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What Are You Playing At Gary Neville?
By Martin "I like it runny" Kelner on Aug 28, 2016 - 7:24:37 PM

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.   No 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.   Because 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 time.   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 Life On Mars are also destined to go under Neville's bulldozers. Historic England are fighting the plans, and I'm with them.   I guess 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 the 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 entertaining.  


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 anyway.   It's about whether the tea bar can overcome it's one-star rating and newspaper headlines about E-Coli dangers.   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 shop?"  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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