By Simon Stone
GARY NEVILLE has lashed out at the Football Association, claiming Soho Square chiefs want robotic players who are devoid of passion.
The Manchester United captain let fly with a verbal attack every bit as passionate as his wild celebrations at Rio Ferdinand’s late winner against Liverpool at Old Trafford last month which have landed him with a £5,000 (€7,300) fine and a warning about his future conduct.
After being hit by an improper conduct charge following his decision to race 50 yards towards the visiting section of the ground, then engage in a fist-pumping, badge-kissing salute of Ferdinand’s goal, Neville was unable to plead his innocence at a disciplinary hearing despite offering a personal defence through a video link.
The 31-year-old insisted at the time he had done nothing wrong, a verdict backed up by Ferdinand and also manager Alex Ferguson, who complained similar provocative celebrations from Steven Gerrard and Robbie Fowler had gone unpunished recently.
Ferguson claimed Neville was only being singled out because he was a United player and the sense of grievance around Old Trafford would only have been heightened by today’s verdict, which drew a stinging response from the Red Devils captain even though he avoided a ban which would have ruled him out of Sunday’s Carling Cup final.
"I am extremely disappointed with the decision," said Neville.
"I believe it is a poor decision, not just for me but for all footballers. Being a robot, devoid of passion and spirit is obviously the way forward for the modern-day footballer. And I ask the authorities, ‘Where is football being taken?"’
Neville has 14 days to appeal the decision, although recent history suggests such a move would be a waste of time.