A 60-year-old radiator salesman from Suffolk has received thousands of messages of abuse on Twitter in the aftermath of England’s World Cup defeat against Italy – because he happens to be called Phil Neville.
Mr Neville’s namesake, the former Manchester United, Everton and England player, has been criticised for what some fans said was a “boring” commentary performance delivered in a “monotone”, and the BBC has received almost 450 complaints for its coverage of the game.
But it was the lesser-known Mr Neville, an Arsenal fan, who received the brunt of social media users’ anger.
Having only used his Twitter handle @philneville to occasionally comment on the football and direct people to his business in the past, Mr Neville said he was on his way home from watching Saturday’s match with friends when his phone would not stop buzzing.
He said the messages – including at least one from a troll saying “I hope you die” – made him appreciate what some people are subjected to online.
Mr Neville said: “I've had comments about my name for years and it's always been a bit of fun.
“But now I have some sympathy for what celebrities go through - some of it wasn't very nice at all.”
He said that before he realised who was on the mike at the weekend he had observed that the commentary was “terrible”.
And Mr Neville, who played football when he was younger before becoming a referee, has since joked on Twitter that he would be available to commentate on England’s next game against Uruguay “should the BBC require a replacement for Phil”.
“I know a bit about football so who knows, maybe I could do a decent job,” he said.
He also had some words of support for his namesake, saying: “I think Phil Neville, the footballer, has taken all the stick on the chin. I saw him as a pundit last night and he did a good job so hopefully he can continue to improve.”
Neville, the footballer, was interviewed on Radio 5 Live about the criticism of his performance. He told the station: “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 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.”