Phil Neal

Phil Neal

Football manager infobox
playername= Phil Neal

fullname = Philip George Neal
height =
nickname =
dateofbirth = birth date and age|1951|2|20|df=y
cityofbirth = Irchester
countryofbirth = England
currentclub =
position = Right full-back
youthyears =
youthclubs =
years = 1968-1974
clubs = Northampton Town
Bolton Wanderers
caps(goals) = 187 0(27)
455 0(41)
064 00(3)
nationalyears = 1976-1983
nationalteam = England
nationalcaps(goals) = 050 0(5)
manageryears = 1985-1992
managerclubs = Bolton Wanderers
Coventry City
Manchester City (caretaker)

Philip George Neal (born 20 February 1951 in Irchester, Northants) is a much-decorated former footballer who is the only player to have appeared in the first five of Liverpool's European Cup finals, winning four of them. He was a dependable full back. His son, Ashley Neal, also had a footballing career, albeit short-lived.

Life and playing career

Neal scored the crucial clinching penalty when the Anfield club beat Borussia Monchengladbach in Rome to win the trophy for the first time in 1977 and subsequently played in the club's further successes in 1978 and 1981, beating FC Bruges and Real Madrid respectively, with both games ending 1-0.

In Liverpool's fourth final in 1984, Neal scored again - this time from open play and again in Rome - as Liverpool drew 1-1 with A.S. Roma and won on a penalty shoot-out, during which Neal again scored. The following year he missed out on a phenomenal fifth winners' medal when Juventus won 1-0 at Heysel in a match rendered meaningless because of the rioting beforehand in which 39 Juventus fans were killed and resulted in Liverpool's banishment from European club football.

Neal had a one hundred per cent record of appearances for the club in European Cup finals until a generation later when the 2005 side reached the final and won.

A full back who joined the club on the 9 October 1974 for £66,000 after making his name in English football's lower divisions with Northampton Town, Neal was the first signing to be made by manager Bob Paisley, snapped up as a replacement for the ageing Chris Lawler. Although he played a few games on the left side of the defence, it was as an industrious, energetic right back that he made his name.

Neal made his Liverpool debut, at left-back, in the Merseyside derby against Everton at Goodison Park on the 16 November 1974, although the league meeting between the two was the usual hard fought, 100 mph styled game, neither team managed to break the deadlock with the game ending 0-0, also making his Liverpool bow that day was midfielder Terry McDermott. Phil's first goal for the club came a year later on the 4 November 1975 during the 6-0 thrashing of Real Sociedad in a UEFA Cup 2nd round 2nd leg tie at Anfield, Neal's goal came in the 79th minute and rounded off the scoring, it goes without saying that Liverpool won the tie, but they did so in style having already seen off Spanish side by 3 goals to 1 in the 1st leg.

Neal won eight Football League First Division 1 League championships, a record which has since been surpassed by Ryan Giggs' 10th winners medal in 2008. In 1976 he won the UEFA Cup. The following year, he was part of a side gunning for a unique treble of League, FA Cup and European Cup. The title was won, but Liverpool then lost the FA Cup final to Manchester United at Wembley. It was testament to Liverpool's nerve and professionalism that they were able to put that disappointment behind them quickly to win that special first European Cup.

As proved with his late spot kick, Neal was a clinical penalty taker, a role he had taken on the previous season, although he did miss one in the hotbed of a Merseyside derby game against fierce rivals Everton. He took the penalties throughout the early part of his long Anfield career, the responsibility later passing to Terry McDermott, and this bumped his goal tally to 60 in total, an impressive haul for a defensive player.

In 1978, Neal was in the Liverpool team which lost the League Cup final to Nottingham Forest but subsequently retained their European crown. The following year they won back the League title and then retained it in 1980. In 1981, the club's first League Cup came along before they added that third European Cup; and for the next two seasons Liverpool won both the League and League Cup.

Throughout this time, Neal never missed a League game for the club. He played 365 consecutive matches for Liverpool from 1975 to 1983, finally seeing this sequence brought to a halt after he suffered an injury which forced him out of one solitary match, it was a League Cup 2nd round 1st leg tie at Griffin Park on the 5 October '83, the versatile young Scot Steve Nicol covered for the injured Neal as the Reds won comfortably by 4 goals to 1.

In 1984, Liverpool added their fourth European Cup to the League title and League Cup which they again retained. Neal maintained his place throughout this season and was rewarded with the captaincy by manager Joe Fagan after Graeme Souness departed for Sampdoria in the summer.

Unfortunately for Neal, his one season as captain turned out to be a year when Liverpool emerged trophyless and with their reputation after Heysel in tatters. Fagan quit as manager afterwards due to the grief and Neal lost the captaincy under new manager Kenny Dalglish, who instead gave it to Alan Hansen.

Neal started the season in his regular role but Dalglish soon replaced him with Nicol, with his place going to the Scot, Neal departed Anfield after 11 years, joining Bolton Wanderers as player manager in the December 1985. When Liverpool won the League again that season (on their way to a "double with the FA Cup) Neal was awarded an eighth and final championship medal having made enough appearances to quaify for the medal, though it is a sad irony that the one domestic honour which eluded him, the FA Cup, was won by the club immediately before he arrived in 1974 and then immediately after he left in 1986, meaning he just missed out on both occasions.

He quit playing in 1989 (when player-manager of Bolton Wanderers) after more than 700 League appearances, as well as 50 caps for England between 1976 and 1983, scoring five goals. Only Gary Neville has won more England caps as a right back. Neal was awarded his first by Don Revie on the 24 March 1976, Wales were the opposition and the Racecourse Ground the venue as England won 2-1; Phil must have felt at home on his debut as club mates Ray Clemence, Phil Thompson, Ray Kennedy and Kevin Keegan (who skippered the side) were all picked and played the whole 90 minutes. His first goal for his country came on the 16 May 1978 during a British Home Championship fixture at Wembley, enough to see off Northern Ireland by a goal to nil.

Managerial career

In December 1985, Neal was appointed player-manager of Bolton Wanderers and managed the club for seven years. During this period, the club suffered relegation to the Fourth Division for the first (and only) time in their history, but won promotion the following season. The side reached the Third Division play-offs on a couple of occasions without success before leaving in 1992 (Bolton achieved promotion to the now First Division the following year under Bruce Rioch).

Neal left Bolton to embark upon what turned out to be a memorable if infamous spell as a right-hand man to Graham Taylor during his spell in charge of the England team. Neal was frequently heard to parrot Taylor on every tactical idea he had, without ever coming up with suggestions of his own. This was captured on camera during a notorious fly on the wall documentary,"An Impossible Job", broadcast on Channel 4 after Taylor's reign had ended in disappointing failure to qualify for the 1994 World Cup. Neal became a mild source of ridicule as a result, though he continued to work as a coach and manager.

He was appointed manager of Coventry City in 1993. The 1993/94 season saw Coventry open with a 3-0 win over Arsenal at Highbury. Coventry finished that season in a respectable 11th place. The following season saw this form not maintained and Neal would be replaced as manager by Ron Atkinson.

Neal subsequently had spells at Cardiff City and Manchester City. Neal concluded his coaching career with a brief spell as Assistant Manager at Peterborough United during the 1997/98 season.

In recent years, Neal has worked as a football pundit for various television and radio organisations. He has also played for and coached the Liverpool masters side which dominated the Sky Sports Masters series.

He has written two autobiographies, being 'Attack From The Back' in 1981 and 'Life At The Kop' in 1986.


* League Championship: 1976, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986
* UEFA Cup: 1976
* Charity Shield: 1976, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1982
* European Cup: 1977, 1978, 1981, 1984
* European Super Cup: 1977
* Football League Cup: 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984
* FA Cup Runner-up: 1977
* European Super Cup Runner-up: 1978, 1984
* Football League Cup Runner-up: 1978
* Intercontinental Cup: Runner-up: 1981, 1984
* Charity Shield Runner-up: 1983, 1984
* European Cup Runner-up: 1985

Honours as manager

* 1987/88 Football League Fourth Division Promotion (IV) with Bolton Wanderers
* 1988/89 Sherpa Van Trophy with Bolton Wanderers

External links

* [ Exclusive interview]
* [ Official past players at]
* [ Player profile at]
* [ Exclusive interview at]
* [ Phil Neal England Biography part 1 1976-77 at]
* [ Phil Neal England Biography part 2 1978 - June 82 at]
* [ Phil Neal England Biography part 3 1982 World Cup-83 at]
* [ Phil Neal England caps part 1 at]
* [ Phil Neal England caps part 2 at]
* [ Phil Neal part 1 1974/75-1977/78 at]
* [ Phil Neal part 2 1978/79-1982/83 at]
* [ Phil Neal part 3 1983/84-1985/86 at]

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