Shoot Magazine

Every Thursday, I’ll be blogging on all things Millwall FC for Shoot Magazine.

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The Life & Career Of Phil Neville

The North-West corner of England has produced some of the finest managers and players to ever grace England’s top division, the elite of the Premier League. Paul Scholes, Jamie Carragher, Michael Owen, David Beckham and Sir Alex Ferguson, all major characters in the English game and world football saw their careers come to a climax at the end of the 2012-2013 Premier League season.

In addition, the curtains drew on the career of one of England’s most consistent performers, Phil Neville. Brother of Gary, now Sky Sports’ most sought after pundit, Neville announced on April 9th 2013 that the 2012-13 campaign would be his last at Goodison Park. A couple of months later, June 8th to be exact, the versatile England international decided that the same season would be his last in professional football.

The deputy head boy from Elton High School, Bury, rose through the ranks at Old Trafford, under the stewardship of Alex Ferguson in the early to mid-nineties. He was part of the 1993 FA Youth Cup side, an outfit that defeated Millwall in the Semi-Finals before taking on bitter rivals Leeds United in the final, eventually losing out 4-1 on aggregate. The star-studded side included David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes, Keith Gillespie, Robbie Savage and the Neville brothers, names that over the next decade formed the backbone of the most successful side this country has ever seen.

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Neville made his debut at the Racecourse Ground in the FA Cup

January 1995 saw the utility-man make his debut at the Racecourse Ground during an FA Cup tie at Wrexham. 270 appearances and ten years later, Neville left for pastures new and the other side of the M62 – Goodison Park, to be precise. Over his decade of dominance at the Theatre Of Dreams, Bury-born Neville secured a whopping six Premier League titles, three FA Cups and a solitary Champions League – no prizes for guessing when that was won!

In August 2005, for the first time in their lengthy careers, the Neville brothers were separated. Everton manager David Moyes swooped in and captured Phil in a move that cost in excess of £3.5 million, a five-year deal being gained in the process. He made his debut for the Toffees in a UEFA Champions League qualifier at home to La Liga side Villarreal – ironically with the task of marking his former colleague Diego Forlan; the Uruguayan having also left Old Trafford in the summer.

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2005 saw Neville cross the divide and join David Moyes at Everton

Neville’s adaptability, commitment to the cause and attitude catapulted him into cult hero status amongst the Everton faithful and ensured his name on the team-sheet every week. On the 29th November 2006, Gary and Phil became the first brothers to captain their respective sides in the same game as Manchester United took on Everton. A month later, Neville registered himself on the Toffees score-sheet for the first time with a strike in the 3-0 win over Newcastle United.

Neville’s consistent career at club level coincided with a fledgling England career which saw him take in 59 caps, the first coming in China in 1996 and the last against minnows Andorra in a World Cup qualifier in 2007. The first thing that will spring to mind for most when talking about Phil Neville’s England career, however, will be that night against Romania during Euro 2000 in which he gave away the penalty that knocked the Three Lions out at the group stage and continued their woeful record in international tournaments.

One of only seven men to complete 500 appearances in the Premier League, Phil Neville will go down in history when it comes to the Premier League’s greatest players. A man often shadowed by his brother’s achievements, Neville has always been there – when called upon he has put in a shift that most professionals will be proud of. Whilst Gary has moved into the weird and wonderful world on TV and Sky Sports, we have not seen the last of Phil on a football pitch. He coached England’s Under-21 squad in their recent European Championship tournament in Israel and also assisted the nation’s Under 20 side in the World Cup. On Thursday 4th July, Neville’s career came full-circle as he accepted an offer to become a coach at Old Trafford and join David Moyes’ new regime.

Should his experience and consistency rub off on United’s finest, life after Sir Alex Ferguson may not be so bad after all. Thanks for the memories, Fizzer.

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