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COLUMNIST PAUL TRAILL

Breakfast with Big Nev!

By Paul Traill   ::  25/02/2012
 16 Comments (»Last)
I was delighted to have the opportunity to attend a Media Breakfast courtesy of ToffeeWeb to launch the as-yet untitled autobiography of one Neville Southall. With holidays left to take from work, what better way to use one than meeting one of our best ever players and one of my favorite ever players. Needless to say I was very excited to attend.

Excitement turned into frustration en-route as a crash in the Birkenhead Tunnel played havoc with my time-keeping, though luckily I made it well in time for Big Nev to plough up the escalator and greet the assembled media. We took our seats with sausage and bacon sandwiches, tea and coffee. Big Nev in the centre. James Corbett of deCourbetin Books, the book publishers, got things under way, explaining we can ask anything we want to Neville Southall for 40 minutes. I doubt I was the only one a little overawed at first, but I soon settled down such is Neville?s kind, relaxed persona. He?s the sort of fella you feel at ease talking to. A really good bloke.

Onto questions and one of the first was I think regarding the red jersey he had to wear at in the 1985 European Cup Winners Cup Final. He explained the reasoning behind that, being that their keeper wore yellow so he couldn?t wear that. Rapid Viena played in green and white so those colours were out of bounds, he couldn?t wear blue because the rest of the Everton team of course wore blue, so he was left with red.

He spoke passionately of the work he?s currently doing with the Neville Southall Community Foundation. The project involves working with young teenagers who fall out of the system, who leave school with no or minimal qualifications. It seems a fantastic cause. ?Kids will do anything for you if you show them respect? he said. Somebody asked if his leadership skills as a goalkeeper have helped with the work he?s doing now. He agreed it helps. ?You need an analytical mind to be a footballer. As a keeper you have to know what players are like to get the best out of them. You need to know which ones you should bollock and which you have to put an arm around?. Tailing from this the question was asked about having some mad defenders in front of him, such as Kevin Ratcliffe and Pat van den Hauwe. ?Pat wasn?t mad? he said. ?You look at everyone he fouled, every one of them was smaller than him?. He discussed reputations with footballers, highlighting that only about half of Pat?s yellow cards should have been bookings as most of them were born out of his reputation.

I asked him if he regretted the ?sit down? protest in the 1990-91 season. He bluntly replied ?You call it a protest, I didn?t. It wasn?t a protest. I did it once before at Plough Lane away at Wimbledon and I?ve only ever met one person who remembers that. It seemed perfectly natural to me. It?s about winning. I?d had a shit first half, there was all sorts of shit going on in the dressing room so I wanted to clear my head. For me sometimes the best place is the quietest place so I stayed out there. I asked what Colin Harvey said about it. ?He didn?t know until after the game. I got a call at seven o?clock, Colin shouting ?What the fuck are you doing???.

I enquired about the rumors of him handing in a transfer request that season. ?I didn?t hand one in. I asked. I wasn?t getting anywhere and wasn?t going anywhere. I love Colin Harvey to bits but he?s the most frustrating man I?ve ever met. He wanted the team to do well but couldn?t put his finger on why it wasn?t working. He?s a proper Evertonian and wanted success. People only saw him in press conferences and in the dug-out. Nobody saw him when he was in the office chewing nails. It was massively frustrating because he couldn?t get what he wanted?.

Neville went on to talk about the methods of bringing players in to a club, citing the problems Andre Villas-Boas has inherited by bringing in too many players at once. He said Howard Kendall was clever, he?d bring in one or two at a time. ?It?s a fine judgement between how many you bring in or don?t?. Neville was asked about Sir Alex Ferguson?s rumoured interest in signing him when he was playing for Everton. ?Sometimes you wonder what it?s like somewhere else. I went to Stoke and it was a fucking disgrace!? was his reply.

When asked about walking out at Wembley, he said there is so much happening on the day it?s difficult to know what you?re doing. He said that going to the FA Cup Final in 1984, the team knew they would win as they believed more once they?d been to the Milk Cup Final and losing the replay to Liverpool. They knew they could be successful after that.

On playing Manchester United at Wembley in 1985 Neville said the worst thing that could have happened was the game going in to extra-time but that Manchester United were shit compared to Bayern Munich. He spoke very glowingly of our fixture at Goodison Park with Bayern Munich. ?The match with Man United could have been anywhere, Wembley, the moon, but nothing was as good as Goodison that night. I?ve never seen a crowd as involved as that night?. He also spoke of scoring a penalty once when it was either he or 17-year-old John Ebbrell to take it in a penalty shoot-out. He made everyone chuckle with his take on Tim Howard's goalkeeper jersey. ?It?s camouflage. But you can still see it. What the fuck?s the point?? Indeed.

I asked what the favourite club he played for was after leaving Everton. ?Torquay? he instantly replied. ?I played 27 games in the first season there and got Player of the Year without doing a day's training which I was quite happy with to be fair. If you were injured at Torquay they?d just give you a bucket of ice!?

He was quite philosophical about collecting his MBE, saying they had to give it to someone Welsh and it was probably a case of ?Who?s Welsh and has done something??. He said it was quite humbling collecting an MBE alongside some Gurkhas. ?They?ve driven in tanks to save their mates, I?ve kicked a football around?.

He says he doesn?t really have a favourite save as he always thought the next one would have to be better until he one day realized he weren?t going to make any more. He encapsulated probably a lot of people?s thoughts and frustrations on the modern game. He says the biggest cheer is for a good tackle and that many of the red cards now are ridiculous. ?A 16-stone man getting knocked over by Ashley Cole? When I was a kid you?d be embarrassed but you see kids behaving like this now?.

?Last question please? said James Corbett. There was a bit of a pause so I asked ?What do you think of David Moyes???an interesting response:

?He?s done a brilliant job but he?ll always have one question mark over him ? can he spend money??. He thinks this could stop him from getting a good job. He said that Moyes has done a ?ridiculous job with peanuts? but that it could be easier for Moyes to work within a tight budget. He thinks Mancini is doing an incredible job keeping check of all the egos at Man City and being top of the league and that Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea would never go for Moyes because they don?t know if he can spend money or not.

If Harry Redknapp gets the England job, he doesn?t think Tottenham will want Moyes as he?s quite a cautious manager whilst Spurs are more flambouyant. He thinks Moyes has the top job he can get as Villa is a step down and there?s a lot of other clubs who don?t spend any money either. He thinks David Moyes moving to Aston Villa would be a joke. He said if perhaps the Newcastle United job, if that came along with some money to spend, he may take it. ?Where else?? he said. ?Celtic? You only have two games a season!?

He moved on to the possible future under David Moyes. Neville feels that there will be a breaking point somewhere along the line when either Moyes will run out of patience with limitations or the board will run out of patience with lack of trophies and that something will give. He went on to speak about season ticket sales, saying that if we sign another Phil Neville type player, it?s difficult for the fans to get excited though, if we sign a Gazza, people will be excited and more will attend. ?Evertonians will always turn up though, because they?re Evertonians?.

So that was that. A really enjoyable, fantastic meeting with one of the best goalkeepers to ever grace the planet. Neville Southall is a truly nice bloke. Very straight talking and very witty. You get the impression he?s highly intelligent. Certainly more intelligent than I expected him to be. It was a really riveting insight into a truly great man.

I think it?s going to be quite a book.

Reader Comments

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Nick Entwistle
107   Posted 25/02/2012 at 16:59:21

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Good read, thanks Paul.

Having been not too infrequent to Torquay Utd in the 90s, they had as physio Norman Medhurst who was with England under Bobby Robson. I found the bucket of ice remark surprising. Amazed they could afford the bucket. BOOM BOOM!
Arthur Westhead
112   Posted 25/02/2012 at 17:31:20

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That's great Paul. I loved your question about Moyes ? that's one thing about Nev, he tells it as it is, no bullshit. And it's a very interesting answer.
Mark Riding
132   Posted 25/02/2012 at 19:55:03

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Good read, Paul... thanks.

Hope the book pulls no punches... it will be a hell of a read and I would love to know the stories behind the scenes in the dressing rooms as viewed through Nevs eyes.

A must-buy for a lot of Everton fans... and I'm glad he came across well.

Wish you had asked "What do you think of Chris Woods?" as well though.
Xavier Spencer
200   Posted 26/02/2012 at 11:07:38

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I turned 18 in 1982 and for the first time I had the money and freedom to follow Everton home and away. I couldn't have timed it better and those glory days will live with me forever. If you go through the team line ups of the 1980s we had some very good players (Bracewell, The Rat), some great players (Reid, Sheedy, Sharpy) some world class players (Lineker, Steven) and we also had the best player in his position in the world! Of course the one and only Big Nev. Maybe the only time we make this claim since the days of Dixie Dean.

Nev to me is a throw back. An eccentric. A Corintian. In these days of PR and media speak, he always speaks with candour and honesty (I have also heard him speak) He cares passionately about the club and he does tell it how it is. But most of all he comes across as a top bloke and he's provided me with some of my happiest moments as an Evertonian. Who can forget that save form Mark Falco at White Hart Lane in what was essentially the title decider in the 1984-85 season? The man is a giant. Good on you Nev.

Great article Paul. As ever. Keep them coming.

AND COME ON CARDIFF!!!!
Jimmy Sørheim
222   Posted 26/02/2012 at 09:39:05

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Love the answer about Moyes, he has got it right on the money about him like no-one else does, fantastic analysis from Southall.

I remember his flobby semi-fat body, but he was very agile.

Fond memories.
Jason Lam
301   Posted 27/02/2012 at 09:43:17

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Thanks for sharing this Paul, very interesting read. Cheers,
Eugene Ruane
304   Posted 27/02/2012 at 10:09:22

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Great read.

A wonderful and unusual character Southall.

One (of the few) who never fitted the 'I just take one game at a time ? the lads are gutted ? over the moon? etc stereotype.
Adam Wilkinson
311   Posted 27/02/2012 at 11:44:55

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A mark of this man is that (I think this is right) we have not won a trophy in 42 years without him in the team. I believe we would have won the double in 86 if he had have stayed fit. I?ll never forget his performances in the 95 cup run; he didn?t let a goal in from open play and then in the final played amazingly to win us the cup.

In my opinion the greatest ever Everton player.

Jimmy Burns
331   Posted 27/02/2012 at 17:20:23

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I enjoyed reading the article on Neville Southall's press conference and I would like to submit 'The Net Result' as a title.

Good luck to eveyone at ToffeeWeb and to Neville with his book.

Rob Pryor
347   Posted 27/02/2012 at 19:17:19

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About 10-12 years ago, a friend of mine was at a mobile telecoms conference. On the one-2-one stand (who were our sponsors at the time) there was an opportunity to take penalties at big Nev. My mate obviously fancied a go but being a red ? and a personable one at that ? started up with the banter: "Are you ready, bin-man?" etc etc.

And being the gregarious gobshite that he is, my mate, in the bar afterwards, managed to get the big man to give me a call. Sadly my phone was switched off at the time so the first I knew about it was picking up a voicemail from Neville Southall expressing his disappointment that I wasn't available for a chat and to wish me all the best!

Seems to me that he's one of the good guys... Along with Phil (the gobshite). Thanks mate :)
Paul Wharton
420   Posted 28/02/2012 at 11:56:53

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Paul
Good article as always.
Paul Wharton
Jamie Sweet
847   Posted 02/03/2012 at 02:10:52

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A great read thanks Paul.

I don't think Big Nev was so articulate when he was playing in goal mind you.

First away game my old man ever took me to was Selhurst Park on a freezing January afternoon. I was right near the front, but the only voice I could hear on the pitch was Nev's... every single word... every second of which started with F.

I think my Dad was worried that hearing my hero speak like that would negatively influence me.

Didn't fucking do me any fucking harm though!

A great man, and an even better keeper! Can't wait to read the book.
Ean Palese
969   Posted 02/03/2012 at 18:49:54

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Big Nev - my ultimate favorite sportsman and Evertonian. When I was in high school, in the mid 80's, I sent Big Nev a letter - telling him he was my hero, blah blah blah. I'm sure I was one of the many, many letters he would get. I sent it from the US and he didn't know me and didn't owe me. I also asked him If he wouldn't mind sending me a recipe because I knew he messed around in the kitchen as hobby. Not expecting anything back, I nearly shit myself when I received a huge package in the post (a few months later) with the stamp postmarked, 'Liverpool.' I opened it and in it was a few Everton media guides, a sticker, and a recipe for Sole with Prawns, and a separate signed Everton watermarked paper with 'Best regards, Neville Southall.' He is the man. I was totally chuffed and hope that we all can be as personable and humble and giving as he.
Andrew James
005   Posted 03/03/2012 at 02:00:11

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Ean - that is so cool. My grandad was a season ticket holder and, when I was 8, he got me a signed photo of Ratcliffe and a squad photo signed by all the players including Big Nev.

But for Big Nev to send you an actual recipe!? That's a personal touch that goes a long way.
Jim McGuire
938   Posted 07/03/2012 at 20:49:58

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What a legend. I remember writing to him in the mid-nineties to ask for an autograph. A few weeks later I received my stamped address envelope back with not only one but three signed photos (which I've still got to this day). Not only this but he'd obviously clocked that I lived in Wales and I also received the autographs of half of the Welsh squad on headed note paper from their Bulgarian team hotel from a Euro qualifier! Most of the names on there were nothing to write home about but the 'R Giggs' one really pleased me (this was the mid-nineties and Giggs-mania was really taking off!).

Can't wait for the book, wish players like Nev were around now.
David Starsky
562   Posted 10/03/2012 at 13:16:20

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Hi Paul, I can't improve on perfection...Great roundtable !

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