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Last Updated: Friday, 14 April 2006, 08:55 GMT 09:55 UK
World Cup Scouting - Phil Neville
Sven-Goran ErikssonPhil NevilleSupportersEverton boss David MoyesShould Phil Neville go to Germany?

By Charlie Henderson
BBC Sport at The Valley

On 8 May, head coach Sven-Goran Eriksson will name the squad of 23 players that he believes can win the World Cup for England.

Over the next few weeks, speculation is sure to continue as to the exact make-up of the group as the build-up to the finals in Germany intensifies.

In the latest of a series of scouting missions, BBC Sport and the fans run the rule over Everton utility man Phil Neville as he seeks to get back into Eriksson's thoughts.


By the time the World Cup comes around it will be more than a decade since Neville made his international debut.

Terry Venables handed him his first cap shortly before Euro 96 and he has been picked by every manager since.

But there is a gaping hole in his CV - a World Cup.

He was overlooked by Glenn Hoddle in 1998 and Eriksson four years ago and has not been selected by the Swede for almost a year.

That cap - number 52 - came on the summer tour of the United States in 2005 and the win over Colombia has been his only start in the last 18 months.


A dour goalless draw is not exactly the best of occasions to push for your inclusion in the World Cup.

Ronaldinho would have struggled to shine at The Valley in a match that lived up to every conceivable cliche associated with mid-table.

But Neville was one man who at least tried to stand out from the mediocrity and, despite the cynicism that seems to have tracked his career, it was for all the right reasons.

Phil Neville
Born: 21.1.77, Bury
Clubs: Manchester United & Everton
Career games: 426
Career goals: 8
England debut: vs China 23.5.1996
England caps: 52

First things first, having played the majority of the season in central midfield following his 3.5m summer transfer to Goodison Park, he was shifted to left-back to make way for the returning Lee Carsley.

That in itself highlighted one of Neville's key strengths even before the action started - his versatility.

What is more, it looked as if he had been playing there all season.

He showed speed up and down the flank and played with a "thou shalt not pass" mindset, one crunching, smothering tackle on Jerome Thomas a case in point.

Was it any coincidence that Thomas proceeded to spend the rest of the afternoon rooted to his flank on the opposite side of the pitch?

The one-paced Radostin Kishishev was undoubtedly the easier man to keep in check, but even when the faster Dennis Rommedahl replaced him, Neville was up to the challenge.

Throughout the 90 minutes he showed watchful composure in defence and a willingness to lead forays down the left, where his attacking throw-ins provided Everton's best goal threat in the early stages.

Neville's commitment to the cause has never been questioned but at Manchester United he seemed to play with an inferiority complex.

At Everton he is putting his considerable experience - as well as the caps he can boast more than 80 appearances in European competition - to use and is not of the shy and retiring school of captaincy.

He continuously urged his team-mates on and proved a vital organiser at the back as Charlton pushed late on for a goal that never came and never looked like coming.


I think he's been great for us but, looking at it objectively, I think it's a poor reflection on the depth of English football if a commited, but fairly limited player like him makes the squad.
Tasty, via 606 messageboards

It would be a travesty if he doesn't get selected. He has been awesome throughout the season doing everything asked of him, even playing in central defence.
Peter, Everton fan

It's interesting, and perhaps rather unsurprising, how he can earn 50-odd caps as a United bench-warmer and none when he's playing week in-week out for Everton. His tackling and versatility are his biggest plusses but I reckon his passing and crossing ability will probably let him down.
Tonteua, via 606 messageboards

Everyone drones on about his versatility and why he's a must for Sven's World Cup squad. That's utter nonsense. He's a passable Premiership player but not the sort to turn to in times of crisis on the biggest stage. Remember Euro 2000? Please Sven, don't do it.
Reggie, Charlton fan

When he signed I thought 'here we go, another squad player on big wages'. But I must confess I'm very impressed by both his professionalism and attitude. He can perform in a team that requires versatility and hard work and he performs to his best wherever and whenever he is asked to play.
Royalblue4ever, via 606 messageboards

He won't get in the England squad as he doesn't play for Man U anymore.
Michael Crosby s74, via 606 messageboards

He has won over a lot of fans but not me. Sure, he's versatile and his attitude is spot-on but he's not international class. England have a tradition of playing steady pros who trot out at major tournaments and are found wanting.
bluemoo, via 606 messageboards


Despite criticism throughout his career Neville has never sought to change his footballing style.

And the men who matter - his managers - have time and again stood by their man. Everton boss David Moyes is no different.

He described the 29-year-old as "a professional's professional" on recruiting him in the summer and has seen no reason to change his view.

I cannot praise his contribution enough - he has brought professionalism which has been of as high an order as I have ever seen and everything he does for us is top quality
David Moyes

"He has been driving everybody on in recent weeks and his performances have been up to his best again," the Scot said.

"Going to the World Cup means a lot to him.

"Some players might think twice about going there for a month if they are not guaranteed any football, but Phil's not like that - he would love to be involved.

"His versatility makes him so valuable, you can ask him to do any job and he will always do it to the best of his ability. Sometimes you need players like him around.

"If I was an Englishman I would want Phil around because he's very patriotic and is always telling me how England are going to win the World Cup, just to upset me.

"He is one who won't let you down. He can play several positions and from that point of view I would like him to be in the England squad.

"I don't know if I want his other prediction to come true though!"


Thoughts of Neville and major championships inevitably conjure up nightmare images of the late defeat to Romania at Euro 2000.

And to the relief of many, Eriksson seems to have made his mind up when you consider he did not pick Neville during the qualifying campaign.

Gary Neville, Luke Young, Ashley Cole, Wayne Bridge, Ledley King

But in a squad of 23 versatility is a major advantage, particularly with question marks looming over a number of players.

Full-backs Ashley Cole, Luke Young and Wayne Bridge could all go to Germany having had fewer than 10 matches between them in the final month of the season.

Neville provides cover on both flanks and could also perform the holding role in midfield late in a match or if Ledley King was otherwise required in central defence.

And Michael Owen's injury could also play into Neville's hands.

If the Newcastle striker was fully-fit Eriksson would be happier to go with four forwards, but five now looks ever likelier.

That will have a knock-on effect and Neville could be the man to answer the call and plug the gaps elsewhere.

Moyes describes Neville as a "professional's professional", but maybe "understudy's understudy" would be more apt.

Charlton 0-0 Everton
08 Apr 06 |  Premiership
Scouting for England
06 Apr 06 |  World Cup 2006


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