From the publishers of THE HINDU
VOL.32 :: NO.18 :: May. 02, 2009
No one more than Everton captain Phil Neville has illustrated better over the last decade that consistency can bring huge success.
Although he does not attract a media scrum like David Beckham, thrill crowds like Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes or have a trophy cabinet quite the size of his brother Gary, there is no doubt his career is one to be admired.
The Bury-born defender made his name at Manchester United alongside the club’s other notable youngsters like Beckham and Giggs who went on to dominate English football in the late 1990s and early 2000s, winning 11 trophies in his first 10 years while at Old Trafford.
He has made 59 appearances for England and was the youngest member of the famous Euro 96 squad that came agonisingly close to reaching the final on home soil.
Now captain at Goodison Park, the 32-year-old is once again on the trophy trail after helping the Toffees reach the FA Cup final for the first time since 1995.
But it could have all been so different had he followed his passion in another sport. A contemporary of England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff in the Under-19s at Lancashire County Cricket Club, Neville proved to be a very useful batsman in his younger years. Indeed, he broke former England captain Michael Atherton’s record of being the youngest-ever century-maker at the county at the age of 15, and was geared up for a career in cricket until he turned his back on the crease to join his brother Gary in a United youth team that included Beckham, Scholes and co.
It was a decision that saw him embark upon a hugely successful career. Neville made his debut in the 1994-1995 season and, just a year later, he was part of the United side that beat Liverpool in the FA Cup final at Wembley.
Under Sir Alex Ferguson, United won back-to-back English Premier League titles in 1996 and 1997, with Neville used across the back four. However, after Arsenal broke the Red Devils’ stranglehold on the EPL a year later, Neville was axed, along with Paul Gascoigne, from Glenn Hoddle’s England squad for the 1998 World Cup in France.
Neville and United came back stronger than ever the following year and he helped the team win the treble, which included an historic FA Cup victory, making him and Gary the first brothers in the same side to win the competition for 120 years.
If this was one of Neville’s proudest moments in his career, what happened in Euro 2000 will stick in the memories of England fans for all the wrong reasons. Needing just to avoid defeat against Romania in its final group match to make it through to the knockout stages, England was seemingly heading through with the score at 2-2 going into the 90th minute.
But after a costly error from Neville, in which he gave away a last-gasp penalty, the Three Lions’ hopes were dashed as Ionel Ganea converted from the spot to send Kevin Keegan’s side home early.
As has been evident throughout his career, Neville took the disappointment on the chin and bounced straight back. With United going from strength to strength, Neville was moved into a more central role by Ferguson where he blossomed and was key in the side winning the domestic titles in 2001 and 2003. He also won the FA Cup in 2004 before making the move to Goodison Park for GBP3.5 million in August 2005.
He has since gone on to captain David Moyes’ side, with the Toffees boss describing him as his best signing in his seven years at the helm. Neville, like the remarkable generation of young talent to have come through the United academy over a decade ago, is used to success and he could be on for one of his biggest achievements to date if he can lead Everton to FA Cup glory.
Neville has been with wife Julie since 1999 and the pair has two children, Harvey and Isabella.
Like his brother Gary and team-mate Tim Cahill, Neville has been known to drive a 4.4-litre Range Rover Sport, but it is his house that attracts more attention. The family mansion was recently put up for sale for a reported GBP4 million, but a set of initials on the gates and a garish interior apparently put off potential buyers.
Name: Phil Neville
D.O.B.: January 21, 1977
England caps: 59
England goals: 0
England debut: 1996 v China
Moment to remember
Neville got rave reviews for a midfield performance against Arsenal in 2002 when he helped tame Gunners duo Gilberto Silva and Patrick Viera. In March 2003, Neville also enjoyed the honour of captaining his country against Serbia and Montenegro in a friendly match.
Moment to forget
Neville gave away a last-minute penalty against Romania that cost England a draw in its final group match in Euro 2000 and sent it home early once again.
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