Happy Birthday Phil Neal!
Born in Irchester, Phil Neal made his name at Northampton Town and played in nearly 200 Football league games for the Cobblers when he was transferred to Liverpool in November of 1974 as Bob Paisley’s first managerial signing. During his time at Northampton, Pailsey came to watch Neal play and one game he brought Liverpool director Sidney Reaks with him, Neal only played 20 minutes at RB before having to go in goal due to the Northampton keeper being stretched off. After the game Paisley recalled saying ‘I wanted to show Sidney how good of a right back he was but he ended up putting the green keeper jersey on’.
He was already an experienced player in the league at the age of 23 and for his debut was thrown into his first Derby match. Neal missed the next three matches but appeared in the remaining 22 fixtures during the 1974/75 season playing mostly at left-back in place of Alec Lindsay. He made a total of 417 appearances in a row between 23rd October 1976 and 24th September 1983 which is a Liverpool record. He missed three games due to injury but then went on to made another 127 appearances in a row.
He was nicknamed ‘Zico’ by supporters due to the amount of goals he scored for being a defender. In his first full season he won a championship medal, something which he would go on to achieve another eight times, he also played in six European cup finals for LFC, his cool penalty during the 1977 match sealed the triumph and he was the only member of the 1977 European Cup winning side to return there seven years later for a similar test against the Italian Champions.
Neal scored again in the 1984 final from open play before adding a tody penalty in the shoot-out. A year later he succeeded Greame Souness as captain and had the opportunity to join players like Di Stefano and Gento in adding a fifth European cup to his name, unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be and his European dream was taken away from him.
Neal played 50 times for England, a clear recognition that he was one of the finest full-backs of his time. Neal approached the 1985/86 season under Kenny Dalglish leadership at the age of 34, after playing in the opening eight first division fixtures he lost his place to a young Steve Nicol. Knowing that his playing days where coming to an end Neal accepted the manager’s job at Bolton Wanderers, he stayed there for six and a half years and was appointed Graham Taylor’s right-hand man during his spell in charge of the England team.
He went on to manage teams like Coventry City and Cardiff City, he was also assistant manager at Manchester City and Peterborough United.
He played in a total of 700 Football League games at Northampton, Liverpool and Bolton. Added to that are his cup appearances and representative honours he gained and that takes his tally close to the 1,000 mark.
He is one of the most decorated English footballers winning 17 major trophies. He made a total of 650 LFC appearances, scoring 59 goals.
Article by Lauren Black
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