Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Column: Why Phil Neville is right about players hugging

Graham Dougan was a youth prospect at Arsenal in the 1970s but never quite made the grade, making his career in the upper echelons of the old division two. He was also a Scottish U25 international. He is a regular pundit on TV in Malta and Luxembourg, and an after-dinner speaker of some repute.

He’ll write a column exclusively for the site and we hope you’ll enjoy his keen insight. This week he looks at the issue of players hugging each other in the tunnel.

I was delighted to read the thought of Phil Neville following Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Manchester United on Sunday when he spoke about players hugging each other in the tunnel before the game.

For a full-on United legend, up there with the likes of Best, Law, Cantona and Cruyff, to come out in such a no-holds barred manner should make everyone sit up and take notice.

Like me, he was disgusted at the sight of rival players embracing each other before entering the field of play. How can you be fully committed to your job when you’re laughing and joking with players you are being paid to hate with all your might?

That’s what we were taught back in our day, and it remains true now. Of course society has changed, we all understand that, but has it gone too far the other way? In my humble opinion yes, yes it has.

When the Sky cameras caught sight of Nacho Monreal randomly dispensing hugs and continental style kisses on each cheek, I was sick to my stomach. This is not what football should be about.

Back in my day, if you so much as looked at an opponent in the tunnel you’d have been clattered around the back of the head by your captain or the coaching staff – unless you were giving them a death stare and doing the ‘slitty-throat’ gesture with your finger that was so popular at the time.

I remember a game at Huddersfield when Tom Combes, our left-back, was up against his own brother, Billy. The pair never even said hello as the teams lined up. It wasn’t personal. Out on that pitch they were enemies for the 90 minutes, and Tom didn’t hold back in the first tackle, snapping into Billy’s knee with a good old fashioned over the ball challenge just to let him know he was there.

I can vividly remember the screams as he lay clutching the leg. I can only liken it to the noise made by a cat in heat when the male cat withdraws his heavily barbed penis from her cat flap. But at the end of the game, they were best of friends again, and Tom would visit Billy every day for the three months he was flat on his back in the hospital.

Even international teammates wouldn’t do ‘high fives’, as they’re known, but nowadays you have foreign players all speaking to each other in their own languages and who knows what’s going on there. They could be conspiring in match fixing for all anybody knows, and yet we accept this kind of behaviour as normal. What is going on?

The game’s authorities have to take some blame too. Making players shake hands before a match is killing the game. It takes the passion out of it, they’re all too chummy, and it’s little wonder that so many fixtures these days are like a damp squid.

If I were a manager and I saw one of my players hug the opposition before the game, I would fine him and make him play the rest of the season in the reserves. They’d learn pretty quickly not to do it again if you came on them that hard.

Phil Neville says he never hugged an opponent before a game, and I believe him. Not simply because I can’t imagine anyone wanting to ever hug Phil Neville, but because he was brought up the right way: by an authoritarian manager who himself came from proud working class roots and when a millionaire like that who owns racehorses tells you what’s what, you listen.

There is a time and a place to embrace other men, but I can assure you it’s not before a game of football.

In the bath afterwards? Fine. Or the shower. But tunnels are for two things only. One, escaping from the Nazis after leaving Papier-mâché models of yourselves so it looks like you’re still in bed.

And two, standing still in, looking straight ahead, and then emerging onto a football pitch from, because football is literally war, and you can be quite sure that Genghis Calm didn’t hug his enemies before he and his mongol hordes disembowelled them.

It’s about time footballers set that kind of example to the kids who watch this once beautiful game of ours.

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<i don't find any connection to Luxembourg about this guy!


There’s a simple explanation for that.
Luxembourg doesn’t have the internet yet so information is hard to come by.
If you need to further your investigation into Graham and his time as a pundit in Luxembourg, you’ll need to write to us at the national archive office (address below).

Happy hunting!

Achive Nationalle de Luxembourg
7 Luxembourg


Luxembourg has internet….

Bould\'s Eyeliner

There’s a simple explanation for that.

Luxembourg is embarrassed by their lack of internet, and so has a series of internet sites hosted by Switzerland, that maintains an internet presence for the global community to camouflage their backwardness. Write to the national archive office to learn more about this peculiar history.

Happy hunting!
Achive Nationalle de Luxembourg
7 Luxembourg

Third Plebeian

I was totally falling for this, until I realized there aren’t more than six buildings in Luxembourg. Nice try!

Third Plebeian

That’s my takeaway as well. Also that Luxembourg has a national chive.

Too Drunk To Be Offside

Or he could write to his F.R.I.E.N.D.S at 15 Yemen Road Yemen. 😀 On topic I do not agree with the criticism. Its not about what you do in the tunnel, but what you do on the pitch. Case in point is Santos swapping shirts with van Cuntsie. If he had done it in the tunnel no one would have cared. Players are not enemies and shouldn’t be expected to behave like they are. Also I am reading that Mbappe would cost 85 mil. I would say that is within range of Arsenal, esp if Sanchez or Ozil are sold… Read more »


“7 Luxembourg”

Ha ha! That’s good.


Graham fell on hard times after retiring from football and had to adopt an Irish accent so that he could pick up work as a waiter in a small London brasserie called “Robin’s nest”. You’ll probably have more joy googling that than finding any info on his Luxembourg connections…


Could not disagree more. No one watching that game thought Nacho was trying any less than any other player not embracing their compatriot in the tunnel. Our squad is facing a lot of big problems and this is not one. This is a gentleman’s game, so yeah they will shake hands, and former teammates will remain friends, get over it. Now, go watch Roy Keane vs. Patrick Viera to calm you down, Mr. Dougan.

Karthik shandilya

You know this is pure sarcasm in my opinion.

Clive St Helmet

It might be shining a satirical light on Phil Neville’s comments, but it’s a bit too homophobic for my taste.

Baffled Arseman

He quite literally said it was fine to hug in the bath or shower after. Its not about homophobia you twit

Third Plebeian

Stop being such a damp squid, will you?


Haha, I was hoping somebody would notice. Brought back memories of the last episode of it crowd 🙁


Bould\'s Eyeliner

If anything, if you feel that way, then you should also understand that this piece is purposely meant to draw ire at the unpleasant aspects of football punditry. See “Reverse Psychology”, Wikipedia will do.


I really couldn’t tell whether he was being satirical or not. Perhaps I need to hear his voice or read some more of his other pieces.

This was hilarious in either case 🙂

Third Plebeian

You couldn’t tell whether this was satire or not? Seriously?

I wonder if it’s a cultural thing. Are the readers here primarily from outside the UK? That might explain why so many are failing to catch the blatantly parodic use of British punditry’s cliches.


I Don’t think it’s necessarily a cultural thing. I’m from outside the UK and I realised the satirical tone as soon as I read his ‘Combes brothers’ anecdote.

Bould\'s Eyeliner

“I was delighted to read the thought of Phil Neville”

Isn’t that enough to know that this is satire? Who the fuck is delighted with the shit that comes from Neville’s mouth.


Nigerian here.


I knew it was satire the moment I saw that profile pic!

Hamburg Gooner

Well, when I saw that picture it became perfectly clear why this Dougan fella completely ignored his own misbehavings in fooling the irish lottery (as was seen in that rather popular documentary back in the day …)


Graham Dougan = ‘hangdog drama’ or ‘ground hog norm’



Clive St Helmet

Wow, where to start? “…disgusted at the sight of rival players embracing each other” – I’m not certain if this is latent homophobia or if he really did feel disgusted by the sight of two men embracing. Personally, I’d save disgust for something truly terrible, like a Jose Mourinho / John Terry threesome. “…Monreal randomly dispensing hugs and continental style kisses on each cheek, I was sick to my stomach.” – Really, this made him sick to his stomach? To paraphrase the great Billy Birmingham: “I reckon when it comes to congratulating one of your teammates there’s simply no better… Read more »

Crash Fistfight

Are you a bit slow or just too eager to be offended by something?


Or this guy is messing with us and parodying a sore asshole


I think this piece was even a tad more obvious in being satirical than the last one and still people are getting out their pitchforks.
Ich think this is hilarious 😀


Jesus, quoting the mighty 12th man and getting 51 thumbs down? I’m with you Clive me ol mucker. As long as there’s no high fives, which is just some seppo bullshit the West Indies introduced to the game.

Clive St Helmet

I don’t encounter many 12th Man fans on these shores. I have to say, that really is a marvelous effort, that.


Thuts a but stuff Ruchie


Link, please?


As an Australian, Arsenal fan who loves his cricket and Billy Birmingham, OP’s comment reply quoting that particular segment and paradying this wonderfully parody’d article. has me both confused at the number of downvotes, and amused at his response. marvellous.


Weren’t you a Scotland and England international?


Completely agree, let’s kick them to the ground next time someone tries to hug them


I am disappointed that Arseblog posted such a vile article. I really am. Actually, I am deleting my bookmark of this site since he is going to write here regularly. Fuck this fucking shit year.




This is a slick way to scrub out all the muppet fans that don’t get humour blogs!

Bravo sir.


please don’t stop these articles because of idiots


Gaga Had Rum On is an anagram of Graham Dougan!


you know it’s good satire when you can’t even tell it’s satire.

Ray from Norfolk, Virginia

But was it satire in its purest definition?
I thought it was more like sarcastic irony.
It was definitely not metaphoric pleonasm.
I love this “contributor”! More of this, Blogs.


What a load of balls that article is


Football is literally war? Yeah, okay.


So in other words…Phil Neville is talking a load of bollocks

Ritchie Growling

The more things change…


That’s what Phil Neville does best.

Someone´s Something

Phil Neville is just as much a child of his time as anyone els. Cultures change over time, get over it. If it bothers his snowflake-like fragile mentality that much he can simply pick up the remote control, turn the tv off, and then turn it back on a couple of minutes later.



People fall for it every time. Amazing.


I can’t tell if they’re using a higher level of sarcasm than im used to or if they really are that thick.

Scott P

Wow this is going right over the head of most, apparently. Thought many would have caught on after the first column haha.


Nacho can hug as many players as he likes as far as I’m concerned, he always puts a shift in. Also love that it’s winding up Neville. Come on Gunners, enough hugs and he might explode!


I was at the infamous Huddersfield game, and Billy Combes made a meal out of the challenge. I think it stemmed from his three-game stint in South America, and some say it was he who introduced simulation, or ‘diving’ as it was first known, into the game. Shame he was never the same player again, but he got what he deserved.

ospina\'s thumb

You’re quite mistaken GYWE. He was talking about a Huddersfield reserves game, to be precise. You could argue there was a fair bit of contact there, although fair point: his reaction of hugging his amputated foot and screaming at the top of his lungs was a bit over the top.

Brexit Means Brexit

This is a very important article. The game, and by extension, the players, have gone soft.

Like Tom Combes, we need to stick the “foot” back in football. Preferably two-footed, knee high, and studs showing.


Is this going to be a satirical column every week?


I love this new commentator!

Next, give ramblin pete his own column, wherever he may be.


Scottish u-25 😀 I’m a Scottish never has been international.

Kenny Sansoms \'tache

Too many swedgers

Me So Hornsey

Come on people: ‘For a full-on United legend, up there with the likes of Best, Law, Cantona and Cruyff….’ That isn’t even subtle sarcasm.

I actually guffawed very loudly in my office when I read this: “I can only liken it to the noise made by a cat in heat when the male cat withdraws his heavily barbed penis from her cat flap.” Brilliant.

a different George

Have you no respect for Jordi Cruyff?

Third Plebeian

Female cats must have truly horrible memories.


I’ll never look at catflaps the same again.


Loved this, but I can never work out if people are genuinely outraged because they don’t get the sarcasm and believe every word, or they are themselves indulging in some post-ironic gesturing. It all gets very confusing., but carry on Andrew

Crash Fistfight

But Robbie Keane is Irish!


Hahaha. People really lack a sense of sarcasm these days 😀 Great writing once again!


Very funny. Brilliant satire on ‘it’s a man’s game’ so ‘man up’ lines. More from him whoever he is!

Liam Bergkamp

Something to bear in mind when criticising the people that don’t get the satire is that we have a LOT of fans for whom English is not their first language. Understanding English can be a hard enough task in the first place but to understand subtle satire can be extremely difficult, especially so when you consider that many languages/cultures simply don’t have the the type of satire we do; hell even the yanks don’t understand our satire half the time and I am sure I read once that they supposedly speak English!

Liam Bergkamp

Looking at the picture again of “Graham Dougan” he looks suspiciously like the one handed paddy in Robin’s Nest!


I was just about to say that myself….

Peter Wigley

David Kelly played one armed washer up Albert Riddle


That’s right. Cue sound of plates smashing….

Edna Dowling

Yep. David Kelly.


I’m mindfucked right now. But I take it is being sarcasm. I hope. Maybe if the England players start to embrace each other, England might win a cup.

Matt @ BrewCityGunners

Another brilliant contributor added to the Arseblog stables! And he’s so right! In my day, you’d just as soon shank a rival player in the shower than look at him with anything remotely close to tolerance. I distinctly remember having my manhood challenged multiple times in the early 80s for “fraternizing,” and I learned my lesson let me tell you!

Once again Mr. Neville has proven himself to be as brilliant of a sports psychologist as he was a manager. Kudos to all involved!


Is it April Fools day or something? At risk of seeming like a fool if this is an Arseblog joke article… You seem to be celebrating over the ball tackles. I get that you’re from a generation where footballers were “tougher”, where “men were men” and are now upset that this is less often the case today, but I for one think it’s better there are fewer players going into tackles without an iota of thought for their fellow man. I know you’re using that as an example of what passion and dedication looks like but I find it insulting… Read more »

a different George

Yes, it is April Fool’s day or something.

Andrew Tyler

Mr Dougan, weren’t you in that film about Waking up some bloke called Ned Devine? I loved the bit when you were bollock naked on the motorbike. Or perhaps it’s your older brother.

Wade wilson

Turned out great for Wazza ?! Mondays after a win are just yummy


Nice bit of satire – although I disagree with the setiment.

I think Neville has a point, despite being a wanker.


No. It’s a little outrageous if it isn’t actually ridiculous that there are people who believe so. A good old-fashioned? Hugging takes the passion out of the game? Wow. The English game is physical, and hardy. And players adapt, stay injured or leave. It’s embarrassing to hear that people, pundits even, expect ogre-class aggression in a game that has become so much more. The English game attracts the Ozil, Silva and the Coutinho today because technicality has weightage. This isn’t athletics. Murderous rage isn’t why games are fiesty. Games are engrossing because human beings can be aggressive and create spectacular… Read more »


If this was satire, well, you’ve truly got me. But it’s satire like saying “Rafa Benitez is amazing.” I can’t tell whether you’re kidding or not, while means it’s not over the top enough to be good satire, and from the other replies it’s seems more people think so.

And yeah, fuck Phil ‘I’ve got great insight’ Neville.

Mate Kiddleton

“For a full-on United legend, up there with the likes of Best, Law, Cantona and Cruyff.”

Doesn’t this line give it away?

Corona X

I was going to up vote you until I read “Phil Neville’s a winner”…


The sheer number of complete halfwits that has commented on this is fascinating. Best ever from Arseblog and then in the comments you loose all belief in mankind.


A big pile of tired, cliched dinosaur shit.

Really surprised to see this type of stuff published on Arseblog.

Guy who enjoyed this article

well i enjoy these articles


I wonder if he played alongside Lawrence Gray-Hodson…?


haha!!! the whistle from this sailing over some peoples heads is fantastic ???


You’re not kidding. Which self respecting Arsenal columnist is ever going to agree with one of the Neville cunts? Get real guys.


Back 3, Mustafi on the right, Koscielny and Holding left or Monreal. Gabriel as back up.

Tasmanian Jesus

I remember that time I was in Luxembourg. Graham was on tv that night, punditing.


When Mick McCarthy shook hands with Emilio butragueno in full view of the ref during the toss up before an Ireland V Spain international, he squeezed Butragueno’s hand as hard as he could and told him. “This isn’t a football match Emilio, This is war” He kicked him up the arse later in the game when no one was looking. We want more of this.


It sounds like someone came all over him too hard ✊????

Ritchie Growling

Looks like The Arsenal Gent has a rival in dispensing opium – fuelled absurdity.

Arsenal Pakistan!

I’ll admit last week it went over my head until I read the comments. But this one is so amazingly obviously sarcastic that the comments of people who didn’t get the article are as funny as the article itself lol. “But at the end of the game, they were best of friends again, and Tom would visit Billy every day for the three months he was flat on his back in the hospital.” Epic! How people believed this I’ll never know. ? Only someone as good as blogs can lift our mood with this in a season as bad as… Read more »


Everyone just do a reverse image search on Graham’s picture and calm down


I don’t think Phil Neville was ever hugged by either of his parents…


Holy sh*t I had to look at the comments to understand it was sattire. Well played indeed, great article in retrospect, you completely had me fooled


You need to put a disclaimer at the beginning of such articles Blogs. Or did you? 😉


Grow up. You don’t need hate your opponent to beat them. No zen warrior would preach that but maybe a baboon or a caveman. I personally have no problem with players shaking hands or high fighing before the game starts. But once on the pitch I want to see 100% for the team and fans. This attitude about body language annoys me. And some of these nut job commentary is worse. Lets get something clear, intentionally harming another person whether on the sports pitch or in life is a criminal offence. Just because ‘everyone’ does it and some idiots encourage… Read more »


But tunnels are for two things only. One, escaping from the Nazis after leaving Papier-mâché models of yourselves so it looks like you’re still in bed.

And two, standing still in, looking straight ahead, and then emerging onto a football pitch from, because football is literally war, and you can be quite sure that Genghis Calm didn’t hug his enemies before he and his mongol hordes disembowelled them.

And still people dont understand that this is satire? Maybe its too brilliant. I’m norwegian btw.

a different George

The “escaping form the Nazis” bit–a great piece of journalism–brought to mind the greatest of all football scenes in a movie: when the prisoner team (including Bobby Moore and Michael Caine, both somewhat past their best playing weights), decide NOT to escape through the tunnel at halftime in “Escape to Victory.” “WE CAN WIN THIS!”


Is that Genghis Khan’s less well known pacifist brother you’re talking about in there?

Avneesh Prashar

Almost died laughing…. Too good

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