When we talk about Leeds and Manchester United, it is often through gritted teeth. While the Red Devils pounced on the commercial boom in the late 1980s and early 1990s, creating a trophy-laden dynasty, Leeds over-speculated and faced two decades in the second, sometimes third, division for their overly excessive ambition. However, even the most devout fans of either club will admit to a grudging respect for one another – traditional clubs in major cities in England who have, for many years, been flagship entities in the English game.
The development of the European Super League, then, soon threatened to remove these kinds of derbies from relevance. And whilst most Leeds fans were disgusted at the idea, the surprise was how many at the very top clubs were also put off by the greed on show. One person who has come out of the last ten days or so with major credit is Gary Neville, the Manchester United legend and Salford City owner.
And while Leeds aren’t going to be naming a stand after the Mancunian anytime soon, it was a positive shock to hear Neville so positive about Leeds and their size.
What did Gary Neville say about Leeds?
Speaking about the ESL, Neville went on a tirade about the damage it would do to major clubs across England and Europe. In an emotional response, Neville stated: “It was an attack on Leeds United, it was an attack on Everton, it was an attack on West Ham and on Newcastle,” the ex-England man said.
“Some of the greatest clubs in the history of English football. But then I look at Jimmy [Floyd Hasselbaink]. What about Ajax? PSV? Feyenoord? These unbelievable clubs.
“They were just left. Left with the pennies whilst the rich just went away and took £300 million every year for 23 years and created their own league.
“Honestly, the scariest thing is that these people are regrouping back at base. They are not going away. This is their second attempt in the last 18 months.”
While Leeds fans aren’t exactly going to be taking Neville alongside them on the terraces at Elland Road, as he freely admitted previously on Sky, he did say that on this he was on the same side as the other clubs. He even mentioned how, for this scenario alone, he could find himself on the Kop End at Anfield to protest the issue – quite the statement!
Given how much success Neville has had in the game and his standing as both a club owner and a major pundit, his voice carries some weight. His freeness to speak about not only the ESL but the damage that the Premier League era has caused was a refreshing change in tone. Too often, those in his position tend to wilt when it comes to really turning the spotlight on those who pay their wages.
To his credit, Neville has been honest and forthright about his own decisions, his actions, and his previous relationship with top-end football. Love him or hate him, it’s safe to say that Neville has done himself – and clubs like Leeds – a favour.