Gary Neville has defended his criticism of Loris Karius, insisting he was not bullying the Liverpool goalkeeper.
Following a number of costly errors, Neville and Jamie Carragher both slated the German goalkeeper’s performances in their roles as Sky Sports pundits.
Karius responded, claiming he did not take much notice of their opinions, before former Reds defender Carragher was again critical as West Ham drew 2-2 at Anfield last week.
The 23-year-old was then dropped for Liverpool’s 3-0 win at Middlesbrough in midweek, and Neville is sticking by his comments – adding that Karius’ public response was ill-advised.
“When Karius did his newspaper interview, I knew he would be out of the team in a few days, I knew he brought pressure on himself,” Neville told Sky’s Sunday Supplement.
“Young players should always do interviews and me saying, ‘stay clear of the situation’ – my advice to Karius after doing the interview he did – and [BBC pundit] Phil Neville and Jamie Carragher telling him to stay quiet, as ex-players, we were more guiding him saying, ‘this is not a fight for now.’
“From our point of view as pundits, though, we did our job – we created the debate.”
And Neville refutes any allegation of bullying.
“From my point of view, calling it bullying young players is absolutely ridiculous,” he continued. “I was critical of David de Gea a few years ago and he’s gone on to prove me wrong through silence and good performances.
“There was nothing personal against Karius, it was an observation. At the time, the statement ‘he transmits anxiety to his team-mates and around the stadium’ was correct.
“From my point of view there was fuel added to the fire and the story grew, it could have been forgotten about like [comments about errors from Maarten] Stekelenburg and [Marouane] Fellaini.
“The ‘shut your gob’ comment [Karius was urged to keep his “mouth shut”] does not mean young players like Karius shouldn’t do interviews. Of course they should do interviews, players should do interviews all the time.
“What I should say is that, from coach to player, it wasn’t a fight for now. Save it for the end of the season when you’ve got the Premier League title around your neck. Don’t take this on now because there is going to be more pressure on you that you don’t actually need.
“Young players are distracted by headlines, fact. I never once thought it was a good idea to take on a journalist or a pundit in public. Does it make you play better? Does it put more pressure on your team-mates?
“I think it would have done, so my thought on it was simple. It was a story that mushroomed out of nothing and it didn’t need to.”