Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Neville to end 'fantastic' Everton relationship

Phil Neville has been a constant presence at Everton Football Club over the last eight years. He is almost part of the scenery and although I am not alone in believing that the captain’s career at Goodison Park was coming to a close, it was rather surprising when I found out.

Neville took to Twitter just before 10am on Tuesday morning to break the news. ‘I can confirm’, he wrote, ‘that after eight fantastic years at Everton I will be leaving at the end of the season.’ Instantly, a large number of responses could be seen, rightly wishing the 36 year-old good luck and thanking him for his invaluable contribution to the club.

Understandably, Neville’s announcement of his departure has not generated a similar scale of emotion as when Tim Cahill headed for New York. I am not particularly sentimental about Neville for reasons I will go on to mention. Although, I will miss his positive messages about football and images of Kit-Kats that he posts on Twitter.

Neville has always been viewed in a mixed manner from Evertonians, alternating between affection and temporary distaste. He will always be remembered for his tackle on Cristiano Ronaldo, his penalty against Manchester United in the 2009 F.A Cup Semi-Final, for famously keeping Gareth Bale firmly in his back pocket and the infrequent goal which resulted in full-length celebrations on the pitch. His leadership on the field is something that Moyes has held faith in religiously, and the majority of Evertonians (myself included) will firmly agree that it has been an important contributor to Everton’s successes on many an occasion.

Phil Neville's commitment and leadership as club captain has been invaluable for Everton over the eight years he has spent at Goodison Park

On the other hand, Neville’s decline as a footballer has been evident. I remember watching from Upper Bullens last season as the captain, in a centre-midfield role with Diniyar Bilyaletdinov was frustrated and outplayed by the midfield of non-league Tamworth. He has been much more likely to be bypassed by the opposition recently; his name on the team sheet has been met with an increasing number of groans and that pass against Wigan in the F.A Cup was the final straw for some.

With this in mind, Neville will be leaving a little belatedly, although he can undoubtedly do so with his head held high. It was the right decision by David Moyes not to keep ‘Skip’ on for another year – which is what I almost feared would happen due to their obvious close relationship.

Wherever the captain’s journey takes him next, I hold no doubt that every Evertonian will wish him the best of luck. Without being the greatest of footballers, he has led, inspired and motivated a squad and its supporters.

He has never been considered a hero, nor is it likely that he will be.

He does not have the fastest feet, the quickest reactions or the sweetest shots.

But he has been a huge part of Everton Football Club over the last eight years.

And I, for one, am incredibly grateful for his commitment.

Goodbye and good luck, Skip. 

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