When Gary Neville met ArsenalFanTV: Arsene Wenger's future at Arsenal discussed
Last Updated: 17/02/17 5:15pm
Gary Neville stuck to his word and sat down with ArsenalFanTV to explain his comments about the channel's public criticism of Arsene Wenger.
Neville took offence with the prominent, fan-run YouTube channel after the Frenchman was berated immediately after the Gunners' 3-1 defeat at Premier League leaders Chelsea.
The Sky Sports pundit was invited onto the show by host and founder Robbie Lyle, who argued all supporters were entitled to voice their opinions, critical or otherwise.
It proved to be an insightful, and at times fiery, debate between the two parties, and you can read what was said during Monday's meeting in our full transcript below...
ARSENAL FAN TV: Fans were very unhappy after the game at Stamford Bridge…
NEVILLE: "I was disappointed with Arsenal's performance on the day, I was critical of them during the game. I don't think there's any problem with criticism, it's how you do it. Does Arsene Wenger's 20 years of service at the club deserve a little bit more respect than certain types of things that have happened? Some would say yes, some no, he deserves everything he gets. Some people, including myself, would say hang on a minute.
"If it was Payet, who handed in a transfer request at West Ham and has left the club now, you can understand why fans would go full on. If it was John Terry, who has given Chelsea 20 years and might not be in the team anymore, might not be playing as well. Does he deserve banners and abuse? No.
"It's a unique one with Arsene Wenger, what he has achieved at the club, the greatest ever manager for Arsenal. His performance levels consistently for 20 years have been unbelievable. And you'd have to say, I do go along the line of, 'Be careful what you wish for'. Not in the sense that change isn't good, because it can be, but Arsenal's spending has been less than all the other clubs. Tottenham, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea.
"If you spend less, you're more than likely - and I know Leicester are the exception you all point towards - to finish below those other clubs. To continue to finish second, third, fourth over that period while still spending that much is an unbelievable achievement. I do get frustrated enormously with the continued struggle in big games away from home. I'm frustrated with Arsenal."
ARSENAL FAN TV: But what about the fans, who have spent the time and money to go to every single game, what about them being frustrated?
NEVILLE: "Absolutely. But where have I ever said that a fan can't say what he wants about a team? But I can still think he's an idiot if he says it. They are two different things. One is saying what you want, throwing banners out at a game, there are lots of good banners; protests against owners, chairmen, players, nobody is saying you can't bring a banner to a game. But imagine going into your office the day before, printing off a banner against the guy who has been your most successful manager of all time, who has achieved so much, does he deserve that? I don't think so. Does he deserve abuse? I don't think he does.
"I think really it's a lack of respect. He's a giant of the game. If he retired tomorrow, or something happened to him, there would probably be millions of people lining the streets for Arsene Wenger, and what he has achieved. Look at the other clubs who are currently below him in the league, who have spent more money and don't get the same abuse. Why do you not protest against the board? Why the manager? He's done his best, hasn't he?"
ARSENAL FAN TV: We have protested against the board. To do what Wenger did was amazing, in that initial period. But we've come to that point now where we can spend the money, we've got top-drawer, world-class players in positions, but we're failing year in, year out. Whether we had Marouane Chamakh up front or Sanchez up front, the same problems and same failings are rearing their heads at the same point every single year.
NEVILLE: "I never said that the fan didn't have a right to bring that banner into the stadium, or shout about what he wants. You might have the opinion that Arsene Wenger should no longer be manager of Arsenal. However, to see a guy, to stand up at the end of a match, with it still going on, with a banner up, shouting abuse at a guy who has given 20 years of service and is the greatest manager in Arsenal's history, sorry I find that very difficult."
ARSENAL FAN TV: Is the message getting across though? They're so frustrated that some feel it isn't getting across.
NEVILLE: "Be clear, the coach, the manager, the board will be fully aware of everything you're saying on social media, on this channel, they'll be aware of the discontent through the booing, the empty seats. That's where you see discontent. They will be fully aware of your voices.
"City have spent £1bn, United have spent £750bn, Chelsea have spent nearly £750bn, Tottenham have spent £560bn although the net spend is less, Liverpool have spent a lot more than Arsenal. They'll be looking at that and thinking, 'We're getting a good level of performance and consistency with the budget we are giving him', and that, 'We can never compete with City and Chelsea on those budgets, they've spent double'. They might be listening to you and thinking we don't agree! Have you thought of that?"
ARSENAL FAN TV: But maybe they should communicate that then.
NEVILLE: "But they communicate that in the way they give out contracts, support Arsene Wenger, saying he's our manager. I'm not patronising you now. There are only a couple of clubs in this country that can compete with Arsenal in terms of tradition and history. Manchester United are an unbelievable club in terms of tradition and history, Arsenal are an incredible club in terms of that, particularly at Highbury, you used to go there and you could smell it. Even now at Arsenal with the ground, probably the best in terms of facilities.
"You have to remember, I disagreed with the Manchester United fans and the David Moyes banner a few years ago, I disagreed with United fans booing Marouane Fellaini a few weeks ago when he came on against Liverpool.
"This is not just against Arsenal fans. I have beliefs that as a fan, you can say whatever you want, but that doesn't mean to say that as a fellow fan I necessarily think it's the right thing to do. I do think that fan, who is 25 years of age, may look back in 20, 30 years and might change his mind about his actions on that day."
ARSENAL FAN TV: To call a single fan on national TV in front of an audience of millions an idiot for voicing his opinion, whether you agree or disagree, and to give him that heat in that spotlight, was unfair to do that. Do you still stand by these things, or has there been time for reflection?
NEVILLE: "What I would say, and I'll be absolutely clear, there are very few things I've said on television that I've regretted, over five years. I use my own language, language that I'd use growing up as a fan and a kid. I don't throw out cliches or nice words. Sometimes when a word comes out my mouth I think: 'Come back, come back'.
"I've been in football professionally for 20 years, having been a fan, a part-owner of a club. However, I will always speak my mind, always say what I believe. I'd be interested to know what that fan will think in 20 years' time.
"I know a lot of people have found it difficult to accept the word idiot. You're paying more attention to it than I think it's worth. I didn't call every Arsenal fan in the country an idiot and couldn't have an opinion. But Wenger, who I have been very critical of in the past from a football point of view, I think he deserves better than that.
"Do I regret it? No. I'm quite relaxed about the fact that I say what I think on TV. I could have said: "That Arsenal fan is out of order or I disagree with his opinion". But everyone would have thought that was boring."
ARSENAL FAN TV: I wouldn't have thought that.
NEVILLE: "You might have thought it was considered. That's not what I'm on television for, I'm on television to give you my genuine opinion and my feeling."
ARSENAL FAN TV: Do you agree with the concept of Fan TV?
ARSENAL FAN TV: But you say it was embarrassing.
NEVILLE: "What I saw outside Stamford Bridge, which is what I mean, I thought was embarrassing."
ARSENAL FAN TV: You've been very critical throughout the season of Wenger's team selection. What's the difference between that and the fans, who have put up with it for years, suddenly criticising?
NEVILLE: "I'm not saying you can't be critical. This is my point. When you make one criticism against one fan, it's translated into: "No fan can be critical, no fan can have a comment, but I can". It's just an opinion on the day of what I thought of one fan on the day."
ARSENAL FAN TV: We're not seeing progress with Arsene. We're seeing a man who has gone past his sell-by date. You say be careful what you wish for. But were Chelsea saying that when they got rid of their most successful manager last year, replaced him with Antonio Conte and are now 10 points clear?
NEVILLE: "Do I think Arsenal are Chelsea? No, they are completely different football clubs and models. What Arsenal have got, and still do to this day, and you should never underestimate the power of this, is stability, support, loyalty, being a club that offers managers an opportunity for over 12 months, sticks by people, thinks in the long term. All those qualities that I love Manchester United for.
"But when they sacked Moyes after eight months, or let Louis van Gaal go, I'm not going to sit here and say they're the wrong decisions, but I loved the fact I could hold onto the loyalty, the stability, the fact that you have a traditional club, I actually respect Arsenal for that. Hold onto those things. Don't wish it away!"
ARSENAL FAN TV: Why is it that the media and the pundits believe their opinion is more valued than us? We all feel under-valued in that respect.
NEVILLE: "The biggest criticism I've seen of your station in recent days is from other Arsenal fans. I don't think the mainstream media are against you. Some people don't like Monday Night Football, Soccer AM, Soccer Saturday or Match of the Day. What we're all searching for is people to watch our programmes, to agree, not agree, enjoy it, even some of your fans don't enjoy it, so it's not just pundits.
"Why though, because I became a football player of a pundit, am I not a fan anymore? My grandad went to games, my dad went to games, I went to games as a five-year-old. Why am I not a fan? I'm sat here now with you, I've talked to you as a fan probably more than any other pundit has!
"I didn't say you shouldn't exist, never have an opinion, or that fans are useless. That would be despicable. It was one single word against one single fan. It doesn't become an overall sweeping statement against a whole nation of football fans."