Just 9 days ago, former Blackburn and West Ham star Lucas Neill raised a few eyebrows as football fans were greeted with the shock revelation that the Australian defender had completed a transfer to Galatasaray. The news came as a surprise considering Neill had only recently joined the Premier League side Everton and the defender still looked to be finding his feet at Goodison Park. Since his days with Blackburn, Neill has found his popularity significantly drop and consequently many fans were pleased to see him leave. But why are many glad to see the back of the Australian?
Neill began his career with Millwall and earned himself a reputation as an impressive defender during his six year stint with the London club. His performances meant he eventually step up the Premier League, with Blackburn Rovers shelling out just shy of £1 million for the Australian. The versatile defender was a hit at Ewood Park and became a fan favourite due to his commitment and bravery. The Australian was however; largely unpopular with fans of other Premier League sides as he gained a reputation for turning his commitment into aggression. Arguably Neill’s most famous incident came during the 2003-04 season against Liverpool when the Australian broke the leg of Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher in what was a very poorly timed challenge. Neill received a red card and three match ban for his antics yet Carragher found himself on the sidelines for six months. The Australian earned few admirers with his actions after the game as the defender took two days to comment before finally responding with the following words:
“There was no intent. I simply went to play the ball. I am an aggressive player, that’s part of my game. But I also play it fairly.”
Neill hardly reacted in the most professional manner and since this day has received a tirade of boos every time he has stepped onto the Anfield pitch.
Neill expressed his desire to leave Ewood Park in the summer of 2006, stating his wish for a new challenge. Rumours had circulated that Liverpool had made a bid for the player and the link created mayhem amongst the Anfield faithful who were thoroughly against seeing the defender in a Liverpool shirt. Neill eventually joined West Ham United in January of 2007 and the move was met with negative responses from the Blackburn. Rovers fans clearly felt that the move did not signal any progression in the defenders career and believed the Australian’s motives were largely financial.
The defender would spend two years at Upton Park, becoming a key figure for the Hammers as they narrowly avoided relegation. However, Neill would once again request a move away from east London, turning down a contract extension offer in favour of pastures new. Neill then spent a brief period as a free agent, reportedly turning down offers from such attractive prospects as Atlético Madrid. After much deliberation the defender decided to accept Everton’s offer and the Australian joined the toffees in late September of last year. Neill has however, experienced a brief stay at Goodison Park, opting to join the Turkish side Galatasaray instead of fighting for his place in the side.
Neill is an example of a player whose combative style often turns into aggression and the Australian has experienced his fair share of controversy in his time in England. His lack of loyalty in recent years has seen the defender left with few admirers in the country and the league will be glad to be rid of him.