Interviews, Videos — April 13, 2012 10:59

Phil Neal Speaks On His Debut Against Everton, Paisley & His Career (Part 1)

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The Asian Kop had the unique pleasure of sitting down with Phil Neal at Anfield for this exclusive interview.

Neal signed from Northampton in 1974 for £66,000. The defender went on to make 650 appearances for the club, scoring 59 goals.

Neal helped to bring 22 pieces of silverware to the Anfield trophy room.

In part one of our interview below, the most decorated player in the history of the club speaks on being Bob Paisley’s first signing and the team Paisley had.

With the FA Cup Semi-Final against Everton tomorrow, it’s interesting to hear Phil Neal talk about the moment he got the call for his first start against Everton, walking from Anfield to Goodison Park.

Watch and comment on this candid interview with a Liverpool legend.

 

Transcript of Interview

The Asian Kop: We have got a privilege here today, because we are here with the most decorated Liverpool players in the history of the club. A player who has won eight league titles, 4 European Cups, a Super Cup, a UEFA cup, arguably Liverpool’s best ever right back, but I’d argue for it…the one and only Phil Neal.

Phil Neal: Hello…

The Asian Kop:  Thanks Phil for joining The Asian Kop.

Phil Neal: That’s no problem at all. I had 11, as you said, 11 fantastic years wearing the famous red shirt of Liverpool and I am here to answer all your questions.

The Asian Kop: I want to start in Northampton,

Phil Neal: Oh Blimey, you really are going back a long way! (Phil Laughs).

The Asian Kop: Did you have any kind of idea that Liverpool were kind of looking at you when you were playing at Northampton, because you came straight from there didn’t you?

Phil Neal: Yes, I did, I was Bob Paisley’s first signing and before we go any further, what a bloody good judge of a player he was! (Phil laughs) But, yeah, I came from Northampton, obviously £60,000 invested on a young utility player, young? 23 years of age I was when I came here, so I wasn’t really kind of young. I was an experienced utility player for Northampton. I had played in every position so it wasn’t a strange thing.

I just had to break into an international ridden team really. And I walked into the dressing room with Keegan, Toshack, Emyln Hughes, Ray Clemence, Thommo, you know Tommy Smith, Ian Callaghan, Chris Lawler, there was a multitude of people. And I’m thinking, ‘these are all internationals, and I am in the same dressing room as them and how am I going to get into the team?’

Then I didn’t think I would do it for quite some time but Bob, had a surprise for me and I think I surprised a few people, within a couple of months,  I was regularly wearing the Liverpool shirt. So he had faith in me and I couldn’t have been too bad because my inauguration kind of period was at left back, people don’t remember that. I think I had Peter Cormack in front of me and Brian Hall and so we formed a partnership down on the left hand side before I got the number 2, about 18 months later. So it was quite an experience for me.

The Asian Kop: Just with that, what was Chris like, with you because he was playing left back in that position at the time, because he had been there for years, a Shankly signing, an international, what was he like with you?

Phil Neal : He was fine, I mean, he just went about his business, as I said Chris Lawler has got a phenomenal kind of scoring record at right back because he didn’t take penalties like me. He use to go up for set pieces, he was a very strong and very powerful man. He was a gentle giant as well, because if you approach him to do this type of interview, he appears like a lamb, very quiet , very within himself but on the field of play he was a very powerful person and scored a hell of lot of goals for a full back.

The Asian Kop: When you broke into the team was there one particular game or a couple of games where you kind of went ‘right I think I’m in the team now, for good.’

Phil Neal: I think the shock of playing my debut game against Everton. I think Bob knew I was playing on the Friday but didn’t disclose to me, he made me believe that I was playing in the reserves here (Anfield) against Everton. So, on Saturday morning, I hadn’t moved my kids up and family up, by then I was staying not far from our training ground.  He had Tom Saunders rap on the door and Tom said ‘there is a problem with one of the full backs, you are going to have to go. He (Bob Paisley) wants you to join the first team squad at Goodison.’

They had already been taken away on Friday night for a good night sleep, prior to the local derby game at Goodison. And so, I picked my boots here (Anfield) from where we are talking now and I said, ‘are we taking the car Tom?’  and he said ‘No, no we are walking son.’ So we walked from this stadium, and basically walked across the park, in through the player’s entrance.

And as soon as I was eye to eye like you are with me, as soon as Bob come saw me walk through the door, he said ‘get ready to play son!’ That was it, you know that was the man, and he done it right because we drew 0-0, I marked a little guy called John Connolly, did quite well 2nd half, had a shot, dipping shot, a shot that went over the bar. We drew 0-0 and I remember Emlyn Hughes saying,

‘Brilliant Nealy! Well done! You didn’t let us down!’

You know it was a fantastic experience for me because when I thought about it, you look back, and you think that was a powerful game me because if I can get through, a local derby as my first game, surely I can hold my own within this group, and I showed I was going to that, over the next 11 fantastic years.

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