As the game of football, particularly in the Premier League era, becomes ever more professional, Gary Neville has suggested that one of his former Manchester United team-mates wouldn’t have been able to abide lockdown.
The current era sees football players under scrutiny each and every day, whether it’s for their performances on the pitch, their social media interactions or what they do away from football.
Back in the 1990s, things were a bit different, and Neville said that Eric Cantona would’ve flouted the rules currently in place, and not cared about the consequences.
“We always talk about characters and personalities – people who do things differently,” Neville said on Sky Sports and cited by the Daily Mirror.
“We thrive on that, it would be boring if you had the same stuff in interviews. We like characters but it happens less because of the importance of professionalism.
“In the 1990s, it was still allowed that you could go out for a drink. It wasn’t the idea that you were superstars, you were footballers but there was still a connection with the man in the pub. That’s become detached and players are now athletes, every time they put a foot wrong [they are criticised].
“People like [Eric] Cantona would’ve flouted lockdown rules. They’re mavericks, they do what they want, they want freedom. What we expect from football players now, we don’t allow that anymore – it’s not tolerated.
“The mavericks of the game are being weaned out because of behaviours. I was boring as hell, no one wanted to be a Gary Neville! You want to see people like Cantona who express themselves differently, we’re drumming it out of players.”
Cantona was just as entertaining off of the pitch as he was brilliant on it, but the carefree attitude that Neville alludes to would’ve arguably been his downfall were he playing now.
In much the same way, 70s mavericks, Alan Hudson, Stan Bowles and Frank Worthington – all crowd pleasers and entertainers – would likely have struggled too with the rigidity of life as a professional in this day and age.