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Friday, December 04, 2009

Tom Clare transcribes an exclusive interview with Phil Neville

Tom Clare - author of the excellent Forever a Babe kindly transcribes this fascinating interview with Phil Neville for Red News readers

Red News contributor Tom Clare's book - Forever a Babe - order via Amazon

Phil Neville Talks to Ian Cheeseman of BBC Radio Manchester

I.C. My special guest this evening is the Everton captain and former Manchester United and England fullback, Phil Neville. Good evening I’m Ian Cheeseman. It’s your chance to hear one of the region’s sporting superstars talking about everything that you’d expect them to talk about perhaps, but also about one or two things that you might not have heard them talk about before. My guest tonight as I said is one of Fergie’s Fledglings, Phil Neville, these days at Everton, but clearly enjoying his home, high in Central Manchester, in the Beethan Tower.

P.N. I love it. It’s amazing really ‘cos when we bought it, it was as an investment, and when I was still at Man United. It was funny really because it was one night when I was reading the Manchester Evening News, the front page news was about a skyscraper going up in Central Manchester, and I’ve been to America loads of times, it’s one of my favourite countries and I thought oooh I’ve always wanted to live in a skyscraper, you know, higher than everybody else, so I said to my wife “we’ve got to look at one of these” and that time they hadn’t even got planning permission, so I rang the number that was at the bottom of the piece and they told me that they were selling out fast. So later I made a quick decision, and to be honest with you, I’m normally the most cautious person in the world, and there and then I put our names down for one, before I’d even really consulted the wife. So 4/5 years later, and well three years later I’d moved to Everton and was still living in Rossendale, and you know the M66 and theM60 and M62 were becoming a nightmare, and it was taking 2 hours into work every day and it was getting to the point where I wasn’t looking forward to getting up in the morning, because to be spending so much time in traffic is not conducive for an athlete, so you know we said look, let’s try moving into town. My wife was a little reluctant because she was worried about the two kids, and she wondered if that was the best decision for us. Our parents were saying “deary me you can’t do that, you can’t be taking the kids up there”. So I said to my wife “Come on, let’s do something off the cuff for once in our lives.” And we did and two and a half years later, we’ve just fallen in love with the place.

I.C. You were determined to be near the top then because this is pretty much at the top floor?

P.N. Well, I think that was one of my wife’s stipulations, that if we were going to move into a skyscraper, then why don’t we make sure that we’re at the top, and obviously we almost managed that because we’re on the second to the top floor.

I.C. Have you ever watched these documentaries like on 9/11 and ever thought that can happen here?

P.N. (laughing) It’s funny really because my daughter is obviously disabled, and the first thing that my wife said was; “if there is a fire, how do we get Isabella down – down the steps?” So it was the first thing that we looked into. They assured us that in the event of a fire, the first port of call for the firemen would be to us to take us down in the fire lift. The first time the Hotel opened, my Mother and Father – in – Law went to the opening of Decal 23 which is on the 23rd floor, which is still a great height, and there was a fire drill, and my Mother and Father – in – Law had to walk down 23 flights of stairs in their finery! The ‘phone went about quarter to ten at night and normally when my Mother – in – Law rings, I pass it straight to my wife. Well, on this occasion she didn’t want to speak to my wife, she said to me; “there’s no way you can take those kids up into this building!” So I had to obviously sweet talk her then that it was a one off thing, and touch wood, it hasn’t happened since.

I.C. What’s it like living here then? Obviously you have a fantastic view, do you not get a bit bored looking out of the window?

P.N. To be honest with you, it is, I’m gonna’ bore you here with it now, you can see the weather coming in from a distance. It’s funny, at times you can have one side of the building bathed in sunshine, and then on the other you can see the rain coming in and the most unbelievable day of the year, and people won’t probably believe this, but we woke up on Christmas Day, our first Christmas Day here, we looked out of the window, and we were above the clouds. It was like what you see out of an aeroplane. You just see the clouds below you. It was one of the most amazing things that I have ever seen, and like I say, I bore people all the time by sending them pictures through the ‘phone of the weather and the clouds, and everything ‘cos you can see everything from up here.

I.C. I suppose it’s the definitive footballer’s pad is it? I mean in a sense that it is something absolutely exclusive, you can imagine MTV or somebody coming around here can’t you? (laughing)

P.N. Well, it is lovely. I mean we are really lucky. The thing that we really love about the place is that there is nothing else like it or even similar in Manchester.

I.C. There’s a wind howl up here, can you hear the wind?

P.N. Yeah, well, two nights ago, I think it was Friday night, we’ve got some hanging lights there and they were really swaying from side to side. When you first move in it can be a little disheartening when you’re watching the tele and you think that you can feel the building moving. But it’s like anything else, you do get used to it. It gets quite funny because when people first come here and they’re coming up in the lift and their ears are popping, and they come up here and they see the windows, and it just takes their breath away. You know, we do love living here and we really do love Manchester, and you know, maybe it’s a short term thing, but the children are still young enough to, you know, at the moment we’re taking them out to the Christmas Markets and it’s only a short walk, and we’ve always played safe in our lives, we’ve always lived no more than 5/10 minutes away from our Mums and Dads, we’ve always lived in the countryside. We just thought about doing something a little bit different, a bit off the beaten track and it’s worked out really exciting. At the moment, we can’t see ourselves moving out of here in the foreseeable future.

I.C. Let’s go back to the beginning and this talented young lad who could do practically anything. We all know that you had this choice between football and cricket, and no doubt other things as well. How difficult was it to make that choice ‘cos a lot of people tell me that you were a better cricketer than footballer?

P.N. Well, I enjoyed my cricket better than football at the time, I must admit. But you know I had so much good advice at the time from the age of 10, I was playing for Lancashire Schoolboys and I was playing 15–25 games a season, which meant 15-25 days off school. Then I got picked for the England Boys cricket team which meant another 25 days off school. Well at 10 years old you think that’s not too `bad, At that time, my parents said that I just had to go for it. But then when I got to 14 – 16 it was a different situation, especially when you were having to take 50 days off school, then it was hard trying to catch up academically. Coupled with that at that age, in the winter months, obviously the more successful I got, I was playing for the Town team, the County team, and the National team, I was missing maybe 100 days a year at school, which really was just not on. My parents didn’t get called in to school, but they did have a meeting with the Headmaster, and the teachers that were in charge of me, and they said look, it's got to the point now, because obviously, my parents had to give their permission for me to be missing school, where I had to make choice between missing school for football, or missing school for cricket. It had got to the point where my academic studies were suffering. That’s really when I went down the football route. But really, the decision was made for me anyway because United had offered me a contract at 16. Lancashire at the time I just don’t think that they did that. It was unheard of for them to offer anybody at 16 a contract. So as I said, the decision was made for me really in the end. I didn’t think when it came though that it was a a difficult decision to make.

I.C. The offer of a contract from United, was that at all related to Gary because he was slightly ahead of you in age?

P.N. Well, yeah, Gary was 2 years above me, but at the time I was playing in Gary’s age group so I was 2 years above myself really. I was playing in the Youth team with Gary, so that’s why United offered me the contract. It was a 2 years YTS and 2 years professional contract so really I’d been guaranteed 4 years work. When young people leave school, it’s not too often that they get guaranteed 4 years work, so I sat down with Mum and Dad and they said that I’d only get one opportunity in life so we decided to go for it. They encouraged me to carry on with my studies. They always thought that I could come back to my studies if it didn’t work out, so as I said, in the end, the direction and choice was made for me.

I.C. You might say that I wouldn’t say this if Gary was here, but I always thought that you were the more talented footballer. Is there a rivalry, and did you always think that?

P.N. No! It’s amazing really because we’ve never ever seen ourselves as rivals, and everybody has always tried to paint us as rivals. What’s amazing is that in a roundabout way we have always been rivals because we’ve always been challenging for full back positions for both club and country, but we have never ever seen it like that. I think that’s testament to our parents really, mainly because they never ever encouraged rivalry between us. We’ve always supported each other. There were many occasions when we’ve both been left out of teams for one another, but we’ve never ever seen that as a rivalry. It’s meant that we’ve been the best of friends throughout our lives, and we are to this day, and as I say, all the credit for this must go to our parents in the way that they brought us up.

I.C. Gary is an out and out right back, but you have played in several different positions. Is that because for the want of a different phrase, that you have been treading on each others toes almost?

P.N. Well, I think that it started probably when I was14, or 15, when I had to get into the Youth team and I played left back, and I played left back. I played left back well, I have actually played 45/50% of my career at left back, people don’t probably remember that. I played for England probably 50% at left back. It’s not my best position by far. Now I’m probably classed more as a midfielder, central midfielder. In my latter stages of my United career I got moved to right back and for England. The versatility though has always helped me and it’s always been a strength in that if I can’t get in a team in one position, I’ve been able to get in in another. I have represented England in 3 different positions, so it’s not the case that I have been an understudy who could just do an okay job. I have always seen versatility as a challenge rather than a hindrance.

I.C. You were born in Bury, are you proud of your home town?

P.N. Without a doubt, without a doubt! Growing up I’ve always been proud of my roots. Proud that my Mum still works for Bury today as does my Grandma’ and my auntie and uncle, and as my father did for a long time also. It’s something that will never ever leave me. I’ve even put it in my will, that god forbid it, if anything ever happens to me, that wherever I am in the World, I always want to be brought back home to Bury to be buried. And that’s just something that’s so important to me. It’s something that keeps me grounded. I love going back to Bury just in itself to visit family, even sometimes when me and my brother get together, or I’m at the club. Even though I’m at Everton, and we have players of all different nationalities, there are so many times when I deliberately over emphasise the Bury accent and where I’m from, just to have a laugh really, because it’s who I am and it’s a big part of my life.

I.C. There’s always been this myth at Bury that there is a mysterious benefactor and a lot of people have an idea that is you and Gary. Any truth in that?

P.N. No, no, not at all. I think that there has been opportunities in the past where we have been asked to buy the club. I probably shouldn’t be saying that, but it’s not something that we really want to be going down that route really because it would be just too difficult for us.

I.C. Because you’re in the game still? Or is it something that would appeal tpo you later?

P.N. No, no, because the thing is that Bury are struggling financially, and most clubs at the bottom, I don’t want to be the person who has to say, sell the stadium, sell the ground, sack the manager. I grew up watching Alan Hill, but now Alan Hill is the manager of Bury, so to be honest, it’s just not something that interest me at all. I love Bury. When Bury were going through financial problems not so long ago, I know that United did their bit, there was a friendly, an FA Cup tie, I know that me and my brother do as much as we can to help them, but we would never ever buy them.

I.C. It can’t be something that you won’t have thought much about yourself, but modern day Premiership footballers earn as much in a year that would probably be enough to keep Bury going, perhaps even more. Is that anything that mentally you ever have a problem with?

P.N. It’s funny you say that because take away the Premiership footballer individually the amount of money that the clubs earn in general, and I know I had this debate the other day with one of the coaches at Everton, that surely, surely, that if a club earns 50 million pounds in a season of t.v rights. and sponsorship, and yes they deserve that, but then surely each club could donate one million pounds to the lower divisions? I honestly don’t know the financial ins-and-outs, but it does sadden me that when I go and visit my Mum at Bury, and Everton have played 3 pre-season games there, that it still looks the same now as it did some 10 even 20 years ago. They do have a lovely stadium, but even going to buy toilet rolls or even a tin of paint is difficult for clubs like Bury. It saddens me and I just wish that, you know, a lot more things could be done to help the smaller clubs.

I.C. It’s a question that a lot of fans would ask of footballers, but which is on this philosophical thing. Do you ever feel guilty about the fact that you do earn so much money?

P.N. I never feel guilty because I feel that I work extremely hard and I’ve had to sacrifice a lot throughout my life. It’s certainly not my fault that there is a lot of money within the game today, it’s not my fault that somebody is willing to pay Everton or the Premier League, you know, 50 – 100 million pounds in television rights. Let me ask you – why do these television people want to spend all that money? The answer is to see the players out on the pitch. Then surely it goes without saying that those players certainly deserve some of that pot? All I can say on the matter is that I do get paid an awful lot of money, but I hope that by keeping my roots and by keeping myself grounded that it doesn’t change me, but I certainly don’t feel guilty about it to be honest with you because I have had to make a lot of sacrifices in my life, and I think that you only get out of it what you put into it.

I.C. Let’s move on to United. Do you still have any tie to them, any affection for them now that you’re at Everton?

P.N. I do support Man United and I always have done, and I always will do. That’s something that nobody can ever take away from me. You know, when I joined Everton, for a couple of seasons, it was always a bugbear I think with a lot of supporters, and it took me a while to really win them over. But think that now they do realize that I give my all for Everton. I love playing for Everton Football Club and it’s been one of the best moves of my career. I owe them so much. I give them everything. But rewind back 5 years and I’m still a Man United fan, and when I eventually finish, I’ll become a Man United fan again. That’s life. That’s not something that I can hide away from. It’s something that’s in the fabric of all the family. We can’t hide from it.

I.C. Duncan Ferguson of course had an Everton tatoo on his arm and that caused him some problems when he moved. You haven’t gone that far have you?

P.N. No, no. Because you know, it’s no different than say Irish people, Scottish people, supporting Celtic. You know, you saw it with Roy Keane when he played for man United. He was a Celtic supporter, but nobody but nobody can question the amount of blood and sweat that he gave for Man United, and that’s the same with me. I have been fortunate enough to play for the team that I grew up loving and supporting, and that love never goes away. It’s like your first girl friend, it just never goes away.

I.C. You’ve got so many trophies as well to show for that time, I mean you could not have had a more glittering career at Old Trafford could you?

P.N. No, I could not have asked for anything more. To be honest with you, if you asked me now what medals I won there, I couldn’t tell you. Because you know the medals were obviously the pinnacle, but the friends, the enjoyment, that I got out of playing over there for such a long time was just amazing. Friends that will be friends until the day I die and the memories will with me forever. You know, I was so successful, I was part of a really successful team, and part of a team and a generation of players that probably put Manchester United back on the map, and started the most successful period in the history of the Club. So I am so proud of that and nobody can ever take that away from me.

I.C. Obviously your brother, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, they all came through together so I’m guessing that those are your closest mates are they?

P.N. Without out a doubt, without a doubt. They are friends. Butty, Scholesy, Giggsy, Becks, my brother – you’re talking about superstars, but the best players in the game over the last decade, but who I just look at as friends, and close friends at that, who are friends that would absolutely die for you on the pitch, and friends that are there for you off the pitch as well, and are friends for life. I was so lucky to be part of that golden generation of young players that came through and really took the club to another level.

I.C. There’ll probably never ever be another group like that will there because football’s changing so much?

P.N. Never.

I.C. You can’t imagine can you?

P.N. You hope that there will be but there was never beforehand and there will never be afterwards. It was just an unbelievable set of players, and going back to when I first broke into the Youth team at 15, going into Gary’s age group, you know you can add Robert Savage to that and Keith Gillespie, players that went on to have great careers in the game. It was just such a freak of nature and I was so luckmy to be part of it and I don’t think that it will ever be done again.

I.C. With them being your friends, and obviously there are others in that as well, does it make it impossible for you to say who the best was that you played with?

P.N. No. No. The best player there was Ryan Giggs by far, and he still is to this day. He’s without doubt my hero. I grew up loving Bryan Robson. Now I just look at Ryan Giggs and think he’s got to be one of the greatest players ever to play…. he is probably the greatest player ever to play for Man United, I know United have had some great players, but he’s won everything, he’s broke almost every record so he stands alone now as probably one of the greatest players that has ever lived and I was fortunate enough and I still am to this day and to call him a friend and to have played with him. And he’s still, even now, putting in unbelievable performances and he’s just, and if young players are looking at how to live your life, then they should look no further than Ryan Giggs, ‘cos people take him for granted I think at times, but believe me, he is the real football superstar.

I.C. Does personality matter because most fans judge only what you see out on the pitch, and we get little glimpses, you know, of what a player’s really like. Understandably you want to keep your privacy a little bit. But you know them, does the personality of the person really matter?

P.N. I think it certainly does when you go out onto that pitch. I think sometimes that you can leave your personality in the dressing room, sometimes you don’t have a personality in the dressing room, and then all of a sudden you go over that white line where it matters and that’s when you need your personality to be successful as a footballer. The good thing about Ryan was that he had personality in the dressing room – strength, mental toughness in the dressing room – but his mental toughness, skill, and strength out on the pitch was even greater, and I think that was probably the strength of all those players that broke through. The minute that they went over that white line, they were all great players. Nicky Butt, you could put Nicky Butt in any arena in the world and he had the best temperament to play in any arena in the world. Scholesy, he’s probably just been one of the best midfield players in the world, especially since the Premiership started. Becks is just an absolute superstar, he’s a phenomenon and his drive and will to succeed is as good as anything. Gary is without doubt probably one of the most consistent full backs in world football. People say in English football? No, in world football, both in the 90’s and 2000’s. Those are the kind of players who I grew up with and the cherry on the cake was obviously Ryan Giggs.

I.C. What have you made out of what has happened to David, you know, the super stardom that he’s got around the world? You know, he’s so famous around the world, he’s almost more famous now for what he does off the field than what he does on it. I mean, you know him, has it surprised you that he’s gone down that route?

P.N. Well, you know, you say go down that route, but the most important route for David is still his football. You can tell that the sacrifices that he’s making even now in L.A. where he still wants to go to a World Cup so he’s signed for A.C. Milan. It means leaving his family behind again in L.A. for almost six months. That is some sacrifice to make when you’re 35 years old and you don’t need to do it any more. But he has got that drive to be the greatest ever England player of all time. You know, he maybe a few years ago, after the World Cup in Germany when people were writing him off and saying that he’d gone, he easily could have hung up his boots then and gone to L.A. and lived an easy life. But he’s got this determination that he wants to be the greatest. The way he keeps going, and in flying back from L.A. to play in and English shirt on a Wednesday night, and still perform the way that he does, because believe me, you can try your Aaron Lennons, and your Shaun Wright-Phillips’s, your Jermaine Jenas’s’ who are all good players – but – they are not as good as David Beckham. That shows when David comes on for England and turns on the business.

I.C. His critics have always said that Victoria’s always been a bad influence on him. Obviously, you know them as real people. I guess you’d say that’s not true?

P.N. Well, to me they look the perfect partnership. They’re the most successful man and wife in sport and in showbiz. They’re still together today, they’ve got three lovely kids so they must be doing something right. They’re hugely successful and behind every good man there’s a strong woman, and you know they’re just a fantastic couple. The thing is for me about David, if you’ve grown up with him, you don’t see him as a superstar – you just see him as David Beckham from Essex. The Man United fan who still comes up, his Dad still wears a man United scarf. His Mum follows them everywhere – that’s all you see, because that’s who he is really.

I.C. What about Sir Alex – what are your thoughts about him?

P.N. I’d say that he is someone that if I was in any kind of trouble I could still go and see him. I speak to him now and again. I wish him all the best, I congratulate him on championships, he congratulates me, he wishes me all the best like he did in the F.A. Cup Final last season. We have an unbelievable respect for each other. He did so much for me. I’ll be indebted to him for the rest of my life, and for the relationship that we had. Still, to this day, even if he walks in the room, even though I am 32 now and have a lot of experience, it’s still like my headmaster walking in the room. I still call him “Boss”. He is the absolute pinnacle of what a manager should be. I’m lucky really, because I joined Everton and I’m working with a manager that is similar. Similar in his drive and determination, it made the transition easy for me.
I.C. Both Scots aren’t they? Is that a coincidence?

P.N. Yes, well if you look at most Scottish people, they have a grounding and a work ethic that’s second to none and that’s something that’s very apparent in both of them.

I.C. Was it tough for you to leave United to go to Everton?

P.N. Yes, it was the toughest thing that I have ever done. I could have stayed there. I was under no pressure to leave. The hardest part for me was leaving my friends. Leaving my friends and my brother – leaving my brother in particular because, every day, you know, 16 years we spent every day together. Then all of a sudden we now see each other probably once a week, and for the first year it was like losing a friend. I used to take it for granted the fact that every day we’d just see each other. Some might say that it’s good that you don’t see your brother every day, but for me you know, with him being my best mate, that was the hardest bit. Getting used to playing without my brother getting changed next to me in the dressing room and sometimes my brother next to me out on the pitch.

I.C. Of course you’ve got a twin sister haven’t you? I mean we’ve talked to Tracy and she’s such a bubbly character. You’re very close to her?

P.N. Yes, she’s my twin sister. She was born 12 minutes earlier than me so I’m the youngest in the family which is always hard to swallow sometimes. She’s fantastic. She’s had an unbelievable career at netball. She’s obviously working hard at her job now to be a sports fitness coach. You know we’re so proud of her, because she’s worked harder than me and my brother put together to get to where she is today. Obviously she’s hugely successful. She’s setting up a netball road-show now, where she’s going around teaching kids, and spreading the gospel about netball. It’s something she’s pioneered from the very first day, and probably having a couple of brothers who play football has helped her, and helped netball itself. She’s lobbied so much for netball to become an Olympic sport and Commonwealth sport, and to put netball on the map. Even today when she’s not playing, she’s still trying to help put netball on the map. She’s much more livelier than Gary and me.

I.C. Have you ever been playing at Old Trafford when they’ve sung her song? “Tracy Neville’s on the Ball”.

P.N. No, I think that there’s only Tracy sings that! No I’ve only actually heard in an airport once and it really made me laugh!

I.C. You’re a very close knit family aren’t you, and that comes over so much?

P.N. Yes, we are. We have family meals every week. You look at a large number of families today and they very rarely get together, and it’s just something that we have to do, and it’s not something that’s organized, it’s just, you know, Sundays we’ll go around to my Mum and Dad’s. Or Saturdays we’ll go to a football match together and it’s just something that both our families have to do, especially as now both me and my brother have children. It’s brought us all closer together, so grandparents and grandchildren are now all getting involved. It’s why we’ve remained so close, it’s why we are such good friends with each other, even when at times we’ve been competing for the same spot, or when Tracy’s had a game playing for England, and obviously we’ve not been able to go and watch her because, you know that must be hard, because she’s watched us in probably every England game we’ve played, but me and my brother have probably only…. she’s played for England 111 times, and we’ve only probably seen three of those games. So that must be hard that her brothers don’t go and watch her. But she understands, and the relationship that we have means that it is something that never comes between us.

I.C. Do you think that, you as an individual, are a bit of a throwback to a couple of generations ago? You know, in terms of your groundedness, your family, attitude/ You obviously think about everything quite deeply. You know when I talk to older generation footballers, that’s how they come across, but we don’t ever get as close, nor have the same feel for the modern footballer, and that’s from a fan’s perspective. Do you think that you’re a throwback?

P.N. Well, I am definitely….. I do like the older generation values, it’s something that has been drilled into me since day one. It’s something that I’ve kept my focus on. The young players at Everton… I was in the, indoor gym the other day, and they all came in and were in there doing a little bit of messing about with ball, and then they all left. They all left without picking the balls up. Now for me, when I was their age, that would have bee the biggest crime in my day. So you know, I went after them and I frog marched the whole 20 of them back into the gym, and made them pick all the balls up and clean the place up to how it was when they had come in in the first place. And you know, they were looking at me as though I’d got a horn in the middle of my head, but it was something that was important to me, and I think should have been important to them. The old style values of respect. So yes, definitely, I do have those older generation sense of values, simply and purely because they work. They worked for me, so I obviously want my children to have those same kind of values.

I.C. Given your experiences then, would you want to carry that sort of experience and attitude into management? Have you thought what you will do after you have finished playing?

P.N. Yes, it’s something that I really want to do. I’m really keen. I’ve been doing quite a lot of media whilst I’ve been out injured, and it is something that I do enjoy. However, coaching or managing would be my passion. It is now. Since I came to Everton I’ve got really into it. The “Boss” is at me all the time to get my coaching badges. He’s really keen for me to get involved in that side of the game. I still think that there is a long way to go just yet as I still have big ambitions left. It is though something in the next couple of years that I will be putting my heart and soul into it. And yes, I will have the old type values that I was brought up with, when I hopefully do go into management.

I.C. It’s now come to the stage where I want to ask you the slightly cliché’d questions, you know, the highlights of your career, and the moments that stand out for you, you know the odd goal here and there, and things like that. What is it that you look back upon now and remember most fondly?

P.N. I’ve had two highlights in my career. The first without doubt was pulling on that United jersey for the first time. Without a shadow of a doubt, I’ll never ever forget it until the day I die. The second one, in a funny way, was scoring the goal for Everton against United at Wembley, and not celebrating. You know it was really the moment where I had finally won the Everton fans over. But at the same time, I also had gained the respect of the United fans as well because I wasn’t celebrating in their faces, a club that I’d put my heart and soul into. I was never going to rub it in their faces. For me it was the second highlight of my career and walking up to take that penalty when the consequences of me missing that spot kick could have been the end and have cost me my Everton career. I’m proud of that.

I.C. It’s very interesting that you don’t pick anything out of any individual honour for Manchester United.

P.N. No, well, it’s just that individual honours have never ever interested me at all. I see some people who win a game and they don’t score and they’re unhappy. To me that makes me ill because if it’s a choice between the team winning and me not playing or the team not winning and me playing, then I’d rather the team win and me not play or be sat on the sub’s bench. That’s the attitude I had at United and the one I’ve always had throughout my career. It’s always got to be “WE” before “ME”.

I.C. There’s certainly lots of “We” medals, you know the titles you won with all the lads that came up together with you from the Youth team.

P.N. Yes, they were special, but it’s like I say, the most important thing for me was being part of a team, and being accepted as part of the team and that I was just as an important player as everybody else was, and that I also played my part.

I.C. What about incidents that have happened? Has there been funny things that have happened?

P.N. Well there’s always pranks that are played, especially when you’re away and holed up in a hotel for a few days. Nicky Butt and Ryan Giggs were the most pranksters involved. They were always playing jokes on me and Gary, because as you can imagine, especially in a dressing room, if somebody picks on my brother then I stick up for him, somebody picks on me and it’s vice-versa. Gary and I became some kind of double act at the time. There was many a day when Coley and Yorkie would wind us up b y picking on Gary and we’d both end up scrapping with them. Another time we were staying up in Sunderland at a hotel that had been an old Castle. Just after we’d had our tea in the evening, we had to go back to our rooms and they were across a kind of courtyard. It was said that the place had been haunted. Anyways, Gary and I are strolling across this courtyard in the dark when two blokes with pillow cases jumped out on us and they had pillow cases over their heads. They got hold of us and said they were kidnapping us and I’ll be honest, we almost crapped ourselves. Then we heard Giggsy and Butty laughing – they’d put members of the hotel staff up to it. There were lots of things went on, but not for relating here.

I.C. Thanks so much Phil.

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