'FA wants robots not players' - Neville

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The Independent Football

Gary Neville was heavily critical of the Football Association yesterday, claiming that it wants robotic players who are devoid of passion after he was fined £5,000, given an improper conduct charge and warned about his future behaviour for his goal celebration during the game against Liverpool last month.

The Manchester United captain let fly with as much passion as he mustered to celebrate Rio Ferdinand's late winner at Old Trafford when he raced 50 yards towards the visiting section of the ground, then began pumping his fists and kissing his badge. Neville was unable to plead his innocence at a disciplinary hearing despite offering a personal defence through a video link.

The 31-year-old insisted at the time he had done nothing wrong, a verdict backed up by Ferdinand and also his manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, who complained that similar provocative celebrations from Steven Gerrard and Robbie Fowler had recently gone unpunished. Ferguson said Neville was being singled out because he was a United player and that sense of grievance would only have been heightened by the verdict, even though Neville has avoided a ban which would have ruled him out of Sunday's Carling Cup final.

"I am extremely disappointed with the decision," Neville said. "I believe it is a poor decision, not just for me but for all footballers. Being a robot, devoid of passion and spirit is obviously the way forward for the modern-day footballer. And I ask the authorities, 'Where is football being taken?"' He has 14 days to appeal.

Gabriel Heinze, Neville's defensive colleague at United who sustained cruciate knee ligament damage in September, says he will be back in action within four weeks. "I expect to play again in one month," Heinze said. "The doctor of the Argentina team, Donato Villani, has evaluated me and we are all optimistic. I have worked hard and the results have been positive."

Heinze was injured in United's Champions' League game at Villarreal in September. Ferguson had been sceptical about his chances of recovering in time for the World Cup. "I have a bet with Alex Ferguson about returning to the field this season and I am going to win it," Heinze said. "I think about the World Cup as the big final target for my rehab."