Sports in England is something fans connect to be it football, cricket, rugby, F1 or any other sport, fans in the country just cannot tolerate their team lagging behind the other. Especially, cricket and EPL are one of the most closely followed league all over the world and cricket has to be popular as they gave birth to the game. People in the country grow up watching and playing both the games.
Similarly, former Manchester United and England defender Gary Neville grew up playing both cricket and football. However, he went on to become a legend playing for the Red Devils winning 20 trophies under Sir Alex Ferguson in his 20-year long career. Neville played 85 international matches for England between 1995 and 2007. He also played 400 matches for Manchester United and was one of the members of United’s famous “Class of 1992”.
But very few would know that he was once teammates with former Australian opener Matthew Hayden. The former England player used to play cricket for Greenmount in the Bolton League when he was still an apprentice at Old Trafford.
He recounted the experience of the scoring a century in a match with Hayden on the other end in 1992. Neville recalled on how Hayden motivated him during their partnership in the middle. He said, “I hit a bad shot, and Hayden came up to me and said, ‘Concentrate, I don’t want any of that crap, this is not the time’. That mentality of ‘You don’t get out, you don’t give your wicket away’. That was something I didn’t value enough. He did. Even then. He valued his wicket.”
Neville also recalled that he was a big fan of the then Australian side and always wanted to be a part of the team of which Hayden later became a part of. He said:
“McGrath. Warne. Gillespie. Gilchrist. The Waughs. Hayden. Taylor. That Australian side was everything I would want in a team,” Neville said. “You know what I love? The mentality. They were always on the front foot and they never backed off,”
He also revealed that the cricket toughened him early in his career more than football did. He said:
“I’d say cricket toughened me up in my early years a lot more than football, because I was playing in the third, second and first team until the age of 15. We were playing with men, some professionals of that time, fast bowlers, with your helmet on. It was really scary.”