Phil Neal

Philip George Neal (born 20 February 1951) is an English retired footballer who played for Northampton Town, Liverpool and Bolton Wanderers as a full back. He is one of the most successful English players of all time,[3] having won eight First Divisions, four League Cups, five FA Charity Shields, four European Cups, one UEFA Cup and one UEFA Super Cup during his eleven years at Liverpool. He later returned to Bolton Wanderers as manager, leading them to victory in the Football League Trophy before spells managing Coventry City, Cardiff City and Manchester City.

Phil Neal
Personal information
Full name Philip George Neal[1]
Date of birth (1951-02-20) 20 February 1951[1]
Place of birth Irchester, Northamptonshire, England[1]
Height 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in)[2]
Position(s) Full back[1]
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1968–1974 Northampton Town 187 (28)
1974–1985 Liverpool 455 (41)
1985–1989 Bolton Wanderers 64 (3)
Total 706 (72)
National team
1976–1983 England 50 (5)
Teams managed
1985–1992 Bolton Wanderers
1993–1995 Coventry City
1996 Cardiff City
1996 Manchester City (caretaker)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Neal also had a long career with the England national team, winning 50 caps and playing in the 1982 World Cup. He would go on to be England's assistant manager under Graham Taylor.[4]

Phil Neal's nickname whilst at Liverpool was Zico – a reference to the Brazilian play maker and a compliment to Neal, who was known for scoring important goals throughout the club's history. Phil's son, Ashley Neal, also became a footballer.


Playing career

Neal began his playing career at Wellingborough Town, before he joined Northampton Town in 1968. He went on to make 187 appearances for the club before being signed on 9 October 1974 for £66,000 by Liverpool manager Bob Paisley. Paisley had intended to break Neal in as a replacement for the ageing Chris Lawler, meaning that he initially played as a left-back. It would be, however, his industrious and energetic performances at right-back where he made his name.

Neal made his Liverpool début in the Merseyside derby against Everton at Goodison Park on 16 November 1974, a game which ended 0–0. Neal made his début alongside midfielder Terry McDermott. Neal's first goal for the club came almost exactly one year later on 4 November 1975, during the 6–0 defeat of Real Sociedad in a UEFA Cup game at Anfield.

Neal scored from the penalty spot late in the 1977 European Cup Final, when the Anfield club beat Borussia Mönchengladbach 3–1 in Rome to win the European Cup for the first time. Neal subsequently played in the winning 1978 and 1981 finals, Liverpool beating FC Bruges and Real Madrid respectively. He scored in the first half of the 1984 final against A.S. Roma, which ended 1-1 and was decided on penalty kicks, won by Liverpool (with Neal scoring Liverpool's first goal of the shootout, from its second shot). Neal was the only player to appear in all four of Liverpool's European Cup wins of the 1970s and 1980s.

In total, Neal won eight First Divisions, four League Cups, five FA Charity Shields, four European Cups, one UEFA Cup and one UEFA Super Cup during his eleven years at Liverpool, making him one of the most successful Englishmen ever to play the game. During his Liverpool career, Neal was ever-present in the starting lineup for several seasons. He played a club-record 366 consecutive league matches from 14 December 1974 until 24 September 1983, when he suffered an injury against Manchester United that forced him to miss the following week's match against Sunderland.

Neal departed Anfield after 11 years in 1985, joining Bolton Wanderers as player-manager. He retired from playing in 1989 after more than 700 league appearances and 50 caps for England.

Managerial career

In December 1985, Neal was appointed player-manager of Bolton Wanderers and managed the club for seven years. During this period, Neal led the club to win the Football League Trophy in 1989, although the club would later suffer relegation to the Fourth Division for the first and only time in their history. They won promotion back to the Third Division the following season, reaching the Third Division play-offs in 1990 and 1991 but failed to win promotion on either occasion. In 1991, they had been pipped to automatic promotion by Grimsby Town on goal difference, and lost to Tranmere Rovers in the playoff final. A year later, they finished 13th in the Third Division and Neal was sacked on 8 May 1992. His successor was Bruce Rioch, who guided Bolton to promotion from the newly named Division Two (rebranded as part of a reorganisation prompted by the creation of the FA Premier League) in 1993 and to the top flight in 1995.[5]

Neal returned to club management on 23 October 1993 with Coventry City, beginning his spell at Highfield Road on that day with a 5–1 defeat against QPR that left them 12th in the Premier League.[6][7] Despite a shaky start to his time as Sky Blues manager, they did well in the second half of the season and finished 11th in the league – their highest finish since coming seventh in 1989.[8] Perhaps the most impressive result that season after Neal's arrival was a 4–0 home win over Manchester City on 19 February 1994.[9] However, Coventry struggled in 1994–95 despite the £2million arrival of striker Dion Dublin from Manchester United on 10 September, and Neal was sacked on 14 February 1995[10] despite a 2–0 away win over fellow strugglers Crystal Palace three days earlier, which saw them 17th in the Premier League and two places above the relegation zone.[11] Neal's successor Ron Atkinson ensured City's survival.[12]

He was appointed manager of Cardiff City in Division Three in February 1996, but in October that year he left Ninian Park to become assistant manager to Steve Coppell at Manchester City who were struggling in Division One after relegation from the Premier League. However, Coppell resigned on 8 November 1996 and Neal became caretaker manager until the arrival of Frank Clark on 29 December.[6]

For the 1997–98 season, Neal was recruited as assistant manager to chairman-manager Barry Fry at Peterborough United after their relegation to Division Three, but he was axed by Fry on 15 March 1998.[13]

He has also played for and coached the Liverpool masters side which dominated the Sky Sports Masters series.


In recent years, Neal has worked as a football pundit for various television and radio organisations.

He has written two autobiographies, Attack From The Back in 1981 and Life at the Kop in 1986.

Career statistics


Club performance League Cup League Cup Continental Total
ClubSeasonDivision AppsGoals AppsGoals AppsGoals AppsGoals AppsGoals
Northampton Town 1968–69 Third Division 214 214
1969–70 Fourth Division 131 131
1970–71 182 182
1971–72 411 411
1972–73 389 389
1973–74 469 469
1974–75 102 102
Total 1872818728
Liverpool 1974–75 First Division 230200000 250
1975–76 4262030121 597
1976–77 427822084 61113
1977–78 424109192 6217
1978–79 425701040 545
1979–80 421807020 6011
1980–81 422209091 6313
1981–82 4223010160 6223
1982–83 428308162 6015
1983–84 4112012181 6413
1984–85 4247130100 641,25
1985–86 131002000 1631
Total 45541453664741165059
Bolton Wanderers 1985–86 Third Division 202 202
1986–87 281 281
1987–88 Fourth Division 80 80
1988–89 Third Division 80 80
Total 643643
Career total 70672453664741190190
  • 1 – Also played in the FA Charity Shield
  • 2 – Also played in the Intercontinental Cup
  • 3 – Also played in the Football League Super Cup


England national team



  • Football League First Division (8): 1975–76, 1976–77, 1978–79, 1979–80, 1981–82, 1982–83, 1983–84, 1985–86
  • Football League Cup (4): 1980–81, 1981–82, 1982–83, 1983–84
  • FA Charity Shield (5): 1976, 1977 (shared), 1979, 1980, 1982
  • European Cup (4): 1976–77, 1977–78, 1980–81, 1983–84
  • UEFA Cup (1): 1975–76
  • UEFA Super Cup (1): 1977


Bolton Wanderers
  • Football League Trophy (1): 1988–89


  1. "Phil Neal". Barry Hugman's Footballers. Retrieved 1 May 2020.
  3. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 7 September 2015. Retrieved 21 August 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. "Do I not like that: 20 years since Graham Taylor's World Cup failure". BBC Sport. 8 October 2013. Retrieved 4 January 2019.
  5. "Next Bolton Wanderers Manager Odds". The Sack Race. Retrieved 8 October 2011.
  6. "Phil Neal". Soccerbase. Archived from the original on 24 February 2005. Retrieved 8 October 2011.
  7. "F.A. Carling Premiership 1993/1994". 23 October 1993. Retrieved 8 October 2011.
  8. "F.A. Carling Premiership 1993/1994". 8 May 1994. Retrieved 8 October 2011.
  9. "Coventry City results 1993/1994". Archived from the original on 5 October 2011. Retrieved 8 October 2011.
  10. "SOCCER: PHIL NEAL SACKED AS COVENTRY MANAGER". Retrieved 8 October 2011.
  11. "F.A. Carling Premiership 1994/1995". 11 February 1995. Retrieved 8 October 2011.
  12. "F.A. Carling Premiership 1994/1995". 14 May 1995. Retrieved 8 October 2011.
  13. "Neal sacked". 15 March 1998. Retrieved 8 October 2011.
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