Recognising Gary Neville as an Overachiever isn’t a Bad Thing
“Effort without talent is depressing but talent without effort is a tragedy”
I remember watching an America’s Game recently (which chronicles the season of the Super Bowl winning teams or the best teams never to win the trophy) which featured the 1981 San Diego Chargers. Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow explained just why the diminutive running back Hank Bauer played such an important role on that team.
“You have to have a Hank Bauer on your football team, an overachiever. Because then it forces people who were gifted, you know that natural ability, to ask themselves, why am I not working harder? He’s a guy who pushes everybody else”.
Bauer wasn’t blessed with athletic ability. There were others in his position that had the raw attributes, others that were technically better. But because he worked harder and because he wanted it more he became just as important as the star names.
I thought of Bauer yesterday when Gary Neville was described by many as an ‘overachiever’. For nearly two decades, Neville has held down a right-back berth at one of the world’s most successful clubs and on top of that he has amassed 85 caps for his country.
I can fully understand the ‘overachiever’ tag but it could be seen as too simplistic. It suggests that Neville was more of a passenger during Manchester United’s two decades of dominance. It proposes that he didn’t deserve all the accolades.
But Neville’s biggest strengths were those which could not be visibly seen. He possessed a burning desire, a winning mentality and his game lent itself to natural leadership. He also had a knack for being in the right place at the right time, for knowing when to attack and when to defend. He wasn’t blessed with searing speed or a bulking frame like a Micah Richards; he didn’t have an evergreen engine like a Gareth Bale or a Cafu. But mentally, Neville possessed all the traits that are typical of a Manchester United player in the Sir Alex Ferguson era yet they are often overlooked by many.
Was Neville an overachiever? Perhaps. But then this is no bad thing, in fact it should be revered. Many players waste the talents they have and the sport’s stars who punch above their weight should be celebrated.
When people look back at the Manchester United and England sides of Neville’s generation they will wax lyrical about Beckham, Scholes, Shearer and Rooney and with good reason.
But you need a Gary Neville on your football team, an overachiever. Because it forces people who were gifted to ask themselves, why am I not working harder? He’s a guy who pushes everybody else.