Player Profile: Lucas Neill
Date of Birth: 9/3/1978
Height: 6 ft 1 in
National Team: Australia
International Caps: 96
International Goals: 1
Ninety-six international caps, two World Cups, 11 different clubs, five countries and three continents – Lucas Neil has enjoyed a long and varied career.
With a family history within the game, it seemed Lucas Neill was destined to become a professional footballer from the outset. His father, Ed Neill, played for a number of clubs in his native Northern Ireland before emigrating to Australia where he would start a family. This British sporting lineage was perhaps why Lucas Neill looked so at home in the rough-and-tumble of English football; its values had been instilled in him from an early age.
Born in Sydney, Lucas Neill spent the entirety of his youth career in New South Wales on the East Coast of Australia. In as clear a display of nominative determinism as you’re ever likely to encounter, Neill’s first team was Manly United. Never one to shy away from a tackle, Neill was known as a rough and ready sort of footballer, one some might refer to as a ‘throwback’ to an era when robustness and vigour were the attributes that shaped a player’s career.
Neill’s aggression and combative nature on the field of play would endear him to the clubs he played for while leading him to be demonised by opposition fans, players and managers alike. By the time he graduated from the Australian Institute of Sport in 1995, his qualities were recognised by Millwall, a club famous for its old school approach to the game.
It was Mick McCarthy who brought him to The Den. Like Millwall, McCarthy was associated with a penchant for the belligerent. He was the first of a string of managers in a similar vein to take a chance on Neill.
Though he would struggle somewhat with injuries during his six seasons with the club, Neill was a permanent fixture in the first team when fit. In his final full season with the club, Neill was a key component of the team which won promotion from the Football League Second Division, the league now known as League One. He left the club after making 173 appearances and scoring 14 goals.
His performances won him a move to Premier League club Blackburn Rovers at the start of the 01-02 campaign. Managed by Graeme Souness at the time, Blackburn employed Neill predominantly as a right-back. The Aussie earned a winner’s medal for their League Cup victory in his first season, though Neill himself did not feature due to being cup-tied in the competition.
Neill was made captain early in his Ewood Park career – he echoed the playing style espoused by manager Souness who had taken a clear shine to Neill. The full-back was involved in a distasteful incident involving Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher in the 03-04 season which resulted in the latter breaking his leg and being sidelined for six months – Neill refused to apologise until being made to by his club.
It was this that made Liverpool’s bid for Neill in 2007 such a surprise. Ultimately, Neill would reject Liverpool in favour of West Ham United whom he joined for £2-million. Though he was loved during his time at Rovers, the relationship with the fans soured significantly in the later stages of his Ewood Park career and Neill has been a figure of vitriol and scorn ever since.
Neill’s career would continue for a further seven years but he was unable to capture the form he had shown at his first two clubs. However, he became Hammers captain in the 06-07 season, replacing the outgoing Nigel Reo-Coker, and made 88 appearances in his three seasons at Upton Park. He scored a solitary goal in this time, an equaliser in a 3-2 defeat to West Brom in his final campaign with the club.
He remained a Premier League player following his departure from West Ham, being signed by David Moyes to play for Everton in 2009. He would play a bit-part role in that side, making 14 appearances in all competitions as his physicality began to wane.
He pursued a more lucrative career path by moving to Turkey with Galatasary in 09-10. He spent two seasons with the country’s biggest club which he was drawn to by his Australia teammate Harry Kewell. After two seasons there, he was released, becoming a free agent.
He then spent two years in the UAE with Al Jazira and Al Wasl respectively before moving back home to Australia. His homecoming was far from triumphant though and he played just three games for Sydney FC before moving on again to Omiya Ardija in Japan. Again, he would make only a handful of appearances before seeing out the rest of his career back in England with Watford and Doncaster Rovers for whom he made a combined total of five appearances.
Though Neill’s reputation in the UK was far a paragon of virtue, in his homeland he was revered as one of the finest players to don the green and gold jersey.
One of the major regrets of Neill’s career is stopping just shy of a century of caps for his country – he made 96 appearances between 1996 and 2013, playing international football for almost the entirety of his 19-year career.
However, Neill enjoyed a fantastic international career, representing his country at two Worlds Cups: Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010. He captained the side in the latter and, with 61 caps as skipper, holds the record for most caps while wearing the armband.
His appearance total is bettered only by Mark Schwarzer and Tim Cahill, two legends of both the Premier League and Australian football.
Where Are They Now?
Lucas Neill’s whereabouts are currently unknown. The ex-defender has not maintained a public profile since his retirement and does not partake in any punditry work, nor has he pursued a career in coaching.
Although Neill reportedly earned up to £40-million in his career, he was declared bankrupt in 2016 with his business ventures including a coaching academy and US property portfolio in a state of disarray.
Did you know? Interesting facts about Lucas Neill
– Like father, like son: Lucas Neill’s son Marcus appears to be an exciting young prospect and is currently part of the youth set-up at Liverpool.