Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Gary and Gareth - Two of a Kind

I just couldn't put my finger on it. Who did he remind me of again? Was it a physical thing? Maybe. The mannerisms and attitude, though, that was it. That interview on Sky Sports before the Manchester United v Liverpool game the other day, it hit me then: Gary Neville is Gareth Keenan from The Office.

I don't know why I never spotted it before. Physically there's the gawky facial features, the wide, staring eyes and the helmet-like haircut. More than that, though, there's the delusions of grandeur: the self-appointed leader status, the paper-thin facade of machismo that gets undermined in hilarious circumstances (see Roy Keane getting stuck into Patrick Vieira for bullying our hero during the infamous tunnel stramash at Highbury last year). There's the deadly seriousness with which he takes himself and everything he does - you almost expect him to launch into an account of his exploits in the "Territorials" during interviews.

A key character trait that unites the shop steward of United and England and Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's wonderful creation is the fundamental immaturity that they both exhibit and that underpins their actions. Gareth's desire for power and respect sees him adopt the manner and lexicon of leadership, without the gravitas, charisma, status and, well, lack of idiocy that it requires. Gary's pronouncements on matters football carry the same desire for respectability; Neville walks the walk of the "senior pro", all furrowed brow and serious words.

And then, invariably, you see him acting like a prat like he did following United's late winner against Liverpool last Sunday. Will the real Gary Neville please stand up? Ah yes, gurning like a half-cut baboon, or more specifically, acting like the denizens of the Stretford End no doubt were at the same time.

And what the hell is wrong with that, I hear you cry? Isn't it great to see a footballer sharing the passion of the supporters for once, savouring success the way those in the stands do, in this age of overpaid, ambivalent mercenaries? Well, yes, it is - nothing wrong indeed. Every fan loves the heart-on-the-sleeve, lifelong fan-type player. As for the "incitement" allegations, even Liverpool fans would agree that this idea is nonsense - the likelihood of "the Great Gary Neville Riots of 2006" entering te history books is minimal.

It's just that Gary Neville's fundamental daftness shone through so clearly as to demonstrably undermine (in the same way as the "manual lifting training" scene did for Gareth Keenan) Neville's flimsy self-constructed veneer of masculinity and that laughable notion of him being the respected, august figure in the game that he seems to crave.

I keep thinking of the bit were Gareth is seen going home in the sidecar with the biker and his girlfriend....


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