From Red Nev to Green Gary. England's most capped right-back, Gary Neville, seems an unlikely eco-warrior. As Manchester United captain he hardly seemed a model of sensitivity when it came to the finer feelings of opposing players and fans. So some were surprised he applied for planning permission to build a futuristic eco-home on moorland which experts say is one of the country's most energy-efficient residential developments and the first zero-carbon house in north-west England. Local residents objected to the plans, complaining that the eight-bedroom underground home – with petal-shaped enclaves containing bedrooms, bathrooms, a garage, a children's play area and a swimming pool around a centrepiece kitchen – looked like something from the Teletubbies. Bolton Council turned down his first planning application.
Yet with the same implacable commitment he showed on the pitch as a staunch defender of United's cause, Gary Neville persisted. What has emerged shows a serious commitment to sustainability. He is also dedicating money from his farewell testimonial match next week – in which a United team plays Juventus – to the Sports Sustainability Fund, which aims to green football at what can only be described as grassroots level. There is something to be said for partisan single-mindedness.