FORMER footballer Phil Neville has admitted that working as a commentator is “harder” than he thought, after complaints about his on-air performance during the World Cup game between England and Italy.
Hundreds of viewers criticised his punditry role alongside main BBC One commentator Guy Mowbray during England’s first match in Brazil on Saturday night.
Neville, whose career included stints at Manchester United and Everton, was criticised for a lack of emotion and “monotone” style.
Many viewers took to Twitter to criticise him, with a number joking that England physio Gary Lewin, who was stretchered off after injuring his ankle while celebrating his side’s only goal, had actually “fallen into a coma” listening to Neville.
A BBC spokeswoman said there had been 445 complaints after the game, which had a peak audience of 15.6 million viewers.
Yesterday, Neville told BBC Radio 5 Live: “I think the biggest thing I learned is that co-commentary is harder than what I thought it was going to be.
“I welcome all the feedback you get and it’s a welcome to the social media, so you come in after a game, you’re hyped up – it’s just like playing doing a co-commentary – you’re focused for 90 minutes, you turn your phone on and you’re getting some lovely messages.
“But I’m really looking forward to the [England-Uruguay] game on Thursday. I’m back in the co-commentary booth and I will get better.
“It was my first live gig and I’m just glad I helped everybody sleep back home.”
Neville, who said he “really loved” working as a commentator, said: “The feedback is the content I put out was quite good. Obviously the feedback is I need to show a little more excitement, so I think you’ll see that on Thursday night.”
Fellow broadcaster Danny Baker was among his critics, but said the BBC should share the blame. He said: “Phil Neville has acknowledged he wasn’t great during England commentary. But what were the BBC doing giving him that game to ‘learn his craft’?”
The BBC said Neville, who has received broadcasting training, was “an important, well-respected member of our team” and would “continue to play a key role throughout the tournament”.
He is not the only broadcaster to be on the receiving end of criticism.
His BBC colleague Jonathan Pearce was mocked on Twitter after he appeared to be confused by the use of goal-line technology during France’s game with Honduras and then mistakenly said France had scored during another attack. But a BBC spokeswoman said no complaints had been received about Pearce.
Saturday night’s viewers saw England go down to a 2-1 defeat to Italy in the countries’ first Group D match in Manaus.
The game kicked off at 11pm and more than 13 million people stayed up until the final whistle just before 1am, overnight figures showed.
Neville, 37, made his second World Cup appearance as a BBC TV studio guest for last night’s game between Iran and Nigeria, when many people were expected to tune in to see if the former player had improved.
Neville is the younger brother of fellow former Manchester United defender Gary Neville – a highly regarded football pundit with Sky Sports – and the twin brother of England netball international Tracey Neville.
He regularly appears on BBC football radio commentaries and has appeared as an expert on the BBC’s Match of the Day programme.
In November 2010, he was trending on Twitter after a strong performance against Gareth Bale, then of Tottenham Hotspur, led to a tongue-in-cheek Chuck Norris-style internet phenomenon.