Gary Neville has revealed his shame at telling Raheem Sterling to “concentrate on his football” when the England winger appealed for help over racist bullying at Euro 2016.
And the former Three Lions assistant coach claimed he was “complicit” in accepting racism in dressing rooms during his career.
Neville has spoken in a new Sky Documentary where Micah Richards gave insight into his “daily experiences of racism” growing up in Leeds.
And even now the TV star, who lives in affluent Harrogate, said he witnesses “old women clutching their bags because they have seen a black man”.
But the ex-Manchester City and Aston Villa defender praised Neville for admitting his failings in addressing the issue– and claimed Gareth Southgate has now built a more aware culture with the national side from the days of Fabio Capello.
Neville has admitted his regret at not helping Ashley Cole after his fellow full-back was abused in Spain in 2014.
And the Manchester United legend said the abuse of Sterling at Stamford Bridge in 2018 had made him appreciate his mistake when he was part of Roy Hodgson’s backroom staff.
“Raheem had come to see me in Euro 2016,” Neville said in Micah Richards: Tackling Racism in Football. “He was being bullied, he was being targeted, he was struggling and he wanted help.
“He felt he was being targeted because of the colour of his skin – and he was. And I told him to concentrate on his football.
“I never actually offered him any empathy or sympathy about the real distress he was coming to me with. I didn’t understand it – I wasn’t qualified to deal with him and that for me is not good enough.
“That is the education. It was Raheem’s statement that made me realise that black players are targeted because of the colour of their skin. I have been complicit in accepting racism in my dressing rooms.
“And the fact that I am more likely to get a job than you because I am a white male. That is ridiculous. I don’t believe that. We are not in 1986 anymore whereby you can just keep quiet. You cannot keep quiet.
“Keeping quiet is as bad in some ways as being racist. We know now that if you are black you have more chance of getting pulled over by the police if you are black than white.”
Richards named Joe Hart, James Milner and Jordan Henderson as “diamonds” in supporting black players who have suffered abuse. And he added: “I think Gary Neville [on the documentary] was absolutely sensational.
“I think he was put in a situation where he didn’t know what to say or how to act. I’m not saying people were turning a blind eye – but because it wasn’t them being abused they didn’t know how to deal with it, which was the problem.
“I commend him now for speaking so openly and honestly about it. A lot of people would say: ‘Oh well it’s easy to say that now, when you’ve got a big platform. It was different when you were a member of the coaching staff’.
“But years ago, even black people didn’t know what to come out and say. It would fall on deaf ears. Now he’s got one of the biggest platforms and he’s speaking about it. So I’ve got nothing but respect for Gary Neville.
“And look at the stuff that Gareth Southgate’s done about diversity around the England camp.
“You speak to the players and how every time there is an incident or racial issue, how well he handles that.
“Fabio Capello resigned from England because they stripped John Terry of the captaincy because of the ongoing situation with Anton Ferdinand. Just imagine if Gareth Southgate did that – he would be chastised.
“That’s why I lost such a lot of respect for Capello. I really did. I wouldn’t be afraid to say that anywhere. I can’t speak highly enough of Gareth Southgate.”
- Micah Richards: Tackling Racism is available on Sky Documentaries and NOW TV from Monday 25th January at 21:00.