World Cup: BBC Backs 'Monotonous' Commentator After Twitter Backlash
British soccer fans, including Ricky Gervais, criticized former Manchester United player Phil Neville for his commentary during the weekend's England-Italy clash.
LONDON – The BBC on Monday expressed support for former soccer star Phil Neville, whose commentary for the weekend's World Cup game between England and Italy had drawn a flood of Twitter criticism.
British soccer fans, including Ricky Gervais, commented on his performance, with many calling it "monotonous."
“Phil is an important, well-respected member of our team and will continue to play a key role throughout the tournament, both as a studio guest and match commentator," the BBC said in a statement quoted by The Guardian.
Neville, who used to play for Manchester United, made his World Cup co-commentary debut during Saturday night's clash that England lost 2-1. Most criticism focused on his lack of excitement even when young English striker Daniel Sturridge tied up the game with a goal before halftime.
“Journalists, bloggers, comedians, chat show hosts ... don’t bother writing anything about Phil Neville’s commentary. It’s already too late," tweeted Gervais. He later expressed some sympathy, tweeting: "I genuinely hope that Phil Neville doesn’t ever read Twitter. Brutal.”
Former Liverpool player Didi Hamann from Germany tweeted at halftime: "If Phil Neville reads his Twitter feed he may not come out for the second half."
"He was boring and monotonous," one fan tweeted. Another viewer said: "Oh God - Phil Neville's monotonous voice is killing me!!!! Do the BBC want us to go to sleep during this game?"
The hashtag "#monotone" ended up trending on Twitter amid the criticism.
Neville himself addressed the backlash. "1st live co-comm last night-sometimes u have to take the criticism," he tweeted. "It will only make me better- thanks for the feedback (ahhahaha)!"
Overall, Twitter said that there were 7.2 million tweets about the England-Italy game during the match. The peak of 219,637 tweets per minute was reached when Sturridge scored.
The most retweeted message of the evening came from One Direction member Liam Payne, who got more than 90,000 retweets for his simple "Come on England."
After the England defeat, Gervais wrote: "Unlucky, England. Onwards and upwards. Cheers!"