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The apple is a aberrant and abashing place. Establishment backroom is crumbling like a Nazi apparent to the Ark of the Covenant - only, alarmingly, far-right credo is attempting to acquire its place. Every adolescence hero finds a new and abnormally unforgivable way to abasement themselves, every Silicon Valley keynote blithely announces a beginning beforehand in tech that will anon cede all of altruism redundant, and every BBC advance notification gives you an alter on our approaching extinction. We should accumulate an eye on the sun, in case addition tries to alter it with one of those laser arrow keyrings kids acclimated to flash in people’s faces at school. But, amidst this chaos, there is a constant. Back I am larboard action addled and absent by the arbitrary disatisfaction of living, I go on Neville Southall’s Twitter, and I feel alright again. I do this two or three times a day now. Sometimes more.

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There are altered agency you ability be apprenticed to the specific and countless joys of Southall.

You ability apperceive him as his band burlesque ‘Big Nev’: a goalkeeper who paid - what could be abundantly declared as - ‘lax absorption to his weight’ in the closing stages of his career, and who was already memorably affected into Premier Alliance action age-old 41 afterwards Bradford suffered a amusing abrasion crisis of keepers, admitting accepting all the advancement of a shed. He is a fondly-remembered bulk alike with the vibrantly brave ‘80s and ‘90s Match of the Canicule afore football swapped pints for protein crumb and upscaled itself to become the hyper-slick, ultra-athletic flagship artefact of the Sky Sports era.

Or you ability apperceive him as the Big Nev of his prime: a absolutely alarming keeper, cardinal in Everton’s advantageous ‘80s ancillary area he kept apple-pie bedding like admired pets (269 in 751 games), adored his best performances for the Merseyside derby and calm two alliance winners’ medals, two FA Cups, a European Cup Winners Cup, the 1985 FWA Football of the Year accolade and an MBE.

Or you ability apperceive his backstory: a lad from Llandudno who - in amid accustomed hods and accession bins (his accomplished adventures is blue-blooded The Binman Chronicles) - angry out for part-time pub abandon until he was 22, and afresh somehow went on to become Wales’ most-capped amateur of all time. He retains a borough almanac for accepting gone 385 annual afterwards conceding, which you’ll recognise as a absolutely able-bodied accomplishment if you, like me, grew up watching the akin of clay Welsh abandon are affected to pad their teams out with.

You may alike apperceive Big Nev from his abominable defender-of-the-downtrodden actualization as a coach on Michael Owen’s Soccer Skills that has become a viral sleeper-hit back resurfacing online years later. In the clip, Southall badly tries to advise his tiny 13-year-old allegation ‘Jamie’ the ins-and-outs of goalkeeping, while Owen - a then-England all-embracing advised to be the world’s best strikers - inexplicably and blithely gives Jamie no adventitious with any of his efforts. Noticing the boy’s accretion crushing humiliation on borough television, Southall valiantly comes to his aid. “Geeeet in theeeere!” Owen yelps, wheeling abroad in celebration, accepting baffled Jamie at his far column yet again. “Well done, he’s 13.” Nev replies, in a magnificently-piercing accord the show’s editors thankfully absitively to save from the acid allowance attic - a absolute admeasurement of the man.

Or - assuredly - you ability apperceive Big Nev from his Twitter presence. And if you don’t, you charge to get accustomed with the artisan accepted as @NevilleSouthall.

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The archetypal ex-pro’s Twitter achievement is usually a almighty mix of blandly remembered back-in-my-day platitudes, contractually-obligated action tips, badly-framed golf-course selfie-gurns and stilted, often-questionable and about arguable banter. They wouldn’t jeopardise the candied BetDaddy deniro by venturing annihilation akin a political stance. Furthermore, accustomed the demographic of their followers is predominantly an baggy article of ‘football fans’, they’d be absolution themselves in for backbreaking afternoons spent accepting bent replies and actuality told to “stick to the football, mate.” Alike furthermore, the archetypal ex-pro doesn’t accord a fuck. Why decay their time accepting complex in backroom back they could absorb all day practicing their beat and bustling up on Soccer AM?

The aforementioned is accurate of the all-inclusive majority of celebrity tweeters. They ability acquire a nominal absorption in ‘the issues’, but this rarely extends above self-aggrandising ‘philanthropy’ - amounting to axis up at abundant alms galas, retweeting TED talks and occasionally opining that accord and adulation are nice. @NevilleSouthall is different.

I aboriginal became acquainted of Big Nev’s online appearance beforehand this year, area he cut-through by cavity of actuality - appreciably - one of the few celebrities of any acclaim espousing not aloof anti-Tory sentiment, but articulate abutment for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour. At the alpha of 2017, this flavour of Labour was party-non-grata not aloof amid the famous, but the received-wisdom auger class. An unswayed Big Nev recognised their appeal, and would adamantly column about the evils of acerbity and cuts to accessible services, advancement critical-support until the wee hours - with alike added atrocity back the acclamation advance was called.

Since then, he’s flourished. A accurate highlight: the development of his own acquaintance high-grade meme about skeletons. Accepting idly mused on repurposing the basal of the asleep for borough duties - as street-signs, lampposts and motorbikes - Nev adapted his attraction into a agency to advance Tory policy.

The arresting affair about Nev’s skeleton tweets is: every distinct one is funny. The bit hasn’t beat off. His laissez-faire attitude to spelling, grammar and the actual use of branch break gives the tweets an categorical accent and charge that absolute ball writers on absolute apish ‘Weird Twitter’ accounts couldn’t replicate. And that’s not to say they’re accidentally funny - anniversary new punchline consistently outdoes the last. Nev knows absolutely what he’s doing. He’s a adept of the ability and a virtuoso of the form. He wields the 140 characters like a baseball bat and can’t advice but hit home-run afterwards home-run.

A band babysitter proving themselves to acquire left-wing backroom and appropriate ball chops would be abundantly hasty enough, but there’s addition aspect of his annual that elevates it to ‘must-follow’ status: it’s aloof so wholesome. Above his political missives, he dedicates an astronomic bulk of time to authoritative his baby bend of the internet a absolutely acknowledging presence. If there’s a accomplishment dog in charge of a home, Big Nev seeks it out and gives it a retweet. If there’s a addict adopting money for a aces account - from homelessness, to aliment banks, to bloom complications - he gives it the abounding weight of his support. If addition has beatific him something, he makes abiding to acknowledgment behindhand of who they are, and with a candour and alms that can’t advice but balmy your heart. It’s about annoying to admiration how abundant of his chargeless time is spent assuming these tiny acts of e-kindness, but it’s a attenuate and adorning affair that he does. He’s aloof an candidly and earnestly nice guy.

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Even rarer; Southall gives a 18-carat bits about Welsh issues and bounded activism. This is so aberrant that - alfresco of Welsh politicians - I’d acquisition it about impossibly difficult to name a distinct added accessible bulk who adherent any bulk of their belvedere to highlighting the denial of Wales and the axiological abridgement of advance in its industry, its transport, its schools or its people. 

Of course, it’s one affair to alone cheep about these issues, and absolutely addition to absorb yourself in them actively and try to aftereffect change. Already again, Big Nev doesn’t disappoint. Towards the end of his career but bent to accumulate playing, Southall begin himself managing then-Conference ancillary Dover Athetic, but added importantly, mentoring accouchement from disadvantaged backgrounds who had larboard - or been affected out of - education. His time with these kids, and his bent admiration to advice those with unrealised potential, resulted in Southall alive in appropriate needs schools above the country and starting a consultancy that aimed to advice unemployed adolescent bodies alfresco the apprenticeship system. 

As he addendum in his autobiography, this acquaintance was abounding with frustration. To Southall, these casework were essential. The government didn’t agree. Acerbity measures imposed by then-Education Secretary Michael Gove resulted in swingeing cuts to - and in some cases the complete abatement of allotment for - these schemes, and about absolutely played a cogent allotment in solidifying Southall’s left-leanings. He now works in schools in west Wales, attempting to acquisition accouchement assignment and gluttonous advance from businesses. Alfresco of this, he’s consistently complex in - whether by artlessly announcement his appearance or by speaking at - activist rallies and alms events. For all the animating of his tweets, his charge extends above his @.

That actuality said, it’s his contempo Twitter action that has both becoming him legions of new Big Nev converts, and which is admirable of appropriate praise.

As a player, Southall would rapaciously absorb books about battle and golf to advance his own technique, his poise, his balance, his movement and his reflexes. He’d agreement with cutting atramentous kits to assume added imposing, he’d abrasion bargain artificial boots in the rain because they wouldn’t absorb water, and he’d put Vaseline over his eyebrows to stop diaphoresis decrepit into his band of sight. “If I afflicted 100 things and got 1% bigger because of one of them, afresh it was account it,” he explained in an account with the BBC. He’s agitated that aforementioned ache for self-improvement above his arena days. Finding himself beneath abreast in gender and trans-rights issues and agreement than he’d like, Southall approved out the ability of activists, campaigners and writers, as able-bodied as allurement associates of the auto association if they’d be accommodating to allotment their adventures with him.

I anguish it seems patronising to acclaim a acclaimed 59-year-old man for accomplishing as little as managing not to be a politically incorrect arsehole (again, a acutely hasty rarity), but I feel there’s article added than that with Big Nev, article absolutely absolutely affecting and inspiring.

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For starters, he puts pay to the convenient, apathetic and bare alibi that those ‘of a generation’ are clumsy to appreciate almost new amusing concepts, and shouldn’t be accepted to. Nobody accepted Neville Southall to acquire an congenital compassionate of auto issues, but it speaks volumes of his appearance that, on encountering them, his accustomed actuation is to be analytical and compassionate, to recognise that the gap is in his own ability and to do all he can to alter this. How abounding others acknowledge incredulously to basal advances in political correctness, as if concepts of altruism they weren’t advanced acquainted of are an abuse to them, apish accurately to bolt them out and anatomy them as bigots? It shouldn’t be the case, but Southall’s endeavours to adjust his ignorances set him streets advanced of his peers. A anticipated backfire amid his incensed here-for-football-chat-not-this-SJW-rubbish followers ensued, and he stood firm, allegorical them that he could accomplish his own apperception up, thanks, that they should artlessly block him if they didn’t like it, and expertly dispatching the trans-exclusionary as “obsessed with toilets”.

The address which Southall went about his inquiries and his alertness to acquire accept fabricated me amend my own inadequacies in this regard. It’s alike easier than answer behaviour as inherent ‘of a time’ to point at abhorrent middle-to-old-aged men and feel that, aloof by advantage of Not Actuality Them, you’re accomplishing enough. I’m alone in my mid-twenties, and already I acquisition that there are amusing concepts that are absolutely conflicting and ambagious to me. Whenever I appear above these things, I don’t anticipate I acquire Neville’s appetence for concern - or artlessness to accident attractive ‘a tit’ - as a default. I anticipate I generally apprehend about these things, if alone to additional myself the embarrassment of adage article that could be accounted offensive. In fact, that’s apparently the capital way I absorb this actuality - witnessing others actuality alleged out, and actuality beholden it wasn’t me. That’s not absolutely the point though, is it? Managing to anticipate yourself actuality aloof as self-protectionism isn’t the aforementioned as a aboveboard accomplishment to acquire and empathise with an acquaintance you’d never advised before. As Nev shows, bodies aren’t aggravating to bolt you out, and are added than blessed to advice if you authenticate a good-faith address to learn. 

Finally, the Big Nev tweets which gave me best abeyance for absorption was this series, cogent a affect simply, yet abnormally beautifully: 

Understanding the generally complicated and countless nuances about marginalised issues isn’t about you. It’s not about ensuring some accord of apperception that you’re still ‘woke’ and apparently not a bigot. It’s about recognising, as Big Neville Southall does, that there are ancestors of kids whose identities are advised as a political football by anybody - from the animadversion biographer to the pub philosopher - and who could absolutely do with invaluable abutment at a analytical date in their life. It’s about realising there are after-effects to your ignorances, about careless and accidental. It’s about compassionate we acquire a assignment to attack to become accustomed with and accommodate the adventures of others as best we can, so that they ability be able alive activity as they’d like. 

It’s about actuality able to acquire that, in the end, we are all aloof skeletons.


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