeping them at it. And that’s why I think he kept me there until I was 36. Because it wasn’t through ability at the end. He kept me there until I was 36 just through my influence and my impact I had in the dressing room. I’m pretty certain of that because it wasn’t through anything that I was doing on the pitch. So I’m always humble around my own ability because of the talent I had around me.
And that’s why I get caught. On Twitter quite often people will say to me, if you hadn’t been at Manchester United you’d have been a job in right back somewhere at Fulham or Bournemouth.
Steven Barlett (25:16):
I’ve never heard anyone in a high managerial position disagree with the phrase that hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.
Gary Neville (25:25):
Yeah I mean that’s one thing I could never ever be accused of anything other than from the minute I joined at 11 to the minute I left at 36. Manchester United got everything out of me. Everything. And to be fair the club gave me everything. So we didn’t owe each other anything. And that’s something I’m proud of. Longevity is actually probably one of the things that consistency and longevity. Being able to consistently work hard every single day at a good level of performance and turn up every single day and be there is underrated actually. And that’s the thing that to me for surviving at 25 years under Sir Alex Ferguson in that environment of excellence and demands that he placed on people was, you know, it was a great achievement.
But I did that with a lot less talent than the other players in the club.
Steven Barlett (26:10):
When was the first time you realised that Sir Alex Ferguson was… you felt his influence. You felt his mindset.
Gary Neville (26:19):
Do you know something? In the early days it was the old school head teacher. He’s not a head teacher by any stretch of the imagination. But you’ve got a little bit of fear that you maybe have of your father as well as your father sort of gets a bit angry with you. You know that little bit of that dominating male of the 70s, 80s, 90s, probably going back beyond that was a parent in Sir Alex Ferguson. You knew when he walked into the room the room went quiet. There was that presence, that aura, the bosses here. And so you felt it straight away.
When people say to me, sort of, how did you keep coming back every single year and continue to keep winning, what was the secret of that? It was by his actions and what he did. I always remember when I was 30… when did we lose the Champions League final? 2009, so I’d have been 34 right near the end of my career. I was doing my… we played the Champions League final on a Wednesday, we lost. We got back on the Friday from Rome, or Thursday or Friday.
On the Saturday I had to go and pick up my boots at Carrington, the training ground. So it was a Sunday morning. I had to go pick up my boots at Carrington, the training ground to go to St George’s Park because I was doing my A Licence coaching badge. And it was my final assessment. And I went in at 7 o’clock in the morning, I’d organised to meet with the caretaker who was basically there on site all the time to let me in. And I parked on the back and his office light’s on and he’s there in his chair. I thought, oh no, I don’t want to see him, we’ve just lost the European Cup final four days ago.
So I drove back round the front and went in, got my boots and moved out. But he was there Sunday morning, half six, seven o’clock, the only person in the building with his light on, four days after we’d won the European Cup final. And he’d been in his mid-60s. And I thought, no one could live with that. That’s the reason he’s winning, that’s the reason he’s winning.
Because no other manager, no other leader that I know, four days after that defeat, in his off time in the summer, is in his office on a Sunday morning. At half past six. And he didn’t know I was coming in, obviously, and he didn’t see me either. You could just see him in the distance. I couldn’t believe it. And just all those sort of examples of that work ethic. They hit you every single day. And he knew how to tap into here.
He knew how to get you. No matter who you were in the dressing room. He always used to get me, I always say this, by mentioning my grandparents. He used to mention my grandparents. What about your grandparents? Getting up every single day, putting their tie on, the work that they put in. How they never complained about anything. You know, what they must have lived through, obviously, in the Second World War. And he would say things like that in his team talks. And it would always tap into me, because I used to sit with my mum’s dad. And look at his medals that he’d got during the Second World War.
He’d had three or four wounds. He had shrapnel wounds in his shoulders that he could still show me. And bits of metal still in his body. And he would talk to me about the medals and where he’d got them from and how he’d been in Holland. And how he’d sort of had to come back and then he went back over. How he married my nan on one of his returns back. So that used to get me every single time. So when I used to play for United, when you think about what motivates you, what gets you going. And he used to mention, say, for instance, grandparents. And there’s that difficult moment on a pitch where you think, we’re struggling here a little bit. And now I think of my youngest daughter when I’m training.
What keeps me going to the end of that training session. I think of silly things. If I don’t keep going here, someone’s going to get my youngest daughter. And there’s nothing going to get her, so I’ve got to keep going. And there it was my granddad and mum’s dad. And he used to think he wouldn’t stop going. He came back having been wounded twice and shrapnel wounds twice. And went back out. To fight again. And he had those medals and he would speak to me about it. And I used to think, how can I stop? But he would find that in me. Sir Alex would push, he would push those buttons and press those buttons. For someone else, it would become something completely different, I’m sure. It might be talking about the father. It might be talking about him going on strike in the governing shipyards.
It might be talking about another experience that he’s having. But he would tap into everybody in the dressing room in some way that would mean they’d find something. To mean they would never give in. And that’s what his film’s called, Never Give In. He never give in. But also, the influence he had on others never to give in through finding something in them was incredible.
Steven Barlett (30:34):
Rio talked to me a lot about culture and the culture that Sir Alex Ferguson said. Evra said the same thing. Having left football now and working in the world of business, you must be looking back. On the culture he created and in some ways drawing a lot from that in your own businesses, right? What have you learned about the importance of culture? Because there was this comment Rio made to me on the podcast that I’ve never forgotten. Which is about Sir Alex Ferguson’s lack of presence at the training ground. Rio said he only came into the training room dressing ground a couple of times. Because he didn’t need to. The culture was in there. And then Rio talked about how then when Rio went and moved on to another club. In that same dressing room, players are talking about how much money they’re making and all of these other things. Which would never have happened at United. How does one create that culture?
Gary Neville (31:22):
I suppose being grounded. He was grounded and he believed in the work. The work ethic was everything to him. Being proud to work hard. Being proud to work hard. Being proud of the people around you who work hard. Being proud of your teammates. It used to say look around the changing room. Look around. I’m proud of every single one of you. But look at each other. Look at what you each do for each other on the pitch. And how you can’t achieve what you’re going to achieve without each other. So he made us respect each other. Not everybody got on in our changing room. But most of us did. But he tapped into those things all the time. It was non-stop and being grounded.
Looking after people. Little things like Wendy used to get the charity balls signed. And Roy Keane was like this as well. So every Thursday we’d have 30 to 40 charity balls that we would sign. And then they would go to the children’s charities or the different charities in Greater Manchester or in the country. And sometimes you’re in a rush aren’t you? You’re a football player. You’re young. Ah Wendy I’ll sign them after. I’m in a mad rush. I’ve got to go and do my stretching. I’ve got to have a massage. I’ve got to go and have treatment. Whatever it might be that you say on the way in.
Poor excuse that you’d give. Or maybe you just generally did. And there was one day where he basically, I think Roy had walked past Wendy and she was a little bit upset. And only five players out of the 23 in the squad had signed the balls. And Roy went upstairs and said to Sir Alex, it’s an absolute disgrace. This has happened a couple of weeks now. He killed us. He absolutely killed us. The lack of respect to walk past Wendy who was there to get the charity balls signed and not sign them for her. For him it was a dereliction of duty. It was a lack of respect. It’s not what you do.
We’re equal in this football club. We treat each other equally. We look after one another. We make sure that we’re sort of compassionate. And the idea of not doing things like that, little things like that. Just little things like that stand out in my mind. So now sometimes I walk into the businesses and you know what we’re like. We’re sometimes walking on our phone and we don’t say hello to people because we’re that immersed in our own blinkered sort of space. But then I’ll walk past sometimes and I’ll realise I’ve not said hello to someone. I’ll go back and say I’m really sorry and I’ll say are you okay? And I do feel like even when in the office there is no…
I sit next to people in the office. I don’t sort of have my own… Yeah I don’t. I make sure I go and sit in Cafe Football in the hotel or I go and sit in the main restaurant at Stocks or at Salford. I’ll just go and sit in the main office because the idea that basically… He did have his own office and he did have his own space. And he did to be fair delegate and he would keep his… So I don’t think I’m like Sir Alex in the way in which I now look at my business because I do believe it’s very different now. But the staff loved him. Everybody loved him at the club because he protected them. He knew everybody’s name.
He asked about their families. He knew their families’ names. He was really, really attentive. He was far better at that than I am. Far better at that than I am. But I probably to be fair mix with my teams more than he maybe would. So… But the work ethic is the thing. Honestly, the only thing you can ever do in life is work as hard as you possibly can and never give in. And he said you’ve got that choice every single day. Really simple. That’s it. The talent you’ve got, you just work as hard as you can every single day and never give in and then you come back the day after and do it again. And that’s it. That’s the secret to what he believed. Because he said the talent is his problem.
Forget talent. I’ve chosen you to be here so I’m telling you you’ve got the talent. Don’t you worry about that bit. What I need back in return is that other bit which is the focus, the commitment, the dedication to make sure every single day you get up and you’re here and you give your all and you don’t give in. And that’s why I think I stayed where I was because I believed him. I trusted in him. And now it’s the same. If someone comes into our business and they’ve been selected to come in, that’s because I believe they’ve got the talent or someone in our senior management team believes they’ve got the talent.
All they have to do in return now is go for it and give their all and be enthusiastic and not give in and then come back the day after and do it again. I try and keep it as simple as that. I know there’s a lot more to it than that but it was that simple for us. I know that then there’s the tactics, then there’s the decision making, then there’s the sort of concentration, all the things that go with it. But that was the sort of heart I think of all the messaging that we got from him.
Steven Barlett (35:46):
They almost seem like old fashioned values, what you’re saying. It almost sounds, and I’m going to be honest, it almost sounds like what the modern day professional culture might consider to be a little bit toxic. You know what I mean? This drive for hard work. But I have to say I’ve never sat here with anybody that’s reached the peak of their powers in their career that hasn’t said the same.
Gary Neville (36:16):
But now if I’m in my businesses, so I don’t, things like, I never work the first week in January. I think it’s the most depressing week of the year. After Christmas you’ve had a high and then you go back, it’s dark, it’s miserable that first week. So I always take it off. But I always give the rest of our team in the office that I work in off as well. So I don’t make people do what I’m not going to do. I’m going away I think in three weeks for five days. I said to everybody in the office, don’t worry about the fact you’ve got 28 days in your contract, those five days you’re off, have the last five days off of the summer, then we’ll go for it to Christmas.
Also people are flexible working, they can come in Monday, they don’t have to come in Tuesday, they can come in Wednesday, I trust them to do what they want. So there is an element of, yeah, I do expect hard work, but I also want people to have a brilliant time and share in the success that we have, but also make sure that if I’m off, I would expect that they have those times off as well. I wouldn’t expect them to come in. I hate the idea of a work package that’s got like, you’ve got 25 days holiday, you have to book it in. I hate that. I hate the idea of restriction. I hate it. I feel like it’s bullying. You must sit there in the office. I hate it. It’s not right. It is not right.
Don’t tell people where to sit, how to work. You know, obviously there is a direction and there is a leadership that’s needed, but I just feel it’s really not acceptable.
This was pre-COVID. Our office is like, to be fair, this room that we’re in here now. So someone could be sat there, someone could be sat there, someone could be sat on the floor over there on a laptop. That’s how it should be in an office. It should always be like that, I think. I don’t think it needed COVID to make modern business act properly with the teams that they work with. So I do feel it’s very different than how we were at United, which is old-fashioned value. There’s still some old-fashioned values. You have to work hard. You have to get the job done. We know that. But why do you have to say that to people?
I think people know they have to work hard and get the job done. So why do you have to say that to them? You’re looking to tap into them, make something unique in your business that makes them want to stay, really. You may want to make it enjoyable. And that can still be enjoyable through hard work. I think it’s quite enjoyable working out.
Steven Barlett (38:30):
I know people that work for you, obviously, because we’ve got a colleague that used to work for me that works for you now, and they’re all very, very complimentary. So that’s supported by the evidence that I have. But you’re right. I’ve always found that the contradiction there is trust. You’re saying to your team members to trust you, but you’re not trusting them. And trust, I feel like, has to go both ways. And what ends up happening when you have those, in my experience, those very rigid rules, is you’ll get compliance, but you won’t get motivation. And as you’ve described it, you want people to be internally driven, not compliant because of punishment. And that gets the best out of people.
Gary Neville (39:07):
It’s interesting because Valencia taught me a lot, but around that time I was with England coaching with Roy Hodgson. And I’d lived at United where we were fined. Nunez got sent off last night for headbutting at Anderson. That’s two weeks’ wages at Manchester United. I got fined two weeks’ wages regularly, four or five times. It happens, football. It wouldn’t happen in a normal workplace, but we know Sir Alex Ferguson’s rules. If you have violent conduct or chatting back to a referee, you get fined.
In fact, he won’t accept it. People think Sir Alex Ferguson was like, get after the referees. But if we actually got booked for having a go at a referee, we would get fined. So very much quite a rigid thing. And then Roy Hodgson said something to me when I was with England. And I felt those standards were slipping a little bit one time. I can’t remember exactly what it was about. And I said, we need some rules. Because we’d had a code of conduct at United. I was the player’s rep. I knew what the sort of standards were.
And he said to me, we don’t set rules. He said, be very careful with rules. He said, because it’s always the people that you don’t want to break them that break them. I thought, it’s quite clever that. Ever since, there are no rules. There are no rules in our business in terms of you must be here, you must do this, you must wear that, you must, you know, I don’t expect formality in dress. I expect people to be comfortable. So I don’t say you should wear this or you should be here at that time or we’ve got to do that in any part of my business. I don’t create rules anymore. Because once you create rules, for a start, it’s rigid. I don’t believe it’s right. And the rules are there. They’re unwritten actually. The rules of sort of working hard and turning up and doing your job, all the things.
The rules are there. They just don’t have to be written down. And, you know, he said, what happens if your star player walks in? Let’s break it. Because, you know, the ones that, you know, we were talking about that were setting the low standards. He said, what happens if one of the star player walks in and we need to work with the players to make sure that they understand what we expect of them and the standards. We don’t need to set rules because if you set rules and consequence and punishment, then it’ll be the one that you don’t want to break them. And then you’re in a big, you know, you’re in big trouble.
So it was a good lesson for me. And in football, it’s very much a different place than a normal workplace anyway. It doesn’t live by HR rules, a football dressing room. It doesn’t, you know, players are still getting fined. Players still get told where to be, when to turn up, what to wear. We like it as well. I still like it now, actually. I like actually being told what to do. I actually like it at Sky when people say to me, Gary, we’re doing this. I like being told what to do. I respond to it really well because I’ve had it, to be fair, but I’ve been instructed.
From Eric Harrison, Nobby Stiles, Brian Kidd, Sir Alex Ferguson. I’ve been instructed. I lived through the 70s and 80s. You could not live through the 70s and 80s as a child, early 90s, without being instructed because that was the form of leadership. So we still respond to it a little bit in our own lives. But then when I think about my children, I don’t instruct them. I like independent thinking. I like them. So when people talk about social media or when people talk about, you know, I was sat with someone yesterday who said, I’m fearing my children go on social media. I always say to them, your children should get good at social media really quickly because they have to. They have to. They have to be good at it.
So my children are 13 years of age now. They’re all obsessed with social media, with the apps. They’re on it all the time. And, you know, sometimes we’ll say, you know, that’s enough tonight. And, you know, let’s come off it. But I want them to get good at it. I want them to use it and find out what information they can trust and what they can’t trust. I use Twitter now all the time for my, well, one.
To have a debate. But also, so actually my news, my major source of news is Twitter. It’s my major source of news in my life. It’s really helpful. I don’t think as a sports journalist broadcaster, I could live without Twitter. It’s really important to me. So when people say Twitter’s a cesspit, get off it. There are elements of it that are. But that’s a really important thing for me in my life because I find all the sort of articles, all the sort of opinions. You know, all the breaking news is there. How can I live without that? It’s what I rely upon to be able to do my job.
So when I come off the pitch last Sunday doing Manchester United, sorry, doing West Ham Man City, and I see Manchester United have bid for Arnautovich. I used to have to wait till the morning after for the newspaper 15 years ago. Our children aren’t like that anymore. They want things instantly. They see things quickly and they don’t like to be instructed. We have to collaborate with them.
Steven Barlett (43:46):
There’s an inevitability, you’re completely right, to social media and the Internet and digital that will actually, I believe as well, will serve as a disadvantage to them if they don’t keep up. Because you can’t think of a profession these days that doesn’t involve social media or the Internet. So, you know, in an effort to try and protect children sometimes we actually cause them a pretty substantial career disadvantage. It should be taught at school.
Gary Neville (44:09):
It should be on the curriculum, social media, how to use it, what to use it for, how to get good at it, the dangers of it. It should be something that’s taught. It’s got to be more useful to them than some of the subjects that they’re currently being taught in 2022.
Steven Barlett (44:28):
You know, this is not a nice topic to talk about because we’re both Manchester United fans, but through all you’ve been through in the era you grew up in and all of those famous influences you had that instilled those values in you. And even the early initiations you had in that dressing room from the senior players and, you know, I’ve read about all of that stuff as well. When you look at what’s going on at the club today, even though you’re not in the dressing room, you must have a pretty strong hypothesis as to why Manchester United in 2022 are failing based on what you experienced.
Gary Neville (45:01):
Yeah, I think it comes down to a lack of leadership and direction from the top and vision and a deterioration of the sort of beliefs over a long period of time.
I said last night, actually, that a school that’s underperforming over a long period of time and getting poor results gets put in special measures by Ofsted and by government and they’re not blaming the kids. It means that the governors, it means that the sort of the head teachers, the people at the top of the organisation at the school have not basically set the standards for those children and they’ve let the school basically rot and the results become poor. I think that’s what’s happened at United. It was a high performing school.
The head teacher has left, the board of the governors left, David Gill, and what’s happened since is that they’ve been replaced with people who haven’t got it and poor standards have just meant that ultimately over a period of time there’s become an embedded rot. And that’s what’s happened and all of the kids, the players, look now like they haven’t got a clue anymore and they’re getting poor results. I don’t believe all those Manchester United players that are on that pitch are poor players. When they came to the club, some of those players, I was really excited by their arrivals. And I’ve seen players that weren’t as good as them go to other clubs and excel. So the environment, the culture, the enthusiasm that you need to go into work every single day, I don’t believe has been created by the hierarchy at the club.
And then there’s been a lack of investment into the facilities, into the stadium, into the training ground. So now Tottenham, Liverpool, Liverpool now. I used to laugh when I used to go to Anfield when I used to compare it to Old Trafford. I used to think they can never catch up, they’re too far behind. They’re just building that second stand now behind that left hand goal where the away fans sit. We saw it last night towering up. The main stand now is towering up and it holds, I don’t know, it holds 20,000.
Anfield will be a more modern ground than Manchester United and Old Trafford in 12 months. That is unforgivable. To think where, not that they’ve overtaken us on the pitch, but actually they’ve overtaken us off the pitch. Manchester City are light years ahead on and off the pitch. Tottenham have invested 1.3 billion in a stadium. You’ve been to a Tottenham stadium. It’s out of this world. It’s a museum. It’s the best in the world. I can’t believe what I’m walking through when I see it. And yet if you go to their training ground, which I’ve been to, it’s an amazing, brilliant facility.
That is far better than Carrington, where we moved to in 2001. We moved to Carrington, sorry, 2000 we moved to Carrington. We left the Cliffs training ground in Salford. So it’s 22 years, which is a bit of investment, but in 20 years Manchester United have not invested in the stadium, they’ve not invested in the training ground that much. And then they’ve lost the two main people. And before you know it, you’ve got a club that’s really struggling. And I’ve said that in the last couple of years, the only thing that I really do think can change it now is the ownership. And I say that on here more calmly than I say on Sky Sports, but it’s not an emotive subject anymore. It’s a very serious issue. There is an embedded rot at the club.
Steven Barlett (48:11):
You know that they’re walking past Wendy’s balls now, don’t you?
Do you know what I mean? Is it like signing Wendy’s balls personified for me, caring about values in every single touch point, even the small stuff? And so I was thinking then, I can almost imagine now those small expressions of our values, as you said, they come from the top down, are probably now being missed. And it’s funny because as fans, we look at the thing, we go, he’s not running fast enough or blame this player or Fred or this player, whatever. But for me, when I’ve worked in an organisation, I realised that the values, the culture, everything starts from the top. And if you bring in great, and as we’ve seen at Manchester United, you can bring in the best stars into a bad culture, they’ll become bad performers. And I always said in a business context as well, if the culture is strong enough, new people become the culture. If the culture is weak, the culture becomes the new people.
Gary Neville (49:00):
It’s why I was kept at the age of 33 to 36. Yeah, because you were a disciple of the culture. Because Rafael da Silva from Brazil comes in, I’m the right back that’s the senior right back. And who does he look to? He looks to me, he looks to Paul Scholes, he looks to Rio Ferdinand. And he sees people that are at the very top of the game, they’re experienced, they’re end of careers. When I looked at Steve Bruce and Brian Robson, Eric Cantona, I had nowhere to go as a young player. I knew I had to do what they had to do because they were all doing it every single day and they’ve been doing it for 15 years.
I do feel sorry for the current players and that won’t go down well with a lot of Manchester United fans, because a lot of Manchester United fans will say they’re overpaid and they’re chancing it and bluffing it. They’re not, they’re not. I know some of those lads, they’re good lads. If they were sat here now with me and you, you’d be thinking, there’s an element of vulnerability there. There is a lack of confidence. They’re crying out for help. I wish they had Sir Alex. I wish they had Roy Keane in the changing room with Nemanja Vujic and Rio Ferdinand at centre back and Peter Schmeichel in goal. Because if they did, they would grow, they would thrive, they would deliver.
If the Manchester United team today was David De Gea in goal, Patrice Everett left back, Harry Maguire at centre back with… It was me at right back. In midfield, there was Roy Keane and Michael Carrick. On the left was Marcus Rashford, on the right was Jadon Sancho. Up front was Martial with… Rooney or Hughes. Those same five or six players that we’re currently saying are not good enough to play for Manchester United, they would be outstanding if Sir Alex Ferguson was the manager, if the culture was still there. Honestly, that might be, I don’t even know what I’ve just said to be fair.
Steven Barlett (51:03):
I’ve not said it before, but you know what I’m trying to say?
Gary Neville (51:05):
Surround yourself by those people who’ve got those standards, who’ve got that experience, who can cradle you through the difficult moments like we were when we were young players. When people said we won the league with kids, we didn’t. We wouldn’t have won the league without the experienced players in that dressing room around us and the guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson. They’ve not got that guidance off the pitch and they’ve not got that guidance and comfort on the pitch. I used to walk out in the tunnel with Peter Schmeichel in front of me, Roy Keane in front of him.
Behind me, obviously, David Beckham always went behind me, but Denis Irwin in front of me. I felt safe. I was 21, 22, 23 years of age. I felt safe. I felt comfortable because I knew I was being looked after by experienced people and I knew that I wasn’t alone. These players go out onto the pitch now, they feel alone. They don’t feel like they’ve got anybody. That’s where I am a little bit critical of Cristiano. You’re the man. You’re the star.
You’re the best player in the world. Come on. Now’s not a time to be throwing your arms around. Now’s not a time to be walking off the pitch. Now’s the time to make sure you lead those people. But he wants to leave. He wants to go and play somewhere else and that might happen. And who could blame him? He wants to finish his career at a club that’s achieving great things. But I do think he is the only player in that dressing room that could lead them.
Because he’s the only one that’s got the inbuilt resilience and mental strength to get through a moment. It won’t be touching him, this. Other than on a personal frustration level, the fact that he’s playing a team that isn’t giving him the chances, the goals, the success he wants. But on a point of view of criticism, he won’t be touching him.
He’s played at Real Madrid. He’s played at Manchester United. He’s won five, six Champions Leagues. He’s won Ballon d’Or. You can’t touch him with the criticism or words. It’s impossible. So he can withstand all this pressure and protect those players on the pitch. That’s what I think Roy Keane did with us, what Peter Schmeichel did, what Cantona did, what Robson did. They protected us.
Steven Barlett (52:59):
If I took prime Cristiano Ronaldo when he came in from Portugal and I put him in today’s team.
Gary Neville (53:06):
He’d struggle. He’d struggle. I think he really would struggle without Sir Alex’s guidance, without the patience of Sir Alex and Carlos Quiros, who had that patience with him at the time. Do you think his career would look entirely different? It would look different. You speak to Paul Gascoigne and ask Paul Gascoigne when he chose Tottenham over Manchester United. And he says that if he’d have come to Manchester and worked with Sir Alex, he feels as though his career and his life would have gone down a different path. And that’s why I said at the very start of this interview, why am I like I am? I was very fortunate that I wasn’t in the centre of London at 22 being led by experienced players who wanted to go to nightclubs or to bars. I was in Manchester with Dennis Irwin and Sir Alex Ferguson and Roy Keane and Mark Hughes and Brian Robson.
Who, don’t get me wrong, they liked a night out but they knew also that that had to come at the right time and they would be responsible and make sure you delivered on the pitch. So I feel blessed and privileged by the influences that I had in my life. We talk about influences now in a different way, don’t we? But actually we’re heavily influenced by the people that we come into contact with. And that’s where your luck comes in in life because I can’t choose who I come into contact with. In life, you walk into a business to take a job, you don’t know that there are 150 people in the business.
There could be some really good people in there that influence you well and make it really comfortable for you. Or there could be some bad eggs that mean that you had to have a bad experience and it influences you in a different way. I just got really lucky throughout my career that I arrived at United when they started winning the Premier League. And then obviously I had a brilliant manager, I had brilliant senior players, I had good parents. Everything was right in my life to influence me to be what I am today.
Without that, I’m not the person I am. I wasn’t Steven Barlett, resilient, tough, mentally strong, could handle anything, better work ethic than anybody else when I was 10. I wasn’t. I was a kid, just to be fair, going to school like everyone else. But I had exceptional people around me, I believe, that helped me. And I don’t believe these lads now in that dressing room have got that around, well they haven’t got that around them.
Steven Barlett (55:06):
I had a thought cross my mind for the first time ever this week. And as at Manchester United… We’re going to go down. Well, my birth year was 1992, so I’ve only ever known great times at Manchester United, pretty much. And it was the first time that I played out the scenario in my head that it’s not guaranteed that we return to being champions.
It’s all I’ve ever known. And it was the first time that I started doing the equation of like, how do great clubs fall? And this is one of the years where I’ve seen one of the real catalysts is, okay, so the brand starts to deteriorate, they lose commercial deals. Then great players like Harland and Nunez don’t choose the club. So we can’t get great talent. We then don’t have the money to get the great talent at an inflated price, which we could have paid in the first couple of years after the downfall. And then I’m thinking, okay, so this could, we could, there’s a chance. And I hate to say it because I’m an internal optimist.
It’s embarrassing. But every year when we do our little school predictions in my football chat, I’m like, we’re going to win the league every year for the last three years. I’m deluded. But this was the first time I entertained the thought that we might, it’s not guaranteed that we return to the club we were.
Gary Neville (56:15):
I put us in the top four, every year I did it last week in my predictions. But you know something, I know full well we’re not going to finish in the top four. But I have to, just because it’s the Manchester United inbuilt thing that you say we’re going to finish in the top four. But that’s how our expectations have dipped as well, because we used to say we’re going to finish top. I’m convinced Manchester United will return. Absolutely, absolutely convinced. Why? It’s not arrogance this. And it’s not because I’m biased. And it’s not because I’ve gone to watch the club since the age of five. I’ve travelled around the world with the club for the last 30, 40 years.
I’ve seen the extent of the fan base, the emotion that exists within the fan base, the scale of the club. And it’s too, the foundations are too deep.
Steven Barlett (56:59):
But those foundations were created because of generational success.
Gary Neville (57:03):
Yeah, but we had obviously, we had the Busby Babes period, it was about Busby. Then we had 30 years, 25 years before Sir Alex brought home a league title. So we’ve had 25 years before that we’ve gone through without success. Manchester United is not going away. It’s not going, it’s too big. It’s too big, it’s too magical, it’s too good. That is not emotion, that is just, I feel very, very strongly about that. That is, there is an element of cycle here.
That, you know, we get in sort of our down period. But we shouldn’t accept that. Because I’m happy to lose football matches. I’m happy to be fourth in the league, third in the league, sixth in the league. If we’re doing the right things. So, have we got a world, Manchester United should always have a world class stadium. It hasn’t. It should always have best in class training facility. It should always have best in class fan experience. It should always be for the best players in the Premier League. It should always have young talent coming through. And it should always buy young emerging talent from overseas.
It’s veered away from all five or six of its key principles and objectives that it’s always ever had. Any business does that, then it’s in trouble. You’ve got owners that, to be fair, are now taking dividends out of the club. They’re taking big, large payments in debt out of the club, or interest payments on the debt out of the club. All the money that the club generates, to be fair, is not going back into the club. And it’s now come home to roost. They only own 69-70% of the club and they need a billion quid to be able to fulfil those infrastructure projects that are needed. Their walls are closing in on them. And they do need to do something big through partnership or through an investor or through a sale in the next, I think, six to 12 months.
This cannot go on. That was a watershed moment at Brentford on Saturday. What we were all experiencing in that stadium, and I didn’t obviously know you were in the stadium at that time, but now I know you were. And you said you were just compelled to stay because you couldn’t leave. Everybody that I’ve spoken to was like, I’ve not seen too many things like that in 30 years of Premier League football.
And actually, I never want Manchester United to lose. But actually, it could have been an important moment and a big moment where you actually start to think like you’re thinking. People have said, could we be relegated? I said last night on television, if we bring poor players in in this next couple of weeks, or don’t bring players in, and Cristiano does leave, which I think he may, we could finish in the bottom half of the table. With a £1.25 billion transfer spending the last eight to ten years, I’m finishing the bottom half of the table.
And so we are starting to think that way, but I have no doubts it’s going to return. It’s too big, it’s too good. It’s, fan base is too great. It’s enormous. I’ve been abroad and seen 50,000 people watch us train in Thailand and in Malaysia and in Singapore. And I’ve seen Manchester, the passion still for the club is huge. And so it is still full now.
Steven Barlett (59:56):
Yeah, it’s just, I just get concerned that if, you know, there’s another generation that are growing up without the experience I had and who are they going to choose in terms of, you know.
Gary Neville (01:00:04):
We’ll lose some. Yeah, we’ll lose some. We have to lose some along the way. There’ll be some collateral damage.
Steven Barlett (01:00:07):
Depends how long we go through this. If this is two decades, then that’s a whole generation that never saw what we saw growing up.
Gary Neville (01:00:16):
City have done brilliant things. Pep Guardiola is a genius. The football is mesmerising. The operation is slick. But I say this because it will bring, you know, criticism from probably some football fans and certainly from Manchester City fans.
It will never, ever be Manchester United. And that’s not arrogance. It just cannot be. What won’t? Manchester City. It can never replace Manchester United in terms of scale and size. It can win trophies. It can win more trophies, but it can never be bigger in scale and size. It’s impossible. It does not have the roots, the history. It just does not have it. Manchester United is too set. We’ll see. I’m not worried about the long term. I’m very worried about the short term.
Steven Barlett (01:01:02):
One of the things that people don’t know about you, I believe, because I’m fairly well read on what you do, but I didn’t realise this, is just the scale of your kind of business portfolio. It’s quite honestly mental. I don’t do all of the media stuff that you do. I’m not, you know, on TV all the time presenting football. I’m not in that arena. And when I look at your business portfolio and mine, I’m going, this guy does as much as I do from a business perspective. But you’re not known to the world, first and foremost, as an entrepreneur. Maybe that’s the second thing. People know you as a football legend. Second thing will be entrepreneur. And the second thing is you don’t even like the word entrepreneur.
Gary Neville (01:01:43):
Not really, no. I don’t like the word broadcaster. Maybe that is an insecurity, actually, or a vulnerability. People say to me, you’re a broadcaster, but I don’t feel like a broadcaster. I don’t feel like I’ve earned, you know, I feel like Martin Tyler or Des Lynam. They’re broadcasters. They’re journalists. They’re experienced. They do it. I don’t feel like a broadcaster because I still feel young, but I’m not young anymore, really, in terms of I’ve been doing it now for 11, 12 years. And same with entrepreneur. I always feel there’s something a little bit, can I swear? Of course you can. It feels a little bit wanker-ish.
Steven Barlett (01:02:20):
To say I’m an entrepreneur. Even CEO sounds wanker-ish.
Gary Neville (01:02:23):
CEO and entrepreneur. It’s like, no. Steven Barlett, chairman of the religious group and entrepreneur. No. It makes me sort of skin crawl a little bit. But I think to be fair, probably I should start calling myself that because I do have, there is one constant. They’re all in Greater Manchester, apart from a media career, which can sometimes obviously be in London. But they’re all in Greater Manchester, in Salford, Trafford, Manchester City Centre. And I feel very focused around my investments in that. Some people would say, that’s naive.
You should expand beyond Greater Manchester. No, I’m passionate about where I come from, where I live, and I want to invest back into that part of the country. So the two hotels, the football club, the big developments that we’re doing, the university. The project management consultancy, all of them in Greater Manchester. And I want to continue to do things. I don’t think I’ll do many more startups. Although the overlap is a startup, but just startups are hard. Do you think startups are hard?
Steven Barlett (01:03:16):
Oh, so painful.
Gary Neville (01:03:17):
They’re rewarding, but the pain, I mean, all of mine have been startups. So apart from Salford, which to be fair is a bit of a startup. It was like eighth tier, they had 170 fans. They’re all startups. So not one of them has been sort of a business that I’ve bought into. Which I’m not sure that, that’s the way I like it because we can influence them. And we can make them, our culture can come into the sort of businesses. But yeah, I wanted to do a lot in business, but in Greater Manchester, build teams. It’s the teams part of it that gives me great satisfaction. And then, yeah, I love the sectors that I’m in.
Steven Barlett (01:03:50):
And it’s crazy because when I look at your businesses, when I’ve looked closely at them, you run really good businesses as it relates to attention to detail. Your hotel in Manchester, the Stock Exchange Hotel, I have to say is by far my favourite hotel. It’s not even close. When I filmed Dragon’s Den the first year, all the dragons stay at the Lowry, even though it was my first year, I was like, please stay at the Stock Exchange Hotel. And I stayed there, it’s by far and away. There’s nothing close to it in Manchester, in my view.
Gary Neville (01:04:19):
No, and I have to say some of my, so the university I think is more of a social project to try and be more inclusive and sort of remove the barrier to higher education. The football club started off as a sort of a more of a social project in terms of bringing young players through and believing in young talent in football like we’ve been believed in. But then I also have this other side of me, which is I want to raise standards.
And we wanted hospitality to be at the highest level in Manchester, and the Stock Exchange was my ambition to create the number one hotel, premium hotel in Manchester, luxury hotel. The same with the development at St Michael’s, which we hope to be the new number one hotel in Manchester when it’s built, a new five-star hotel. Manchester only has one five-star hotel in the city centre. Lowry’s in Salth, but they also have one five-star hotel. So then some people will throw at me, you know, how does that sit with your sort of social conscience that you’ve got these sort of expensive apartments, you’ve got these expensive hotel rooms, you charge £40 for a steak? And I’m like, I think it’s okay to be offended by Manchester not having enough affordable housing and also not having high-class luxury accommodation and luxury products. I’m offended by both.
Why does Manchester all have to be sort of pigeonholed into this three, four, five-star hotel? So this idea that in Manchester is that, you know, and I get called a champagne socialist sometimes and sometimes get criticised for the fact that I have a university that is trying to improve you know, inclusion and access to higher education. But then, oh Neville, he’s just basically selling developments, you know, he’s selling apartments for £500,000, £600,000. You know, his rooms are £250, £300 at Hotel Football or at Stock Exchange.
But I’m offended by the fact that we can’t raise the standards at sort of the highest level and the fact that we can’t look after people and make sure that everyone’s got this sort of a house to be able to live in that’s of a comfortable size and the area they want to live in. So I feel that I’m a little bit torn between my projects and what I feel but I want high standards in our city. I want Manchester, I’m offended that Manchester does not have five-star international standard hotels.
It offends me that London always has to have these things or that Paris, you know, why do people from Manchester have to go to Paris or London to experience five-star hospitality and service? We should be able to get it in our city. So I want to drive investment into our city and raise the standards. That was what the Stock Exchange was about, raising standards of hospitality. And we got to number one, which was brilliant.
Steven Barlett (01:06:52):
I mean, but you’re right, because if there isn’t that supply there for the high end, then the economy is going to suffer because you’re right, it won’t attract business, it won’t attract investment into the city. And that’s, you know, I love coming to Manchester because you didn’t pay me to say this but I love staying at the Stock Exchange Hotel, it’s better than my house. And the standards there are, you know, unbelievable. Politics. You’ve become quite political, specifically on Twitter, in terms of social issues and using your voice to shed a light on things that you feel like are going wrong in politics. What is the thinking there?
Gary Neville (01:07:29):
The thinking is that I don’t think… It’s not acceptable to be quiet anymore if you’re in a position of influence and if you’re seeing something that’s wrong.
Steven Barlett (01:07:39):
It’s like your stance on the Glazers.
Gary Neville (01:07:40):
Yeah, I think it’s got to the point whereby I was quiet when I played at the club and to be fair, we were winning. So you think, well, OK, winning, to be fair, covers everything. And then when you leave, you think, well, hang on a second, you know, let’s let them have time after Sir Alex Ferguson. But it’s got to the point now whereby I can’t keep my mouth shut on it. It’s wrong. It is just wrong. Same with Johnson. Eventually his own party got to the same position that I was at and many others. It’s wrong. We cannot have someone like that leading our country. I’m passionate about our country.
No, I won’t do politics. And the reason I say that is that, you know, sometimes you have this idea in your head, don’t you, that you think, could you go in? But the reality of it is it means that I wouldn’t be able to be as honest as I am on television. I wouldn’t be able to do the Sky Sports. I wouldn’t be able to do the media. I wouldn’t be able to do my projects in Manchester because I’d feel conflicted with different things. And I don’t think I can. I think I’m more. I think I can have a greater influence in Greater Manchester and with my voice in media than I would do being an MP for Berry South. I genuinely believe that. I think I get caught up and stuck in the treacle in the mud like everybody else. That’s what people say about politics. Just go in there. You just get stuck.
And I don’t want to be stuck. I want to be able to try and influence things in the private sector away from public sector. And we’ll get called a champagne socialist for it and we’ll get attacked heavily in the last 12 months by people from the right side of the country in terms of, you know, regularly every single day. We’ll get attacked for being a champagne socialist when I talk about Safer into the Stock Exchange or I talk about, you know, the St Michael’s development. And then they say, well, how can you be arguing against Boris Johnson and how can you be arguing? How can you be in the Labour Party? There’s this idea that you can’t be in the Labour Party and be entrepreneurial and be successful and earn money.
The Labour Party have got to change that perception. They’ve got to. They’ve got to change that perception. How is it that you cannot be someone who owns a business, makes profit, hands that profit back to its shareholders and to the teams that you work with, create a great environment for them to work, pay them well and that you believe everybody should have an equal opportunity? How can you not be Labour and have those principles? Because we’ve been basically conditioned to think that it’s only the Tory party that is good for business and the Labour Party has created that.
Steven Barlett (01:10:00):
It’s so true. It’s one of the things that’s really made me feel quite disenfranchised. I grew up in a Labour family that, I mean, I’ve never voted Tory in my life. But in recent years, as I’ve become more successful in my career, I almost feel a little bit sometimes by some people, not everybody on the left, but some people on the left that I’m inherently evil because of my success. Like I’m inherently a bad person because I’m an entrepreneur or a CEO. And that pushes you out. It almost pushes you into this middle. I’m not going over to the right. And I want to belong somewhere. So you’re completely right. And I don’t think that’s talked about enough.
Gary Neville (01:10:31):
I saw an interview on social yesterday in the middle of Monday Night Football and it was an interview. It was only released yesterday. It was with Keir Starmer and the gentleman asking him said, you know, what do you earn? And he said I earn £130,000 a year. And he was about to start a line of questioning around Keir’s position on energy and the fact that you can afford the £3,000, £4,000 energy bills this year. I was offended by that line of questioning. The leader of the opposition in this country, politicians, in my opinion, should be the highest quality of business people and entrepreneurs to be able to deliver the plan that we all want.
I think that we need to encourage people to go into politics. And the idea that the leader of the opposition was being attacked because he was on £140,000 because he’s a Labour politician. It’s almost like you’re a Labour politician. You shouldn’t take the MP salary, you should almost donate that to charity and work for, like, nothing. I mean, that’s just ridiculous. So the perception of Labour and what people think about Labour is that if you’re in a Labour party, you have to be on minimum wage, you have to be a socialist, you have to think like that.
No, you can think in a capitalist way, but with some compassion and feel like you can be equal with other people and spread your wealth. And that actually you can want people to be able to afford their energy bills and you can fight for them, even if you’re in a sort of wealthy position yourself. Why can’t I or you fight for people who can’t afford their energy bills this winter just because we have a bank account that’s more than people would like it to be? I don’t get that.
I don’t get that. I don’t understand it. Yeah, it’s a weird thing. I don’t get it. We have to change that, I think, to perception. And that’s why I joined the Labour Party, to think that actually I can be successful. I’m a northern family that have done well. I’ve earned good money and continue to earn good money. But my principles, where I am now, even though I’m an entrepreneurial individual who, to be fair, has profit-making companies, I can be Labour. I can think with a social conscience. I don’t think that’s a problem.
Steven Barlett (01:12:37):
To me, that has to be the future of the Labour Party.
Gary Neville (01:12:39):
And you’re the leader of it. Are you going in?
Steven Barlett (01:12:41):
No, no, no, no. No, this is enough. I like my life. I get criticised as it is. I also have felt really disenfranchised by the left that I grew up feeling part of for that very reason. And I would love, if anything, to see the next leader of the party really speak to that. And that would make me feel energised again about politics. You talked about being attacked. You’ve talked about this unbelievable, relentless work ethic you have. When I say attacked, you get attacked every day on social media, as you’ve said, but because you’ve got a big voice, it’s unavoidable. You’ve talked about this relentless work ethic you have, and you’ve talked about how you had that moment where you collapsed one day. Over the last 10 years, our understanding of mental health and male mental health has risen tremendously. When I was growing up, to have a mental health issue meant that you were crazy. That’s what I thought. That was the stigma.
We’ve come so far, thankfully, from that perception. What has your experience been with understanding your own mental health over the last couple of decades? And have you ever had a moment where you’ve gone, I need to put my mental health first now? Because, you know, other than that collapse moment where you’ve experienced anxiety or depression or these kinds of ailments.
Gary Neville (01:13:58):
Yeah, I think that obviously losing my confidence as a football player, being criticised, having to stop reading the newspapers of the day at the age of 24. Didn’t read a national news, didn’t read a tabloid newspaper from the age of 24 through to the end of my career. Why? Because they were damaging.
Steven Barlett (01:14:13):
Gary Neville (01:14:15):
If you read something really critical of yourself in a national newspaper and the thought that then millions of people are also reading that, particularly when you’re young and you’re vulnerable, it impacts you and you lose confidence.
And I did lose confidence. I lost form, got criticised heavily by newspapers, would read the newspapers and it would have a direct impact on me. Physical impact, is it? No, no, direct impact on me in terms of how I felt. It would drain me of confidence and then you almost then lose more confidence. About six months this went on for, I also at the time had lost, I had come out of a relationship with someone I’d been engaged to and been with for seven years. So I had two things going on at once. Once I’d lost my form and I’d come out of a longer term relationship and at that point I did feel really low.
Didn’t tell anybody, as you wouldn’t do, back in, well what that would have been. 1990, 2000, 2000, 1999, 2000, 24, 25 years of age. Made two big mistakes against Vasco Di Gama, played a poor tournament for England in Euro 2000 and it went on for six months. But went to see a psychiatrist and I got coping mechanisms, things that basically he talked to me about, about how to put things into perspective. And that dealt with my mental health issues at the time and it also helped me to deal with things that come forward now of a critical nature.
Steven Barlett (01:15:37):
When you say you were feeling low, what were the symptoms of feeling low for those six months?
Gary Neville (01:15:42):
Not wanting to play, not wanting to take the ball on the pitch and confident to take the ball and pass it, hiding a little bit. Fearing games coming forward, anxious about games coming forward, thinking about my relationship break up during matches which is unthinkable for me. I remember playing a European game away, I think it was either in Anderlecht or somewhere like that and actually thinking in the middle of the pitch about my ex-girlfriend and thinking I’m playing for Manchester United, this is not what’s going on. And it impacted me in thinking that.
But then that happens I’m sure to every single football player. So I knew that at that point then I needed to see somebody because I wasn’t playing well. He subbed me against Real Madrid in the quarterfinal of the European Cup and I had a nightmare, absolute nightmare. And I thought, I remember we won the league that year at Southampton away and I remember jumping up, there’s a picture of me jumping up on the pitch with the rest of the players and me feeling empty and not even feeling like celebrating it.
I always remember that and it was the worst league that we ever won, for me. But for others it might have been a great league but for me I just hated that league, I didn’t enjoy it at all. I feel like I just needed to stop and I felt like I was spinning on a roundabout and I couldn’t get off it. I remember saying that to the psychiatrist at the time and then he started to put these little coping mechanisms in place. So if I get nervous before a game, think about what you’re going to be doing later on that you’re going to enjoy. If you have a really bad day, think about something simple like, ask yourself a simple question. Like I said before, did you always think you were going to have a good day every day? That’s such a good question. And I love that question. Yeah. Yeah, I think I’m going to have some pretty bad days going forward.
Steven Barlett (01:17:19):
It’s like self-compassion almost.
Gary Neville (01:17:20):
Yeah, that’s how I dealt with my dad. Did I think that there was a good chance in my life that my dad would die before me? Yeah, I was prepared for it. And that’s not right but that’s how I dealt with it. Really simply, there was always going to come a point where my parents and grandparents were likely to die before me and I would have to deal with that. What we can never ever comprehend is obviously losing someone that’s younger than you in your family. We can’t comprehend that. That’s the unthinkable. That’s the one thing if you said to me that sort of breaks me.
That I think would break me completely. But then on the other side, we know that my grandparents lived till they were in their 80s. My dad literally was 65. I thought I’d loved him to have lived another 10, 15 years, of course, but he didn’t. But I was able to deal with it through the idea that he lived his life to the full. He didn’t make those changes that I’m probably not making now. He carried on going out with my sister and the mates till three, four in the morning having a drink. Travelling to Australia, watching a play and, you know, living life, watching United every single weekend, doing the things that he loved. And, you know, his life was taken away at the age of 65, so I could almost explain that to myself and deal with it in a pragmatic way.
Some people say, you know, some people close to me say I’ve still not dealt with it five, six, seven years on because I’ve not probably shown the proper emotion and grief that I should have done through it. But I feel like I have dealt with it. I feel like I have dealt with it just through being able to put those coping mechanisms in place. So I always feel we all need those simple coping mechanisms. For others, it might not be the same as me. One of the big things I think of me is definitely training. So I blew up at Sky one Boxing Day where I just, I always got the sprint to Christmas where everyone tries to get everything in before Christmas and then you just collapse when you stop. Boxing Day one year, the only time I’ve ever missed a Sky game. Everton v Hull Boxing Day, I was going to Hull, I woke up in the morning, I couldn’t get out of bed and I just run myself into the ground.
I’d stopped training. I was eating too much. I put weight on, you’ll see in the first few years after Sky, and I’d stopped doing the things that kept me well. So training now, if I don’t train for a week, I feel terrible, not just physically. I feel it up here. I’ve got one of those bodies, because I’ve been a football player, I know when I’ve put, I feel every chip.
So I can feel it here. I can pinch myself. We’re all the same as football players, our body fat’s done once a week. We’re weighing ourselves every day because we know that’s a big part of our performance. Hydration, nutrition, weight is a big part of our performance. And so I know it, I’ve lived it for 15, 20 years, but then I stopped doing that for the first five, six years out of football. And then you blow up and then you feel awful, you look awful. And you’ve got people on Twitter sending you, you know, Jesus, you’re carrying a bit.
You know what I mean? Stop eating the chips, choose the salad, all those things get sent to you on Twitter, you know what I mean? And you look at yourself in the mirror and you think, they’re right, aren’t they? And then you start to think, oh, I’ve got to change. So you eat a little bit better. You eat a lot better. And then you train. And training for here is, it just frees me out. No one likes it. I do it first thing in the morning, but once I’ve finished it, I feel like I can go.
And I wasn’t doing that. So that’s an important part of my mental health strategy now, is just to feel better by. The one thing I need to deal with is alcohol. Because I like a glass of wine. You know, I drink one or two glasses of wine, but COVID, I drink one or two glasses of wine every night. And then now, even now, I’m not just, oh, I’m at home tonight, sold for the plane at home, so I can’t wait. It’s one of the greatest moments in my life now. Tonight, you will get nothing out of me between 7.45 and 10 o’clock. Sold for the plane away at Newport. I’m not going, but I’m going to put the feed on, on my telly, but I’ll have a glass of wine. And it’s a magical moment, but I don’t need it. So I’ve got to stop doing that.
Steven Barlett (01:21:22):
We’ll find out.
Gary Neville (01:21:23):
Tonight. That’s why we live in Liverpool.
Steven Barlett (01:21:29):
2015, your dad passes away. When I was reading that in your story upstairs and the age he passed away, it struck a little bit closer to home because I feel like in my life, my dad has had a tremendous influence on me. And I feel like my relationship is not as close as it could be with him. And he has outlived all of his siblings, but in my view, had a much more stressful life. And he’s 65. And I guess the question I had for you is like, what advice would you give for me?
And is there anything that you wish you had said or done whilst you all behave differently, whilst that person was here that you now know in hindsight?
Gary Neville (01:22:17):
He’s the only, I don’t ring people. I don’t speak to, I don’t ring my brother every day. I don’t text my sister every day. I don’t ring my mum every day. I ring my dad every day, three, four times a day. The only constant in my life, every single day, my dad. Advice, looking after things, what you’re up to. He loved picking the kids up. So I put his office next to our house as well, because basically he looks after my stuff as well.
So for me, he was the constant in my life every single day and that constant’s gone now. And I always say this, I’ve still got him at the top of my favourites and my speed dials and I never move him. And it freaks me out sometimes, you know, when you’re clunky with your fingers and you press the button just by mistake because my mum’s underneath him and you utter him a warning. And the odd time, once a year maybe or whatever, you press, you know, dad mob. And it freaks me out a little bit because I think, and it makes me get well up a little bit because I think I used to ring him every single day, three, four times a day and it just went overnight. I couldn’t ring him anymore. So that’s, the constant has gone. So in terms of advice, obviously I don’t know your relationship with my dad. My dad’s relationship with me was so influential.
But it would be to, I say that I think this sometimes with my mum. What excuse have I got not to ring my mum every single day? I’ve got no excuse not to ring my mum every single day for two or three minutes and ask how she is, but I don’t. My brother does, my sister does, but I don’t have that relationship with my mum. I had it with my dad. I had it with my dad. So for me, just speaking to him every single day, I wish you couldn’t tell my dad to stop going out with my sister and the mates, to stop going out with his mates, to stop going to the football, to stop travelling away to watch United in Europe. All those things that may have taken years off his life.
Because people say to me, do you miss your dad? I say I do, but what I miss most is what he’s missing with my children and my brother’s children and my sister’s little boy. That gets to me because I know how good he was with them. I know, I saw it for six, seven years. It was unbelievable. He adored them and he was starting to slow down because of them. He was starting not, he was starting to make decisions to stay at home to look after them rather than going out. But he’d gone out for 15 years and he had a brilliant life, did everything.
He did absolutely all those sort of things that you read out at the beginning of the 217 caps and the tournaments with my sister. He was at every single one of them. He was at every single one of them. He didn’t miss a Manchester United game. I walked out onto the pitch 602 times for Manchester United and I waved at my dad 602 times there in that spot every single time.
Or in the away end I’d have to try and find him. But that was easy because he was six foot two and he had a massive big white head of hair. And I waved at him every single game. And if I didn’t wave to my dad, I could tell I found my dad. The odd game in the away end, Newcastle away, do you see where you’re sat up in that top bit? You’re looking for ages and I couldn’t settle until I’d found him. I couldn’t settle. That was one of the things. It’s like a superstition, whether it’s a routine. But to miss that from my life, I missed that idea that he was just there and I feel comfortable. He’s there. Right, I’m okay.
Dad, anything happened? No, no, everything’s good. Okay, bye. Bad sports, it’s that. You know, it’s that. So maybe speak to your dad, maybe. Ring him every morning, maybe make him your first text.
Steven Barlett (01:25:59):
People say you’ve not grieved that.
Gary Neville (01:26:01):
Some people close to me do.
Steven Barlett (01:26:03):
Because they were expecting…
Gary Neville (01:26:05):
Maybe Emma, maybe my sister. I don’t know what Phil thinks about it. Maybe, I don’t know. Because I just carried on. Maybe we all carried on. Maybe we all carried on. On the day that obviously he died, it was only a couple of weeks ago, the anniversary of it, I always text my mum. I miss him so much, mum.
I feel that’s the one time where I feel like I connect with my mum on it. I don’t feel like I can even talk to my mum on it. Because I know sometimes that when you’ve got parents that you’re so close to and then they’ve been together, what you then find is my mum’s been unbelievable since my dad passed away. She’s absolutely unbelievable, my mum. But there are times when we’re out for a meal together or I can see it and she’ll just disappear and she’ll stare into the distance and I know where she is.
But I never say, I know where you are, mum. I know what you’re thinking about. I don’t feel like I ever should say that because it’s my mum’s space, it’s my mum’s thought and it’s how we deal with it. It’s how we deal with it at home. We just know. Because if I said to her, are you alright, mum? But sometimes, maybe the other time I’d say, are you alright? Yeah, I’m fine. You’d never get anything out of her.
We don’t bring our problems on to each other. You don’t bring your problems on to each other in our family. That’s how we do it. But that’s not right. We should talk to each other. We should encourage each other. But it’s just the way we’ve dealt with things. But in our businesses now, in a way, we try all the time to encourage people to speak, to make sure that they reach out. But it’s not how we probably act internally.
Steven Barlett (01:27:44):
There’s almost a bit of, I’m guessing from what you’ve described in the house, a lot of that might have come from your father. Or was he an expressive, an emotional expressive?
Gary Neville (01:27:54):
He had emotion, to be fair. I think my mum’s probably less emotional than my dad. Oh, really? Yeah, I think my mum and my dad’s quite emotional. But again, he probably did. Yeah, he wouldn’t push his stuff on to others, I don’t think. But you didn’t do, did you? You don’t do. I say this 70s and 80s period. You don’t push your stuff on to others. Because the parents of my mum and dad grew up coming out of the World War. So everything in perspective is that you’ve not got a problem. You’ve not got a problem. We had problems back then. So don’t you whinge about this. But we now in this generation now, I think, have to adapt and change.
Steven Barlett (01:28:31):
Because there’s a consequence to not speaking about these things.
Gary Neville (01:28:33):
There is. They stay stored in the back room somewhere and they come out as, you know, alcoholism or other addictions or anger. Yeah, they do. And we’ve all seen that in people around us and it shocks and surprises us. You know, I’ve got a couple of friends who’ve had issues in the last four or five years that I would never have imagined, would never have even thought. And you think, how have I not spotted that? How have I not seen that? How have we not opened up to each other about that? It happens. It happens in all walks of our life. In all walks of our life. So we have to encourage it.
Steven Barlett (01:29:08):
Hopefully that’s what we’re doing here. Yeah, I hope so. You know, I read that when you look forward at your future, you kind of plan in 10 year cycles. So the obvious question is, what is the next 10 years about for you? Because, you know, I don’t feel like I believe that you’re doing what you’re doing because there is some finish line in sight.
Gary Neville (01:29:30):
No, it was like we set up a university. I remember the vice chancellor of Lancaster said, you do realize you’re entering into something with no exit. I like the idea of that. No exit.
Can’t sell UA 92. How can we? We are UA 92. Can’t sell your own university. You can’t, in my opinion, it’s what we are. That to me is perfection. There is no finish line. Things should go on forever that you’ve created. So we don’t think short term. I don’t think short term. I never think short term. But like I say, I think I came out of football thinking the next 15 years were critical to establish myself in business and to try and remove that tag of Steven Barlett, ex-Manage United football player. That was my target. That was my plan. So whether that be media, whether that be in business, whatever that might mean. So I’m three years away from that. I do feel like there are bumps in the road. There always are with businesses, but I feel like I’m on track.
I need to continue to keep working hard and focused, but I wanted from 50 to 60 to be laser focused and try and work on one particular thing. And that would be a result of my previous 30 years in work. The football experience, the business experience, the media experience and bring it together into something that I can go and do that’s special. I want to do something special in my life. Special to me, not necessarily special in sort of a greater sense, but special to me.
Steven Barlett (01:30:52):
I had a few words to say about one of my sponsors on this podcast. My girlfriend came upstairs yesterday when I was having a shower and she said to me that she tried the Huel protein shake, which lives on my fridge over there. And she said, it’s amazing. Low calories, you get your 20 odd grams of protein, you get your 26 vitamins and minerals and it’s nutritionally complete. In the protein space, there’s lots of things, but it’s hard to find something that is nice, especially when consumed just with water. And that is nutritionally complete and that has about 100 calories in total while also giving you your 20 grams of protein. The salted caramel one, if you put some ice cubes in it and you put it in a blender and you try it is as good as pretty much any milkshake on the market just mixed with water. It’s been a game changer for me. I wanted to ask you a question that I’ve asked pretty much, I think the last 10 guests as well, which is if you were to view your own personal happiness and fulfilment as a recipe of ingredients, and these ingredients come in different quantities, but together they make you happy.
When you look at that list of ingredients, what do you think is missing from that recipe for you to be completely happy?
Gary Neville (01:31:60):
Is it a good question or a difficult question? It must be good. If I can’t answer it, shut me up on it.
Steven Barlett (01:32:04):
Well, this isn’t the question, but I’ve asked the last 10 guests that exact question, which is, you know, if you view your happiness as this list of ingredients and it’s a recipe. That’s the problem. I remember interviewing Tyson Fury and he said, I said, what does success look like for you or what does the future look like for you? He said, just to be happy.
Gary Neville (01:32:13):
I thought, how simple is that? I never think like that. Because it’s the goals. Yeah. Even with football, I never enjoyed it while I was doing it. Yeah, it’s crazy that. Because I just felt so intense. So I don’t feel like I’m ever assessing what makes me happy or what. Why I’m doing what I feel like I’m just doing it. Yeah. Yeah, there is an element of that. What makes me happy? Watching Salford and winning makes me happy. Spending time with my children when they’re in their good space makes me really happy.
Steven Barlett (01:32:56):
What would make you more happy? That’s that’s what I’m getting at is if what ingredient is potentially missing or out of balance in that recipe.
Gary Neville (01:33:04):
I know others would say to be present more.
Steven Barlett (01:33:07):
What would you say?
Gary Neville (01:33:11):
To be on a mountain in ski lodge, isolated away from everything. It’s weird, isn’t it? I don’t know. I feel free on top of a mountain. I’ve obviously found skiing after football. It feels really sort of basic, what I’ve just said.
Steven Barlett (01:33:27):
When you’re asking me something really deep. No, but there’s something profound in that, that solitude and space.
Gary Neville (01:33:31):
Solitude and isolation and not, you know, put that helmet on, the mask on. I’m up on that mountain and I’m free. The air’s fresh and I feel like, wow. Free from what? From this, having to talk all the time. I think I’m quite. No, no, no, no. I think I’m tired. I think I’m a little bit tired of hearing my own voice. I think that the next thing that I do at the age of 50 has to be something that means that Steven Barlett doesn’t speak as much. I don’t believe you.
Steven Barlett (01:34:05):
So the closing question that’s been written for you from our previous guest is what are some words you’ve not said to somebody? Why haven’t you said them and who should you have said them to?
Gary Neville (01:34:19):
I think it would be to my mum. Her and her mum and dad. Of all the people I always talk about having the influence on my life. Sir Alex Ferguson I mention all the time. I mention my dad a lot. I mention Eric Harrison a lot, Nobby Styles, Roy Keane, all the influences I have. I never mention my mum and without a shadow of a doubt she’s the best person that I’ve ever met in my life. And her mum and dad were the best people I ever met in my life. That’s making me a little bit upset. And they were the people who I think keep me grounded every single day.
Because they’re just good people who do the right things. Who look after their family, who put their family before everything and I don’t do that.
Steven Barlett (01:35:11):
Why does that make you upset?
Gary Neville (01:35:13):
Because they put their family before everything and would drop anything for anybody in their family, their immediate family. But I don’t. And to be fair Emma is similar. They’re far better people than I am. I feel that, you know what I mean, I never tell them. Because they, that traditional, you know, they do their job, they get up, they work, they look after their family, their responsibilities to their family. Whereas, you know, I’m floating around. So yeah, it would be that I think for them to know that I don’t take it for granted.
I understand the importance of that in my life and in our lives. The most I’ve ever grieved in my life was when my mum’s dad died. It was the first person that had ever died. I was lucky to have my grandparents till I was 30. And my mum’s dad died and I came home two days after my honeymoon started.
He died two days into my honeymoon and I came straight home. I didn’t even break, I just got on a plane from the Seychelles. Because I had to, because he deserved that. He deserved that sacrifice for me to give up the honeymoon and Emma was fine with it. Because he had such an incredible influence on my life. Gave up all his time for me, took me everywhere, cooked for me, was there three, four nights a week. I didn’t need to do that. So those three people. And there are others obviously, but I think those three people and Emma is very similar.
Steven Barlett (01:37:01):
Gary, thank you so much. Thank you. I’ve watched you for my entire life on TV as a huge United fan growing up. And then obviously even to this day on it, the overlap and what you do across broadcast television. And I think it’s amazing. After this conversation I figured out why you’ve managed to sort of grace so many different industries and reach the top in all of those endeavours. And it’s because of the set of values that were instilled in you and that you clearly exude today. Your relentlessness, your focus on hard work and all of these kind of old school values which I think are a little bit lost in our generation. Thank you for the inspiration. Thank you. You’ve inspired me so tremendously and your vulnerability and your willingness to be open in that regard I think is going to create a better future in many respects for young men that are driving towards their ambitions and young women, but also as it relates to politics and what’s going on in our society. So you’re a very important person and it’s unbelievable that a Manchester United right back has gone on to do all of these things. But it’s a huge inspiration for me and many people that are listening I’m sure.
Gary Neville (01:38:06):
Thank you. Huge, huge honor. I have to say that. No one wants to grow up to be Steven Barlett.
Steven Barlett (01:38:12):
Quick one. We have a brand new sponsor on this podcast which I’m very excited to tell you about. They’re a brand called Blue Jeans by Verizon and they are a video conferencing and collaboration tool that has changed the game for our team. So I’m so glad to be working with them because as you know one of the most important things for me is when we have a sponsor it is part of my world, it is part of my life, it is part of my companies. As someone who’s on calls pretty much 80% of the day building my businesses and speaking to my teams all over the world, it’s the guaranteed security that differentiates Blue Jeans from all of the other options that are out there in terms of video conferencing. Their enterprise grade security means you can protect your organization from malicious attacks and establish real trust with everyone that joins your meeting and that is something. There are so many things that make sense and make Blue Jeans a better option than the sort of competitors out there and I’ll be talking about all of those aspects, those features and the reasons why I use Blue Jeans in the coming episodes. If you want to check it out you can head to www.bluejeans.com to learn more.
Gary Neville is a broadcaster, serial business founder and owner, and a winner of every possible club football title in his 20 years playing for Manchester United - with 2 Champions League medals, 8 Premier League medals, 3 FA Cup medals, a Club World Cup medal, and 2 League cup medals.
In one of his most emotional and heartfelt interviews to date, Gary opens up about precisely what drove him and his similarly successful siblings on - his brother is the England-capped footballer Philip Neville, while his sister is the former Head Coach of England Netball, Tracey Neville - despite their very humble origins.
A legend of Manchester United and a former captain of the club, he goes into detail about precisely what made the team culture of the Sir Alex Ferguson years so strong, why its so sorely lacking now, why he’s felt the need to speak out more on social and political issues, and why everything he does is for the city he grew up in and calls home. Even after all these years, he’s still bringing glory back to Manchester.
- How did you and your family become so successful in sport?
- What the cost of your drive?
- You’re self disparaging about your skills
- Alex Ferguson’s mindset
- What you have you learnt from Sir Alex about culture?
- Why are Manchester United failing now?
- Your businesses
- Mental health
- Your dad
- The next 10 years
- If happiness was a recipe
- The last guest question
Gary's Twitter: https://g2ul0.app.link/At9sxqODAsb
Gary's Instagram: https://g2ul0.app.link/G5IEbtQDAsb
Gary’s book, available for pre-order now:
Watch the episodes on Youtube: https://g2ul0.app.link/Hlol7fTDAsb
Follow us on Telegram: https://g2ul0.app.link/xH53MFVDAsb
Huel - https://g2ul0.app.link/wjmvak5nAsb
BlueJeans - https://g2ul0.app.link/rB98ls8nAsb