Who the hell does Gary Neville
think he is, trampling all over my childhood?
You'll be familiar with Neville's
excellent work on TV; as a commendably plain-speaking pundit on Sky, and in a
cameo role in
Class of '92 - Still Out Of
Their League, the chucklesome BBC documentary about the non-league team
bought by ex-Manchester United players with more money than sense.
In fact, so entertaining is Neville
on the box, one is prepared to overlook his career in football management, at
Valencia in La Ligua, and with the England national team at the Euros, whatever
he was supposed to be doing there.
But this I can't forgive.
Neville and his chum Ryan Giggs have
teamed up with some Asian investors and plan to knock down an old bit of
Manchester for a £200 million skyscraper development including 153 luxury
flats, offices, prestiege shops, topped off by two 'sky bars' and upscale
restaurants where they no doubt drizzle stuff over other stuff and arrange it
geometrically on the plate.
affordable housing, obviously.
All initially prompting little more than a sigh and a sad shake of the head, but the
name of Neville's enterprise, the Jackson's Row Development Company, was like a
dagger to the heart.
Jackson's Row is the street in Manchester they want to knock down for their
posh flats, on-site gym, 24-hour security, and cocktail bars with fabulous
views over the whole of Manchester.
And Jackson's Row is where my stuttering romantic life began.
There's an old synagogue there,
where they used to have dances on a Saturday night.
As it was a reform shul (Yiddish for synagogue), there was
little chance of meeting up with Jew fundamentalists with their wacky
insistence on two sets of plates and not switching on the light on a Saturday,
and thus my Jewish (more 'ish' than Jew) parents thought it an ideal place for me to
meet girls of my own unobserved religion, and not succumb to the lure of
the shiksa (gentile woman) - 'shiks appeal,' as Seinfeld dubbed it.
As it happened, as a pupil at a
boys' grammar school, I was pretty useless with girls of any faith, but I do
remember dancing at one of these socials with a girl called Michelle, mainly
because of the Beatles' song of the same name which was around at the
I may even have essayed a
chaste kiss with her.
Look, I'm not suggesting a blue
plaque or anything, but I resent losing a piece of history - and the building
is a prime example of 1950s synagogue design - so that the nouveau riche wives
and girlfriends of Premier League footballers can quaff cocktails looking down
on the peasants below.
And it's not just the synagogue but
a 1930s police station where I once answered questions in connection with a
Road Traffic Incident, and a 19th Century inn believed to have
inspired the pub in the TV series
Mars are also destined to go under Neville's bulldozers. Historic England are fighting the
plans, and I'm with them.
Neville's purchase - together with brother Phil, Giggs, Paul Scholes, and Nicky
Butt - of Salford City Football Club, is him 'giving something back,' for which
I admire him.
The first series, which followed
Class of 92's club to promotion,
via managerial sackings, tea bar crises, toilet reconstruction, and other
vicissitudes of life in the lower reaches of the football pyramid was hugely
I doubted there was enough there
for a second series, but it got off to a promising start on Thursday, covering
Salford's successful run in the FA Cup, and something of a collapse in league
form which currently sees them in danger of missing out on promotion.
There will be a small proportion of
the audience for whom there will be no suspense, because they follow the lower
leagues, but for those of us for whom doings in the Dobson The Butcher
Northwest Premier Division B, or wherever it is Salford play, remain a mystery,
it's a rattling good yarn.
The show's not about the football
It's about whether the tea
bar can overcome it's one-star rating and newspaper headlines about E-Coli
Where next for the pies,
peas, and watery gravy?
And it's about the really lovely,
personable thirty-odd year-old striker Gareth Seddon's future, as he pounds the
streets in a probably vain bid to prolong his career, as younger players are
brought in at Salford to replace him.
He's bought a cheese shop with his
girlfriend Melissa to prepare for life after football.
"A cheese shop?" comments an
incredulous and highly amused Gary Neville, "Why's he got a cheese
Well, possibly because
he can't rustle up a bunch of Asian investors to finance a scheme to knock down
part of Manchester.
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