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The Asian Kop is proud to present the second part of our exclusive interview with Reds legend Phil Neal.
Neal speaks on the full back position of the club, the importance of Dirk Kuyt and how to deal with the enigmatic Luis Suarez.
The former Captain also speaks on Liverpool’s Asian fanbase and why Liverpool is the greatest club to support.
Watch the interview below.
Transcript of Interview
The Asian Kop: I wanted to talk to you about the current team, and there were a couple of questions I wanted to ask you. From having a position that was kind of a problem position to fill at right back, we now have Glen Johnson, Martin Kelly, John Flanagan, what are the attributes you like about all those three players?
Phil Neal: Well, I think we were given the freedom, I think I certainly was by all the managers here to work hard here with a good working person infront of me, whether it was Sammy Lee or Jimmy Case. You know we formed a good kind of habitual kind of partnership that supplied the forwards, and helped us defend at times and we had to defend at certain periods, so you know defensively. But pushing together, going forward and that was the nice thing.
Certainly Joe Fagan in his 84 year he said ‘look if you join an attack, stay with it till it breaks down but then get your backside back.’ (Phil Laughs) That was one of his quotes really, and it showed with me and Alan Kennedy scoring in European Cup Finals, it showed that we were adventurous, we’d pull the trigger just like (Glen) Johnson does here every now and again and surprises himself by scoring.
And, so it was a thing that we all contributed to goal scoring throughout the years and whether you were a centre back you were expected to get 3 or 4 goals from set pieces. But I hope the full backs and Kelly, he scored for recently for Liverpool and England, so he’s getting in the habit. Johnson really has got the pedestal , it’s up to the others to break in and say ‘I’m better than you really.’
The Asian Kop: If Phil Neal was playing right back at the moment, which current Liverpool player would Phil Neal love to be playing with?
Phil Neal: Oh, I like the…hardworking Dirk Kuyt in front of me, I’d have him certainly. Sammy Lee and Jimmy Case were equally hard working as Dirk Kuyt was. And so, I think we keep both of us in the team, and that’s what we worked on, whatever the partnership was with who, you would approach it as a duo to say ‘look let get…make more crosses down our side rather than the left side’…Alan Kennedy or Ray Kennedy if you like, or whoever it was to become.
It was a challenge, either side of the pitch, let us be better servants on the right side of the pitch than the left hand side. And there was always kind of competition, and that was shown in our aptitude to want to win in the last 10 minutes to.
The Asian Kop: And if you are on the opposing team against Luis Suarez, how would you deal with him?
Phil Neal: Well, I hope the referees go back to allowing me to kick a winger really, I mean you can’t tackle these days. We would have a plan between Jimmy Case and I, or Sammy Lee and I, to push him inside on his worse foot. Now, whether you can find a worse foot on Suarez, his balance, and overall commitment…I don’t know whether you can find that. But generally we could find worse sides on everybody. And if we are all thinking that way, we are doing Liverpool a hell of a favour, if there are 10 people thinking like that isn’t it?
The Asian Kop: Absolutely.
The Asian Kop: Now moving away from the current first team squad…do you remember where you were, when you saw your first Asian Liverpool football fan?
Phil Neal: Oh (Phil pauses) errr…no, I think, Asian football fan, when I first saw an Asian football fan, well I think, there have always been around. Even before I came here (Liverpool) there were Asian people in my own jurisdiction really in Northampton. There were people playing cricket on the opposite side of the county ground where I grew up, who were Asian, be it spin bowler, be it batsman whatever.
You know I was aware of that when I had my apprenticeship at Northampton, I didn’t have to wait till I came here. And I think my biggest honour was playing against Dunga, the famous Brazilian in Kuala Lumpur many years ago. It was a Tsunami thing we went over there for, a few of my colleagues, Ronnie Whelan, Ian Rush and Bruce Grobbelaar, and we played against the South Americans, and that was fantastic really!
The Asian Kop: There is a huge kind of support out there really…
Phil Neal: Ahh…yes…
The Asian Kop: It’s probably growing by the day…
Phil Neal: Well, I mean the numbers don’t surprise me really, you know, having been out to Jakarta recently, and it’s staggering really to see the amount of passion for the Premier League and Liverpool out there.
The Asian Kop: And my final question is…what makes Liverpool the greatest team to support?
Phil Neal: Well, because I think, the fans have kind of always known there football, you know. I just wonder whether the modern players, I feel sorry for certain people who have drifted in and not really clicked with the fans. All you need to do is put sweat on that red shirt of Liverpool and do your damndest to try and create a goal, score a goal, and be entertaining, be fruitful, be youthful, you know put every ounce of energy into that game you are playing in.
And obviously…we certainly did that, and we were happy that the manager picked the same team as long as he possibly could. Yes, there were injuries, and touch wood I didn’t get one, but I think, that’s the purpose, you come here and the electricity here on a good top 5 game here is as good as you will get anywhere in the world. I think the fans appreciate it, when they travel from the far east and beyond, they want to witness…they have seen it on the telly, they have felt it but it’s not quite the same as being here when there is a teethy top five game going on here and we will be back amongst them.