Saturday, 28 July 2007

Captain Neill

Lucas Neill says he is honoured to become the captain of West Ham United and hopes it will finally silence his detractors. Neill was heavily criticised last January after he rejected a move to Liverpool and opted for a move to east London, although West Ham were facing a relegation battle at the time. Doubters suggested the Australian international chose Upton Park because of the salary he was reportedly offered but Neill demonstrated his commitment by fighting his way back from injury to help keep the club in the Premier League. "I think my decision has been vindicated to some extent," he said. "I don’t need to prove anything to anybody and being announced as the captain shows I was always going to be part of this team. It wasn't ever promised, but I was told I would be important. If I was only joining for money, I would have sat on the sidelines and just picked up my wages. I didn't do that. I got in the trenches and helped dig us out. Now I’m hoping the gamble comes good because chairman Eggert Magnusson is ambitious and the manager is hungry. We want to achieve much bigger and better things this season."

Neill, who returned to pre-season training at Upton Park yesterday following international duty with Australia in the Asia Cup, insists he just wants to pay West Ham back for the desire they showed to sign him. "I’ll lead on the training ground and not take second best," he declared. "Not in a ranting, raving way, just give people constructive criticism . . . I’ll just be an Aussie! Being captain is a massive honour for me. Some huge names have led this club. To be on that list is phenomenal. Bobby Moore was obviously one of the most famous captains in the history of the game and I know I’m nowhere near his level, but to be given this honour is truly something special. It’s an opportunity you never usually dream of getting."

The 28-year-old Australian defender, who is also captain of his national team, was always seen by many as the natural successor to Nigel Reo-Coker, who recently joined Aston Villa.
He got the nod ahead of fellow national captains Freddie Ljungberg of Sweden and Craig Bellamy of Wales as well as new signing Scott Parker, who was Newcastle skipper. The Aussie says expects his team-mates to give him a kick up the backside if he is not doing the business; dangerous words I would have thought given the reputations of some of those he will be leading. "It’s fine if people kick me up the bum because I’m not always going to be perfect all the time," stated Neill. "I’m going to have some bad games but as long as we stick together we’ll be okay. That’s the message I want to get across — we have to stick together in the dressing-room. If people step out of line, then we’re open to each other’s criticism and to push each other to greater heights. The more leaders we’ve got, the more people know how to win games. I’ve been captain a few times before so like to think managers like my attitude and the way I try to play the game with a bit of passion. There are a few leaders in this team so I’m sure we’ll be relying on a few of us rather than just one. I prefer a noisy dressing room to a quiet one, as long as it’s a constructive and positive noise. I can’t see it being overly aggressive or too much feuding but I think behind the scenes the mood will be determined with a lot of winners."

Alan Curbishley
explained his decision on the official site: "I'm pleased to confirm Lucas as the new team captain of West Ham United. He has all the qualities needed to captain a Club of this stature. He understands the role, has been used to it with Blackburn Rovers and Australia, and I'm sure it is an appointment that everybody at the Club is happy with."

Further reading: Turmoil tearing at Neill; Civil war splits Socceroos;

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