The Rio Report

Fans abuse the wrong Phil Neville after commentary debut

The Rio Report

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Even if you absolutely hated Phil Neville’s crack at punditry before, during and after England’s World Cup opener against Italy on Saturday, there’s no defending those few who saw fit to mercilessly abuse the ex-footballer for merely trying to do a job.

Especially when, in the case of some, they couldn’t even track down the right Phil Neville.

A 60-year-old radiator salesman from Suffolk by the same name happens to own the immediate Twitter handle for their collective title - @philneville – and has been paying the price for sharing his name with a man many BBC viewers found ‘dull’ and ‘boring’

The former referee, who was a fourth official during some Premier League games in the 1990s, said he was used to insults from football fans, but could not believe the content of some of the messages.

"Some were very abusive. One person said 'I hope you die',” he told the BBC website.

"Working in the sales industry, my name has been a benefit - people do remember me.

"With Twitter there are some real positives, but there are downsides - particularly if you're famous.

"Some comments were comical and I've seen the funny side, but there are some sad people out there."

The other Phil Neville said he would not be contacting the police over the abuse he wrongly received, though added he does feel sorry for the former Manchester United and Everton man and even tweeted him directly to say so.

Neville brushed off the negative feedback after his commentary debut, tweeting: "1st live co-comm last night-sometimes u have to take the criticism - it will only make me better- thanks for the feedback(ahhahaha)!"

The BBC confirmed it had received 445 complaints about Neville’s contribution to the broadcast, but declared he would “continue to play a key role throughout the tournament.”

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