Former Everton, Manchester United and England footballer, and now BBC pundit, Phil Neville has become an ambassador for football prediction platform Predikta. Here he discusses why he signed up and his take on the FA’s betting ban.
SBC: Being a professional footballer, there must have been lots of travelling. How did you and your team mates kill time?
PN: You’re in a hotel room a lot and in a plane a lot, so iPads are your best friend! Social media is good, because you can keep up to date with what’s happening in the world. Otherwise, it’s watching movies, films and sports. That’s where I think Predikta is really good because you can have a bit of fun and you can predict your results for the weekend.
SBC: Why did you decide to team up with Predikta?
PN: When you’re involved in football, coaching or playing, you’re obviously not allowed to bet on games, but now I’m a pundit, every Saturday I always put on Twitter my four predictions for the weekend. It’s only a bit of fun; I’ve never been a big gambler, because I have never been allowed to.
I always think it’s a bit of fun that you can have predicting results, everyone always asks me ‘how do you think we’ll get on this weekend’, so it’s a real fun way to go on a website and social media and predict results that you’re going to be watching or you’re a supporter of a certain team. It’s also probably the only time that you can go up against a professional, so people can be competing against me in terms of points scored for correct results, it’s a bit of fun that you can have and a real competition with your mates colleagues and ex professionals. It’s a really accessible way to interact with people and you can win money if you want to put bets on, a real exciting game.
SBC: This season, the FA introduced a rule preventing all players and officials from betting on any football match. This essentially means that someone playing in the Conference can’t bet on the World Cup, do you think this is a bit heavy handed?
PN: It probably is heavy handed, but I think for the short term it needed to be done, because you want transparency in football. There has been a lot of accusations in other sports about betting and match fixing and we don’t want it to come into football. When you’re starting out, you have got to be really aggressive with the rules and regulations. As time goes on, maybe those rules will be relaxed. But at the moment, we can’t afford for any grey areas. It’s not something that you want creeping into the sport, you want the sport to be honest and at the moment I think they have made the right decision. Going down the line, once they start controlling things a little better, you may start to see more flexibility.
SBC: Is there any other team, other than Manchester United and Everton, that you came close to joining?
PN: I came close to joining Spurs once toward the end of my career. When I left Manchester United I wanted to go abroad and there was talk that Atletico Madrid were interested in me, but they couldn’t afford the fee. So I would say that those two were the closest, but I’m happy that I stayed at one club for ten years and another for 8 ½ years, I always felt that was probably the best thing to happen.
SBC: What game in your career had the most unexpected outcome?
PN: The best game ever in my career that I have been involved in was the FA Cup ’99 semi-final replay versus Arsenal. It was the greatest game, the atmosphere was incredible. We won the game 2-1, it had the greatest goal that has ever been scored in the FA Cup, a penalty save in the last minute and I gave away the penalty! So my emotions that game were absolutely incredible and it was probably the game that meant we went on to win the treble. So in terms of defining moments and games, that probably had more impact than any other game in my career.
SBC: Do you wish the Champions League final had gone to extra-time, as you would have been the next sub on?
PN: I wasn’t bothered; I have got my medal at home! You obviously want to get on the pitch, as that’s the ultimate, but the last three minutes in Barcelona were probably some of the best three minutes of my life. I don’t look back and this ‘what if’, it was a great experience and the whole squad celebrated, the whole squad won and I have got my medal to prove it.
Phil Neville was speaking at the re-launch of football prediction platform Predikta, a football prediction game that connects you with your mates, colleagues and even ex-players. To place a bet seamlessly with Ladbrokes go to www.predikta.com.