Gunning for glory

Phil Neville still has high ambitions for Everton, despite another uneventful summer in the transfer market, and is hoping for another taste of European football in the twilight of his career. Over to Paul Leary.

At 34, Phil Neville shows no signs of bowing out as he looks set to sign a new two-year deal at Everton. And while many expect this to be his final contract, Neville is not setting any deadline.

“I feel as fit as I ever have, and want to continue for as long as possible, at least the next two seasons, hopefully at Everton,” Neville declared recently. And while older brother Gary decided to call it a day recently, opting to spend more time with his family as well as working in the media, it is clear that Phil is still hungry.

It has been a long and distinguished career for Neville, a career that started back in 1990 as a 13-year-old in the Manchester United Youth Academy. Indeed, as a supremely talented cricketer too, who captained England under-15s in the sport, it always seemed that Neville was destined to be a professional sportsman one way or another.

Football was his chosen path, and he progressed through the academy amongst a group of players who would later be hailed as the ‘golden generation'. As one of ‘Fergie's Fledglings', he enjoyed a decade of success at United alongside the likes of David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt and of course brother Gary.

Having made his debut in the 1994-95 season, he went on to taste success in most competitions with the club, winning six English Premier League titles, three FA Cups and the UEFA Champions League. Along the way, although still sometimes in and out of the side, he became more established, putting in some solid and dependable performances. However, he also showed his footballing versatility, playing all across the back four as well as in midfield.

During this time he made the England squad for three consecutive European Championships, but never made a World Cup squad. His most successful time for the national side came under Kevin Keegan, where he was the established first-choice left-back for a short while. However, his England appearances were often limited to coming off the bench.

Having racked up 263 league appearances for United and perhaps feeling the pull of a new challenge, Neville made a GBP3.5 million switch to Merseyside in 2005, signing for Everton on a five-year contract. He was quickly a favourite of manager David Moyes due to his versatility and willingness to play anywhere, and he impressed fans with his work rate and attitude. This led to him being given the captaincy in 2007, following the departure of David Weir.

Neville has gone from strength to strength in recent years, becoming a key player for Everton, and a much valued one. The fact that as recently as the last transfer window, he was attracting interest from then Champions League new boys Tottenham suggests that Neville still has a lot to give.

He still has high ambitions for the team too, despite another uneventful summer in the transfer market, and is hoping for another taste of European football in the twilight of his career.

Speaking in the build-up to the new campaign, he said: “The challenge for a club like Everton is to get as high up the league as possible, and that is for European football.

“It is a massive challenge for us — for us to finish in the top four would feel like winning a trophy. We have done it in the past — six or seven years ago — but with each year it is getting harder and harder.

“European football is the key, we want to be experiencing European football and for a club the size of us it is the least we all expect.”Even if that proves beyond Everton, Neville's appetite for the game can only be admired.

Neville is married to Julie Killilea and they have a son and a daughter. Neville has been known to drive a Range Rover, a Bentley, and a Rolls Royce.

* * * Name: Phil Neville Position: Defender/Midfielder Club: Everton D.O.B: 21/01/77 England caps: 59 England goals: 0 England debut: v China, 1996

Moment to remember: Scoring the winning goal from the penalty spot as Everton knocked Chelsea out of the FA Cup in February 2011 having come from behind.

Moment to forget: At Euro 2000, giving away a penalty for a late foul on Viorel Moldovan. Romania converted the penalty to win the game and send England crashing out of the tournament.

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