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Monday, June 4, 2012

Lucas Neill

Lucas Edward Neill, born 9 March 1978 is an Australian professional footballer who currently plays for UAE Pro-League club Al Jazira and is the captain of the Australian national team. Neill plays as a defender, who commonly plays as a centre back as well as a full back. Neill had spent almost 15 years of his career playing in England. He represented Australia at the 2006 FIFA World Cup, the 2007 AFC Asian Cup, the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, and also the 2011 AFC Asian Cup in Qatar. On 6 October 2006 he was named the 50th captain of the Australian national team.


Neill grew up in the Northern Beaches of Sydney and was a student at Wakehurst Public School in Belrose and St Augustine's College in Brookvale, before attending the Australian Institute of Sport on a football scholarship in 1994–95.

Club career

Neill joined Millwall on a free transfer in November 1995, making his debut on 17 February against Luton Town in 1996. In almost six years at The Den, he made 174 appearances in all competitions, scoring 13 goals. In September 2001, Neill, by then the longest serving player at the club, submitted a transfer request and shortly after, signed for Blackburn Rovers for an initial fee of £600,000 plus up to £400,000 more depending on appearances.

West Ham United

In January 2007 Neill turned his back on a un-confirmed bid from Liverpool in favour of West Ham United, following the successful transfer of Stephen Warnock from Liverpool to Blackburn. Neill was accused of his primary motivating factor being money, but he later refuted these claims, stating the move was for purely footballing reasons. Neill later alleged to the media that Liverpool had not made him feel truly wanted, and that he had not even spoken to manager Rafael Benítez. Neill made his league debut for the Hammers in February 2007 against Watford, where he picked up a knee injury. He captained the team for the first time during a 3–4 defeat against Tottenham Hotspur the following month and went on to play every remaining game of the season. He became the permanent team captain following Nigel Reo-Coker's transfer to Aston Villa. Neill made his first appearance as team captain in the 1–1 draw against Wigan Athletic on 25 August 2007. Neill scored his only goal for West Ham in a 3–2 away defeat to West Brom in September 2008. At the end of the 2008–09 season Neill rejected a one year contract extension with West Ham, becoming a free agent.

Neill and national team-mate Tim Cahill playing for Everton in 2009

On 17 September 2009, Neill joined close friend, Tim Cahill at Everton on a free transfer, signing a one-year deal. He was unveiled to the fans at half time during Everton's 4–0 Europa League win at Goodison Park against AEK Athens.

Neill played his first game for Everton on 23 September 2009 in the League Cup, coming on as a second half substitution for Leighton Baines, in their 4–0 victory over Hull City. Neill's first start for Everton in the Premier League was on 25 October 2009 where he played a full match against Bolton Wanderers setting up two goals.

On 13 January 2010, Neill agreed to join Turkish side Galatasaray. It is believed Neill wanted to leave Everton to secure a longer contract. Neill signed a one-and-a-half-year contract with Galatasaray, linking up with Socceroo teammate Harry Kewell. Neill made his Turkish Super Lig debut for Galatasaray on 24 January 2010 in a 1–0 home win at the Ali Sami Yen Stadium against Gaziantepspor. Neill along with Kewell and several others were released at the end of the 2010–11 season.
Al Jazira

On 19 August 2011 it was announced he had signed a one year contract with UAE Pro League Club Al Jazira. On 2 June 2012 it was announced he had been released by the club.
International career

In October 1996, Neill became the third-youngest player, after Duncan Cummings and Harry Kewell, to debut for the Australian national team[28] when he played in a friendly game against Saudi Arabia in Riyadh, aged 18 years and 7 months. He also competed at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney with the Australian men's team, the Olyroos.

On 16 November 2005 at Sydney's ANZ Stadium, Neill helped Australia qualify for the 2006 FIFA World Cup playing the entire game and scoring the Socceroos' second penalty in a shoot-out against Uruguay, after aggregate scores were tied at 1–1 following extra-time. He was named Man of the Match for this game.

Neill started all four of Australia's games at the 2006 World Cup. In the closing minutes of Australia's Round of 16 game against Italy, referee Luis Medina Cantalejo adjudged Neill to have fouled Italian fullback Fabio Grosso in the penalty area. Francesco Totti converted the ensuing penalty kick to score and give the Italians a 1–0 victory, knocking Australia out of the cup.

Following the World Cup, Neill expressed his desire to captain his national side and on 6 October 2006 was named as the 50th player to captain Australia. On 7 October 2006 he made his debut as the Socceroo's captain in a 1–1 friendly against Paraguay, in Brisbane. Four days later, in Sydney, he captained Australia again in an Asian Cup qualifying game against Bahrain, which Australia won 2–0. On 2 June 2007, Neill captained the Socceroos again in a friendly match against Uruguay at Sydney's Telstra Stadium in which Australia lost 2–1.

On 13 July 2007, in the dying seconds of the Socceroo's 3–1 loss to Iraq, Neill verbally abused the referee. He received his second yellow card and was sent off, capping a disappointing performance by the Australian side. In the quarter finals of the Asian Cup, Neill missed a crucial penalty in a shootout against Japan which resulted in Australia's elimination from the cup.[33] Neill played his 50th game for Australia in a World Cup Qualifier against Japan, a game that Australia won 2–1 with Tim Cahill scoring both goals.

In 2011 Les Murray, an Australian soccer journalist, published a book entitled "The World Game: The Story of How Football Went Global" in which Murray cited an undisclosed source in alleging that Neill had instigated a mutiny just before the Germany vs. Australia game at the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Murray alleged that Neill had asked his coach, Pim Verbeek, to leave the room, before describing Verbeek's game-plan as "bullshit" and erasing what the Dutchman had written on a whiteboard, telling the team to play like they normally do. The publication of this story was followed by responses from team members who had been eyewitnesses of the actual events, including Craig Moore, Eugene Galeković and Mile Jedinak, clarifying that such an event, as portrayed in Murray's book, had never occurred. Neill himself protested that before the Germany game it was Mark Schwarzer, and not Neill himself, who had given the team pep talk. A few days after the allegations hit the news, Les Murray retracted his allegations with a full apology, with an undertaking that future editions of his book would have the relevant portion deleted.
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