Gary Neville explains ‘billion pound bottle jobs’ remark after Chelsea’s Carabao Cup defeat to Liverpool | Football

Chelsea were denied a sixth League Cup win by Liverpool at Wembley (Picture: Getty)

Gary Neville admits his ‘billion pound bottle jobs’ tag to describe Chelsea may have been ‘harsh’, though stands by the suggestion that Mauricio Pochettino’s side ‘shrunk’ in their Carabao Cup final defeat to Liverpool.

The former Manchester United right-back made the scathing remark after Virgil van Dijk sealed Liverpool a record tenth League Cup title with a dramatic headed goal in the 28th minute of extra-time at Wembley.

A young and vastly inexperienced Liverpool team, spurred on by Jurgen Klopp in his final season as manager, rose to the occasion as a dreaded penalty shootout beckoned, while Chelsea – who have spent in excess of £1billion on signings since Todd Boehly’s takeover – appeared to fade.

Neville’s comments proved hugely divisive amongst Chelsea supporters and Pochettino responded to criticism at his post-match press conference, claiming it was ‘not fair to talk in this way’ given the average age of the two squads was ‘similar’.

On Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football, Neville was asked to clarify his controversial turn of phrase and the ex-England defender revealed just how ‘angry’ he was that Pochettino’s players seemingly failed to recognise the enormous opportunity that slipped through their fingers.

‘I feel bad now! No, look, I’m not going to sit here and say it was an instinctive commentary moment… I mean, it was instinctive because I didn’t know what was going to happen in extra-time,’ Neville explained.

‘But Peter [Drury] did about 35 seconds after the goal and Carra did about 25 seconds and I was getting angrier.

Virgil van Dijk scores for Liverpool against Chelsea

Van Dijk scored deep into extra-time to seal Liverpool a record tenth League Cup (Picture: Getty)

‘If you hear my commentary during extra-timeI was getting angrier with Chelsea from the first minute of extra-time until two minutes to go because I could smell the fear in Chelsea from the very first minute of extra-time when I said: “Why are they sitting off them? Why are they letting these young lads grow?”, and then Jurgen Klopp started to grow.

‘If you remember, there was a chorus, a song, that Liverpool fans were singing because they could smell the blood, they could smell the fear in those blue shirts.

‘I got to half-time of extra-time and I said: somehow, Mauricio Pochettino and all those players have got to work out that if they got into this position at the start of the season and told themselves they’ve got 15 minutes against a Liverpool team that have only got two players that would make their starting XI normally, that they would snap their hand off!

Manchester United legend Neville clarified his comments on Monday Night Football (Picture: Sky Sports)

‘Grab this opportunity, don’t have regrets! Just from a playing point of view, the idea of a team not seizing the day, seizing the moment, grabbing the opportunity, all those things we say to each other in lives as young people, that we want a team to grab this moment. Chelsea shrunk.

‘I used the word “shrunk” and maybe “bottle” is a very strong word, but playing with absolute fear, froze, whatever you want to call it, that’s what we saw in extra-time.

‘Ultimately, I don’t want that tag to stick with them because the reality is that there are a lot of talented young players there who may go on.’

The Reds kept their quadruple hopes alive with victory at Wembley (Picture: Getty)

Neville said he had no choice but to state his opinion considering he felt Chelsea were effectively playing against ‘Liverpool’s reserves’ towards the end of extra-time.

‘No word of a lie, they were playing against Liverpool’s reserves and they just didn’t seize the moment,’ he added.

‘I got angry with them and that’s when I thought: “I’ve just got to say this!”‘

Chelsea have spent in excess of £1billion on new recruits since Boehly’s takeover (Picture: Getty)

On the phrase ‘bottle jobs’ carrying connotations of cowardice, Neville replied: ‘I don’t think it suggests cowardice. To be fair, lots of England teams that I played in in many tournaments were accused of bottling it.

‘If you remember, one of the greatest football players of all time and greatest analysts of all time, who I’ve got huge respect for, went for us like you wouldn’t believe on the first day of the season in 1995, Alan Hansen, when he said that you couldn’t win anything with kids.

‘We were sat there at Manchester United having to go to training on Sunday morning, six of us that were 19-20 years of age, not 24-25 years of age by the way, and we had one of the most respected people in British football and I still respect today. He was entitled to say what he said.

‘If we hadn’t turned it around that season and won the double and won trophies, it would have stuck with us. I’m not going to say the words of “man up”, but there’s an element here of: this is football at the highest level where you’ve got to perform under scrutiny.’

Pochettino felt Neville’s criticism was unfair (Picture: Getty)

Neville went on: ‘I was in a position after the game where I thought, “Is it a harsh word, bottle”, and I was only referring to the last 30 minutes of the match because I thought Chelsea did quite well in the first 90 minutes.

‘But then when I heard afterwards, I think Mauricio Pochettino said that he felt like his team were playing for penalties, it almost cemented the thought in my mind that they did freeze because who ever, in a team that’s playing such a weakened Liverpool side, why did they do what they did?

‘Does it make it more difficult? That’s not the purpose of why I said that yesterday. I’m here to basically work for Sky Sports and deliver lines that I feel instinctively passionate about.

‘I’m passionate about football and make no mistake, I didn’t want Liverpool to lift that trophy yesterday so I’m not saying it from the point of view of bias against anyone.’

Neville, known for his ultra-competitive edge as a player, stressed that he hoped to see Chelsea succeed under Pochettino.

‘I hope Chelsea do well. I love Mauricio Pochettino, he’s probably one of the managers that I admire most in the game and like most,’ he continued.

‘It’s not a reflection on him at all. But that last half an hour yesterday wasn’t good.’

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