The dark side of a bad dream

OPINION: Why Derby County may not be the last crisis club that leader of the opposition Gary Neville laments

Thursday, 27th January — By Richard Osley


IN a world short on sharp analysis – a world with a lot of Alan Shearers telling you that a good goal you just watched on Match of The Day was in fact a good goal – Gary Neville has emerged as a chieftain of football intelligentsia.

Yes, his old spitting, sparring partner Jamie Carragher is a good foil to share the screen with; the PJ to his Duncan – most people could stand next to him and instantly seem doubly perceptive and eminently electable.

But there is something a little more thoughtful about Neville than your usual laddish 2022 pundit – he has an engaging righteous anger in these strained times.

At the weekend, you could find him not talking about the “wozzit a penalty, then?” norm and instead doing a deep dive monologue about the disaster at Derby County, where the pursuit of riches has backfired awfully.

As it turns out, Derby County are not going to be joining the continental elite as previously forecast after all and are instead facing ruin. It is a travesty, of course – the loyal supporters have been spammed by their own club and now possibly left with nothing for all the hours, days, years, love and, yes, money too, that they have invested.

Neville, taking a break from his role as the UK’s leader of the opposition, said it should be seen as “inconceivable” that the Rams would go bust and that something must be done as this was “beyond the final straw”. We might be able to imagine the High Street without Woolworths, appeared to be the suggestion, but Derby County must be saved.

Quite reasonably, he said there needed to be structural change, better regulation and that football clubs should be treated like “Grade I-listed buildings”.

But instead, Neville warned that “we see greed, we see selfishness” in a free market and people “chasing the dream” – and all the time the fans are powerless.

It was important food for thought – and perhaps unfortunate then that it was delivered on a channel which requires payment to watch.

After all, no discussion about the grotesque finances of English football – where the richest clubs can spend £100million for a new player but the poorest clubs don’t even know if their town will have a team next month – without peeling back to how the “dream” was created in the first place.

Let’s not forget you could once watch league football for free in the UK. Sky Sports have done lots of amazing things, but they too have been part of football’s expensive price tag. There was a rush to get rich, those who could afford to subscribed, but Derby will not be the last club that Neville laments losing in the big boom and bust.

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