Brian McClair asked Gary Neville to join PFA at 22 due to his 'desire'

Brian McClair reveals he asked Gary Neville to join PFA management committee aged just 22 back in the early 2000s because the Manchester United right-back was ‘advanced for his age’ and had the ‘desire to succeed’

  • Gary Neville took on a PFA committee role aged just 22 back in the early 2000s 
  • The youngster was recommended for the role by Brian McClair who knew Neville
  • The ex-Man United academy director claims Neville had the ‘desire to succeed’ 
  • McClair also claimed Neville ‘scraped through’ the academy set-up at United

Brian McClair revealed he asked a 22-year-old Gary Neville to join the Players’ Football Association (PFA) management committee in the early 2000s as he was ‘advanced for his age’ at the time. 

The former Manchester United right-back is known not only for his strong opinions on football but also on global matters outside of the sport, the majority of which are aired via his punditry role at Sky Sports.

When Neville was a young right-back at Old Trafford, former United academy director McClair recommended to Neville that he should join the upper echelons of the PFA despite his young age because he had the ‘determination’ and ‘desire’ to thrive in the role. 

Brian McClair (left) revealed he asked Gary Neville to join the PFA aged 22 because he was ‘advanced for his age’ as a young player

Neville was a young right-back when he was asked by McClair to join the PFA committee

McClair told his Life with Brian podacst: ‘Gary being 22 was actually, for me, quite advanced. He came into professional, adult professional sport at 16. His main attribute is his determination, his desire to be the best he can possibly be at whatever it is he does. 

‘Gary had shown at 16 he was determined and had the right attitude to be able to stand up and say the right thing in regard to footballers rights. He’d stand up and say this is what i think would be best – for the game, not myself. He has continued that. 

‘Whatever it is he gets involved in he is determined to be successful at it and he is always prepared to give you an opinion. It is not always going to be right but he’ll give you that.’

Neville was part of the infamous ‘Class of 92’ that saw United legends David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and Nicky Butt – among others – break into the club’s first-team for the first time.

Neville, now 46, is outspoken on his views regarding all things football and global affairs

McClair was a first-team regular at the club when Neville and his young team-mates came through and admitted the right-back ‘scraped through’ the selection process at Old Trafford – but would have happily enjoyed a career away from football. 

McClair added: ‘Gary had already had some kind of knock-backs in his career, he had scraped through the selection process up to then. 

‘He was always the last one to be told he was getting a contract so he had come across the idea that he was clinging on by his fingernails at Manchester United. 

‘He was like ‘I am here but I could easily be seeking my employment away from football.

‘I thought he was the one who could take it and do what is needed to be done. I think being involved in that would have helped him.’   

McClair says Neville (fifth left) ‘scraped through’ the United selection process at youth level

Neville admitted he would deal with both young and older players in his PFA committee role and even recalled a time when footballers threatened to go on strike during his time in the association due to the treatment of players at the time.  

The pundit told Sky Sports this month: ‘In the youth teams I’d been the foreman standing up for the players, with Eric Harrison and Nobby Stiles. 

‘I took the job on and I went onto the management committee of the PFA and there were times in the early 2000s where we had to threaten to go on strike to protect the players’ rights, and that wasn’t a time when we’re talking about players on £200k per week.

Neville claimed he represented both young and old players in his PFA role in the early 2000s

‘We’re talking about players who get kicked out of the game. There is a massive amount of young players who get kicked out of the game and the PFA funds their education, their wellbeing, the mental health support that they need from their dream being shattered. 

‘And then you’ve got the players who are 55, 65, 70 years old who have hip operations or life-saving operations, or have needs in other ways and the PFA is there to support its members. It’s important football does that and the PFA do that.’ 

Neville recently spoke out in criticism of the national reaction to the appointment of new PFA chief executive Maheta Molango earlier this month, with the former Brighton player taking over from Gordon Taylor. 

Neville recently defended the appointment of PFA chief executive Maheta Molango (above)

Molango is facing a revolt from PFA members after he was announced as the new chief and Neville has disapproved of the language used to describe the Swiss executive when the decision to elect him was made.  

Neville added: ‘I thought it was an awful reaction. I saw it when it first broke and thought there was a bit of the language I didn’t like, it was a bit derogatory, a little bit disparaging, almost like ‘who is this guy, how’s he got the job?’

‘And then it seemed to go on for another day and I thought it was a bit of a concerted attack. I thought, “do they know Maheta?” I’ve never met Maheta in my life. I don’t know who he is. 

‘Surely the British media don’t know him. They’re ringing up people in Spain or they’re speaking to people within in the PFA who obviously don’t want to give a glowing recommendation and it got to the fourth or fifth day and I thought, “enough is enough. It’s just not right, this”.’

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