Union Interview: Ex-Everton Winger and Sports Analyst Pat Nevin

Clara Buxton 9 May 2014

Prior to his participation in a debate at the union this week, TCS Sport sat down with ex-Chelsea/Everton winger and renowned football analyst Pat Nevin to talk more about his assessment of the Premier League season, punditry and Financial Fair Play.

So, this week, the big news in European football is that Manchester City have been levied with a fine and a possible Champions League squad restriction for being in breach of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations. What’s your opinion on the scheme and how it will affect these clubs?

In actual fact it’s going to be quite complex because I think there will be legal ramifications of it. I think it hurts the clubs because they expect to stay within the rules. However there was no way certain clubs were going to. They accepted there would be a hit on them because they had to get to a position where they were a Champions League team. If you’re at the top level anyway, you have a higher ability to spend. You almost had to take a chance with money to make sure you got there. If that meant falling foul of the rules, I think some clubs just shrugged their shoulders.

What do you think will hurt the clubs more? The financial sanctions or the squad restriction?

 A lot of people have argued over whether it actually legally holds up – saying that the scheme is a restriction of trade. There’s big argument over that. It may well be that the bigger clubs don’t like this, and if they don’t like it, they may not accept it. So this isn’t finished, this is a first step. It’s more than a warning shot across the bow – it’s the first big blast from one side but I think there’ll be a big blast back from the clubs at some point as well.

 It’s very obvious that, in simple terms, the people that have the deepest pockets are the people that win everything. That gets a bit boring after a while. It would be slightly better if in certain competitions, you didn’t know before the start of the season who was going to win them.

I cover the Scottish Premier League, and I know who’s going to win that each year. The English Premier League – I have a fair idea of two or three teams who are going to win that. Well done to Liverpool for upsetting that a wee bit this season. FFP has a big role to play but it’s still very early days.

 

About Premier League norms; what’s been your assessment of this season? It has been quite an unusual one…

There’s been so many exciting things but I think probably the bottom of the league was the best. If you’re talking about the top of the league, it’s been a while since three different teams were fighting it out tooth and nail right until the end. You have Chelsea just about holding on in there, and Manchester City were always going to be involved. I never changed my mind – from day one I always thought they were going to win it purely because of their squad strength and depth.

But then Liverpool have been the really exciting ones, because they have challenged. In fact, they’ve been an absolute joy to watch and the fans have been stunning. These are big words coming from an Ex-Everton/Chelsea player. But, in all seriousness, I’m not biased in any way against any club. If they’re playing good football, I’ll enjoy watching it. Those players have done a great job but I never quite thought they would have enough to hold on to it. It goes back to the money again. They never had the strength and depth whereas Man City did have.

To your playing career now. You played at Chelsea and Everton, what were your experiences of playing at those clubs? Do you have any career highlights?

There is a moment miles above them all when I was at Chelsea. I was walking out after a game and this old man fell into step with me. I lived not far from the stadium so I used to walk home with my boots in my hand sometimes. And this old man said “I heard about you – you play a bit of skilful football.” I said thank you and went to have a conversation with him and he just walked away. And I just thought “that is why I do this”. Not for the money, not for the fame– I did it because I loved doing it. But also to give and joy to other people.

You think about the people that come out of their houses to watch you and all the people that you never met that got some joy out of it. So it sounds a bit high and mighty but that was the best moment.

There’s been an unprecedented number of managerial changes this season. Did any of them surprise you?

You don’t get surprised anymore. Purely because have more short-term attitudes. I’m of the opinion that long-term, the sacking of David Moyes was a dreadful error by Manchester United. I think the reasons why they sacked him were all wrong. There’s nothing wrong with Moyes as a manager. He did a wonderful job at Everton for a decade or so. He would have done a good job at United as well, but that team were finished.

The problem wasn’t the manager, it was the team. If they’d given him time and money, he would have built another dynasty there. I always like the way United ran the club with Sir Alex, but now they’ve gone down the short-term route. I don’t know if they can afford to do that – they’ve not got the money to do that. David was undermined by a certain level of player power and people not having the courage of their convictions. That’s the one that annoyed me in particular. I also thought it was offensively dealt with by the press. They were ignorant towards what is a very good man and a very good manager.

On a personal point of view – also Stevie Clarke at West Brom. What were they thinking of? He was doing fine…

On the flip side, did any managers stand out as doing a great job this year?

I’ll go with Robbie [Martinez]. He’s jumped out at me as the best really. You could almost argue Mourinho because they’re challenging this year whereas they haven’t in major competitions recently. But in terms of joy if playing – Merseyside has it sewn up. What Brendan has done with his team is obviously fantastic, certainly far beyond what I’d have expected from them. I think he’ll get them even better next year. I think Robbie Martinez is stunning because if you take over from David Moyes, the accepted wisdom was that there was no way he’d be able to do any better than that. Oops… he has.

Obviously you do a lot of analytical media work – is it ever difficult to separate the analyst from the fan?

No its not! I wish I could say it was because it makes me sounds analytical and heartless! My teams I support – I’ll be really harsh on them if they’re playing badly.

I’ve been recently quite strong pro-Chelsea explaining to people why Mourinho has been saying some of the things he’s been saying. The reason why I try to explain people like Mourinho is because nobody else does what he does – some of it is very subtle. Some of it seems ridiculous, let’s be fair, but he’s not a stupid man, I promise you. Everything he says is for a reason and if you’re a good journalist – find out what that reason is. There was a great moment recently where he refused to answer questions post match and said four things: my team was great, the Sunderland team was great, the referee was fantastic and the man who chose the referee was fantastic.

The media reacted badly accusing him of arrogance but didn’t make an effort to find out what he meant by it. He can’t say what he really means – he’ll get done by the FA. There was an interesting story behind it. The referee was famously a Liverpool fan and was in charge of the match that, at the time, would arguably have given Liverpool the league. The linesman who gave the penalty kick played for Liverpool as a kid. The journalists didn’t bother to look at this. Mourinho threw it out there.

This wouldn’t happen in Italy, Spain and Germany. It’s actually just a cultural difference. Here, it doesn’t matter. I don’t care what team they are a fan of. We trust them to be fair because that’s how we are – we trust our professionals. But Jose isn’t from our culture, they wouldn’t do that in Portugal. For him, it was odd. Nobody chased this story and it led to me being labelled “pro-Chelsea” for trying to explain what Jose saw in it.

That’s an extremely long winded answer to your question. But no. The analyst and the fan don’t get mixed up. I always want my teams to win every week! But if they don’t, I won’t sit and pretend they’re better than they are. No chance.

Who’s your favourite fellow-pundit to listen to?

That brilliant question, it’s very tricky. Danny Mills is good. He says interesting things. He tells you some things that you as a fan and as a player even, may not have noticed.

Oddly enough the technical stuff that Gary Neville does really annoys me because I’ve been doing exactly that for 15 years and nobody noticed it. I’ve been using that technology for Channel 5 for over a decade and he comes and does it and everyone’s like “wow, look at what he’s doing”. So in that way, I do enjoy watching Gary Neville. He’s intelligent. So yes – those two.