Gary Neville playing for Manchester United F.C.

Image via Wikipedia

Manchester United right-back Gary Neville announced his retirement from first team football today.

He was one of those players fans loved to hate.  He was much-loved at Old Trafford for his passion for the club and was despised by opposition supporters (especially Liverpool ones) for his combative style and outspoken nature.

Gary retires after 602 games for his club and another 85 for his country with an incredible eight Premiership medallions (no-one from any other club has more than three), a European Champions League and three FA Cup Medals amongst other awards.

Upon the announcement of his retirement, Manchester United Manager, Sir Alex Ferguson described him as “the best English right-back of his generation.”  High praise indeed!

So what makes Gary Neville inspirational?

He got the most out of his talent.  Amongst Gary’s peers were the charismatic David Beckham, the exquisitely skilled Paul Scholes and the evergreen Ryan Giggs.  Three players who are universally regarded as all-time greats of the game.  Gary’s skill and physical attributes never reached the same heights as the other three, but he did ensure that he maximised his talents and squeezed everything out of his potential.  His dedication and professionalism in his mental and physical preparation are great examples to all of us.  Undoubtedly, there have been many more talented footballers then Neville who never reached the same standard as him and he can retire safe in knowledge that he couldn’t have done any more to improve as a footballer.

The same is true for us non-footballers as well.  Success doesn’t automatically come to the most talented people, but to those who maintain a great attitude, work hard and do so consistently, thus maximising their potential.  At the end of a working week, can you truly say that you’ve got the most out of yourself?  What about at the end of your career?

He played with passion.  Professional sport seems to be churning out more and more robots and beige personalities.  Thankfully, Gary showed that there is still a place for passion and enthusiasm.  He expressed himself with emotion on the pitch and with refreshing honesty with the media, meaning that he occasionally got himself into hot water, but that he also stood out from those around him.  This passion and enthusiasm made him a great team-mate as it inspired those around him to greater efforts and lifted them when they were down.

What about you?

Are you a drone in the workplace?

Do people notice if you’re there or not?

Or are you a crucial team-member because of the way you lift the mood of those around you through your infectious enthusiasm, optimism and passion?

Thanks Gary for a remarkable career and for teaching us that if we maximise our potential and play with passion then we can succeed in our chosen pursuit.

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