Instead I’m going to give you a closer insight on my views of Everton’s, in my opinion, most pivotal player in a situation like we currently find ourselves. A man bred with a winning mentality, a trophy cabinet most would envy and a lovely set of highlights, known affectionately throughout the club as “the Manc”, ladies and gentlemen I give you Philip Neville.
When Phil Neville signed for Everton in the Summer of 2005, a few eyebrows were raised with the acquisition of, perhaps, the most ridiculed of Fergie’s Fledglings. Often dismissed during his time at Old Trafford as just Gary’s brother, £3.5m seemed a lot of money despite his impressive medal collection and plethora of international caps. Ask most English football fans what they think of Phil and it will probably result in a frown on the face, a shake of the head and a comment about his badly timed challenge on Romania’s Viorel Moldovan at Euro 2000. It was badly timed in both regards of the term, as not only did it lead to a penalty but it was also in the last minute of a decider between to the two nations, the goal led to the culmination of England’s tournament.
Most Blues would have been thinking the same thing when he unexpectedly signed, although I remember watching Sky Sports News when the story was breaking early one July morning. The presenters were questioning an Everton supporter on his thoughts about the transfer, he said “The more I read about him, the more I like”. It was the same for me, he had played on over 50 occasions for the national side, made over 260 appearance for Manchester United and in the previous season had won acclaim for his performances in a holding midfield role in the Champions League. Instantly I thought, “you don’t play that many times for Ferguson without having some sort or pedigree?”.
People still laugh when I say Neville is my favourite player , but after 5 years at Goodison Park ask most Evertonian’s what they think of Phil Neville, I bet the answer will be a somewhat contrasting to their views of a decade ago. In the last couple of season’s his attitude on the pitch and will to lead and win have seen may compare his tenure of captaincy to that of Kevin Ratcliffe. Without belittling the work done by some of our recent leaders, Watson, Gough, Weir, Ferguson to name a few, there is something different about Phil. He’s not the most exciting full back in Football, his passing is occasionally a bit “iffy” but what he offer’s is so much more.
When he signed, it wasn’t just a player we were employing, it was also everything he’d been brought up on and that had been installed in him by Ferguson and Manchester United. The will to win and the failure of losing were attributes Everton had been missing for many years. Even this week his quotes in the press are all about regaining team spirit and boosting morale, learning from the last result and moving on.
"There are no excuses. No hiding places. We don't deserve to win these football matches at the moment," Neville told the Liverpool Echo.
"We didn't win at Blackburn - hard luck. We didn't win at Wolves - hard luck. We couldn't beat Villa - hard luck. Everyone says we're playing well but not winning games. Forget all that rubbish now - it's got to the point where it's time to realise where we are.”
"Forget Champions League football, forget Europa League football. Focus on Saturday and just winning.”
For a long time I couldn’t really see the benefit of a captain in football other than as a figurehead, in Cricket or Rugby they seem to be more influential, however I’m beginning to realise the importance. A captain should be a leader and an inspiration to their team mates, I think we’ve found our man.
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