Sunday, June 10, 2007

100 Person Who Shock The Kop - NO 20: Phil Neal


Voted in at number 20 in our '100 Players Who Shook The Kop' series is the most decorated Liverpool player of all-time, Phil Neal.
Four years after our ground-breaking '100 Days That Shook The Kop', we are delighted to invite you to enjoy our new '100 Players Who Shook The Kop' series – the definitive countdown of the 100 players who have made the biggest impact at Liverpool.

Over 110,000 supporters have all nominated their own personal Top 10 players in order of impact made and now the definitive top 100 countdown is underway.

Every player who has made the top 100 – and there are some surprises in there - will be honoured on this website via the e-Season ticket console with a specially produced video clip, including archive footage and exclusive interviews.

Since 1892 hundreds of players have represented this club but everyone has their own particular favourites so don't expect this list to be based solely on talent. The greatness of a player can be measured in many ways – obviously, his ability on the pitch is the most important, but 100 PWSTK is much more than that. It's about the impact the individuals chosen have had on this club, be it for a variety of reasons. Maybe it was because of their unique rapport with the crowd, a specific incident that has never been forgotten or anything else that has left a lasting impression.

Name: Phil Neal

Years at Liverpool: 1974 to 1985
Position: Full-back

Date-of-birth: 20/2/1951
Birthplace: Irchester

Signed from: Northampton Town (October 1974)

Games: 650
Goals: 60

Honours: First Division Championship (1975/76, 1976/77, 1978/79, 1979/80, 1981/82, 1982/83, 1983/84, 1985/86), European Cup (1977, 1978, 1981, 1984), UEFA Cup (1976), League Cup (1981, 1982, 1983, 1984), Charity Shield (1976, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1982), Super Cup (1977)

Never has the term 'Mr Consistency' been more apt than when discussing the merits of Phil Neal in a Liverpool shirt. One of the club's finest ever full-back's, Neal was rarely absent from the Reds starting eleven during a highly-distinguished 11-year Anfield career. Rarer still was an occasion when he had a bad game. Plucked from Fourth Division obscurity for £66,000 in October 1974, the former Northampton Town man was Bob Paisley's first managerial acquisition and undoubtedly one of his most inspired. A month after his low-key arrival Neal was pitched into his senior debut at just a few hours notice, but made a good early impression by coping admirably with the intense pressure of a high-octane goalless Merseyside derby at Goodison Park. From there on in he became an almost permanent fixture in the side, making a record 365 consecutive league appearances between December 1974 and September 1983 in the process. He adapted to life in the top-flight at such a rapid rate that an England call quickly came his way and his value to the Liverpool cause, as they battled for honours on the domestic and continental front, became immeasurable. Adept at operating in both full-back berths it was on the right side that he eventually settled and where he was at his best. Dependable rather than spectacular, he set about his tasks with the minimum of fuss, was never one to seek the limelight and always very much a team player. Calm under pressure, he kept things simple and was a key component of the Reds' record-breaking back four in the late seventies. Not many opposition wingers got the better of him, while at the opposite end of the pitch he made an equally vital contribution to the club's ongoing success of the time. By full-back standards, he was quite a prolific marksman, with his tally of 60 goals bettered only by Chris Lawler. The majority of these, admittedly, came from the spot but penalty taking was an art he mastered and his most celebrated strike came via this route on that balmy evening in 1977 when he sealed Liverpool's first European Cup triumph with an ice-cool finish past Borussia Moenchengladbach's Wolfgang Kneib in Rome's Olympic Stadium. Seven years later, at the same venue, he remarkably found himself on the scoresheet in a European Cup Final, prodding the ball home from close-range to open the scoring against hosts AS Roma and then holding his nerve from 12-yards in the shoot-out as the Reds upset the odds to clinch a fourth 'Campioni' crown. Given that Neal was the only Liverpool player to figure in all four Champions Cup victories between '77 and '84 it will come as no surprise to discover that he's remains one of the most decorated players to have ever played the game. His impressive haul of medals also includes eight League titles, four League Cups and a UEFA Cup, not to mention some less important gongs like the Charity Shield and Super Cup. Neal's loyalty and commitment to the club was deservedly recognised in the summer of 1984 when he was selected to succeed Graeme Souness as Liverpool captain and it was with a sense of immense pride that he wore the armband. Unfortunately, his one and only season in the role was to end in the tragedy through no fault of his own and the tragic events at Heysel ruined what should have been the crowning moment of his glittering Liverpool career. A change in management during the close-season that followed brought an end to his short-lived tenure as skipper and with the emergence of Steve Nicol, Neal finally severed his Kop ties to take up a player/manager role at Bolton in December 1985. His record for medals won and sheer consistency in a red shirt, however, has so far stood the test of time and is unlikely to ever be surpassed. For this alone, no-one can begrudge Phil Neal his legendary status at Anfield.

Sold to: Bolton Wanderers (December 1985)

Claim to fame: Scoring the penalty that sealed Liverpool's first European Cup succcess

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