When I was growing up I wanted to be Neville Southall. Everton's number one, and what a number one. When he left, it was strange. But he only left temporarily, as the most capped Welsh international footballer can't keep away from Goodison and the City of Liverpool. When I had the chance to spend some time with Nev, I didn't think twice. In a small pub down a side street in Runcorn the big man was signing copies of his new book "The Binman Chronicles" and as I introduced myself he was only more than happy to have a chat. From 1985, Howard Kendall, Joe Royle, Brett Angell, playing for a mens' team as a child to helping change ex-offender's lives, Nev was completely open, honest and to the point as he chatted with me (over a Diet Coke!).
DarrenMelling: Neville, thanks for taking the time to speak with RBM. First off, what was the inspiration to write the book?
Neville Southall: "Trying to find the right person. I've been looking for a while and had a few people try to write it but they've never written it in my words, so when I read it it didnt sound like me so I wanted someone to write it in my words, with a few swear words thrown in like, and I wanted to get my personality over and the way I speak - I think that was important for me."
DM: And the title, it's a bit of an unusual one....
Nev: "Well no, because the fans picked it. We had a competition for the fans to pick it, I could put anything I wanted down as a title couldn't I really, the Blue Dragon was mentioned but then we found out its a chippy across the road (from Goodison Park) so I thought it was nice for the fans to pick it to show what they think of me and I was a bin man for two months and nobody lets me forget that and chronicle because its my story so that was a good title for me."
DM: You say that growing up Pat Jennings was one of your heroes, was there any others who inspired you?
Nev: "No, no. Pat was the one. I used to read the papers and see Shilts and Banksy would get the good write ups and I'd watch them on the telly but Pat played with an assurance, no frills, and he was immaculate in what he done."
DM: So he was the only one you looked up to and thought "I want to be him?"
Nev: "Yes, Pat was the only one to be fair. For a long time. Reason being that a lot of these goalkeepers are manufactured, robotic, but Pat wasn't, he was flexible and he would just use different parts of his body to make a save, and I liked that to be fair. If the ball hit him in the face it was a save and if it hit him on the knees it was a save. The ball would come off him at different angles which was brilliant, you cant teach that, you've either got it or you haven't."
DM: So that's who you aspired to be, but who influenced you growing up?
Nev: "Erm, obviously my dad at first. He used to take me to the games and just leave me there. He would drive off, which meant he never put pressure on me, he would never say "you gotta play well today" he would just let me get on with it. So, him first. A man called John Roberts had a local team and I made my debut for him aged 12 in a man's team, so he obviously had a lot of trust in me to put me in a man's team in goal at 12. And then Wilf McGuinness obviously at Bury was great for me and then Jim at Everton was brilliant for me."
DM: You played in probably the best side we have had, the '85 side.....
Nev: "Well I think it's one of the best sides but I don't think you can compare sides like the one with Kendall, Harvey and Ball to our side, I think it's really hard to compare."
DM: Ok, that was a little different as they played with a three and you with a four, but how far do you think that side, your side, could have gone if it wasn't through, as you say, no fault of our own?
Nev: "Oh I think we would have dominated Europe for a long time, no doubt about it, and we would have been a bigger club than we are, we would have had better players in, more revenue, and maybe by now we would have had a bigger structure, you know, a bigger ground. We would have probably been able to build at Goodison with people more susceptible to it then rather than now because people are more aware now about how much land costs and in the long run I think it would have been miles better than what it is now."
DM: So we could have pressed on then like Manchester United have more recently?
Nev: "Well yeah, we wouldn't have lost the manager, wouldn't have lost Gary or Trevor, so yeah, we would have been alright I think."
DM: Did you ever think about leaving?
Nev: "No. Everything goes through your mind about playing for someone else and who's in charge there. Brian Clough. Playing for Cloughie would have been interesting (because of the personalities) but no, not really. I spoke to Man United, spoke to Liverpool but sometimes you just have to realise where you're happy. And I was happy, why should I move?"
DM: Ok, so looking at that team in '85 and today's side and the squad David Moyes has, would you say there are any comparisons?
Nev: "No. It doesn't compare...... It keeps changing. (David Moyes) has done brilliantly, putting bits of the jigsaw in but I don't think its anywhere near where he wants it to be, you know, I think he would like some more money to bring in maybe a striker, a midfielder, a centre half, so I don't think it's complete, no. Ours was pretty much complete with two of the greatest players never mentioned in Alan Harper and Kevin Richardson. Nobody ever mentions them and they played in probably every position except in goal and did a brilliant job and must have made the club, what, millions in all fairness, because they did an exceptional job and their level of consistency was second to none. I think ours was a settled team of 13 to 14 and we played every week and the team spirit was good. We could play when we wanted to play and we could kick and fight when the other team wanted to fight. We had the perfect combination of both and I think the current lads are probably slightly weaker in depth than what ours was. I think that's what he's trying to address to be fair but if you ask David Moyes I don't think he's finished."
DM: Agreed. What do you think is the potential of this current team?
Nev: "If they buy in January they will finish fourth. If they don't, they won't.
DM: Where would you strengthen?
Nev: "I think he needs another striker, a midfielder who is creative due to having two wide players. Mirallas is fantastic but sometimes he needs the ball in front of him and not straight to his feet. I'd buy another centre half just in case we get a couple of injuries. Because I think what we lack at times is a player, a genuine genuine "roll your sleeves up" type of player who is going to take the game by the scruff of the neck and change it. I mean they all do it, but if you had one who stood out and was a different type of player to the rest... Phil Neville does it a bit but with all due respect to Phil we need a more... a better class of player than Phil is. Phil does a job but, you know what I mean, someone who's going to roll their sleeves up and make that tackle or scores that goal that really affects the game. Phil's not that sort of player so if they had someone like that then I'd be happy."
DM: And what about the goalkeeper? He's not had the best season so far and in my opinion the only one who has come close to replacing you has been Nigel Martyn.....
Nev: "Na Tim's done a great job. I think he's been fantastic. What you have to realise is we've changed the way we play this season, we are much more open because we go forward more. Last season he had a bit more cover but, yeah, I think he's done alright this year. At the end of the day he might have had a couple of dodgy games but so did I, I had a load of them. I don't think he's the problem. I don't think we score enough goals at times and I don't think we kill enough teams off. We've had too many draws and not enough wins. Everyone tends to look at the goalkeeper and go "is it his fault?" but no, I'd like to look somewhere else and think "Where is that spark that can get us the win?" I want players there where people go "I can't wait to go to Goodison to see this game because he's playing. He'll do this, he'll do that." I mean that Spurs game was a pretty average game until the last four minutes and I've never seen such a change of emotion in all my life as there was in the 90th to 94th minute. That just shows we are still a little bit off where we need to be. We need options on the bench. And I don't think he's quite got that quality on the bench and as for competition with the goalkeeper, well that's just a waste of time. What it looks to me is like the ones hes bought in as reserves aren't good enough anyway, so why are they there? They shouldn't be there."
DM: Which leads me to my next question, who do you think should come in there? Names like Craig Gordon, Jack Butland have been mentioned....
Nev: "Wayne Hennessey and Jack Butland are the two I'd look at, and Forster at Celtic. The next one has to be able to come right in to it. Wayne Hennessey has done it in the Premier League and looked good, Butland is an unknown quantity so hes a bit more of a risk, so if Wayne can get back fit and play at least half of the season at Wolves then, you know, and then you look at Forster at Celtic who's got the experience of playing in Europe. But the next one has to come in and go "I'm having this place" and aren't just there for a jog on. I think that's been the problem in the past, he's had players there who just haven't been good enough."
DM: Neville, Howard Kendall has said that you were his best ever signing especially in terms of the money he paid for you. Who is the best manager you have played under? Is it Kendall?
Nev: "Be Howard really, yeah. I think it would be unfair to compare Joe Royle with Howard because Joe came (to Everton) at the wrong time in my career really, and he wasn't there long enough. They were both fantastic but Howard and Colin (Harvey) were brilliant. Howard was doing things years and years before people are doing it now. You know, he had his stop watch out and was doing everything pre-season with a ball long before they started doing it anywhere else. And I tell you something about Howard, he was a great manager, and he never wrote anything down. Great managers don't need to write anything down..."
DM: .... they have it stored in their head.
Nev: "Yeah, all in their head. You never see Sir Alex Ferguson write anything down, Howard didn't write anything down and to be fair David Moyes doesn't write anything down. I have a thing against people who have to write things down, and I think "surely you have to be able to remember that" so yeah, I think Howard was well ahead of his time."
DM: Who was the best player you have played with?
Nev: "I think its really hard to narrow it down, but I always say Trevor (Steven) because Trevor was in training like he was in games until injuries took their toll really. He trained as hard as he could, he played as hard as he could and he had a level of consistency which was outstanding. Once he got his dodgy ankles though he started to struggle really, but he was a brilliant player, on and off the field he was brilliant."
DM: Who is the worst?!
Nev: "I think that's really hard to say to be honest because we've had some shit ones!"
DM: Glen Keeley?
Nev: "Na I think for Glen it was hard. He came into an atmosphere which he had never experienced in his life and I think it was unfair on him to throw him in at that time in all fairness. Glen carried the can for a lot of us being shit on the day really. I dunno, I think... Preki for me was probably the worst. I think..."
DM: Can you say his name Nev?
Nev: "No, Preki. He was the worst. People speak about Bob the Pole (Robert Warzycha) but I liked Bob the Pole, he was a fantastic player who just didn't get the break. Claus Thomson was alright, people forget he was an amateur and then he joined Ipswich and he worked his way up into the Premier League so he did OK, and I always take the piss out of Brett Angell but Brett really wanted to succeed and worked his bollocks off, but it just didn't happen for him in all fairness and he had a horrendous injury in his thigh. So Preki came with the reputation of being the best 5-a-side player in America(The Indoor Soccer League that preceded the MLS). Well I was great in 5-a-side. But I was shit on the pitch, so..."
DM: Yeah its a big difference isn't it?!
Nev: "I think you have to be able to cover for 90 minutes and you have to be able to run, and he couldn't do neither. When he came, Jimmy Gabriel was in charge as Caretaker Manager and he probably didn't want to do it at the time but no one else wanted the job and Jimmy took it on. I lost all respect for Preki to be fair. Here was a geezer who had busted a gut for Everton and Preki came over because he'd kicked a few fucking 5-a-side balls and went up to Jimmy and called him a cabbage. I lost all respect for him after that."
DM: You obviously played as a goalkeeper, but I'm sure you have played out before. Didn't you play up front in David Unsworth's testimonial?
Nev: "I've played out in a few testimonials, played out for a lad at Derby in his testimonial, played out in a few pre-season games at Borussia Monchengladbach I played out for a bit, and for my County I played in goal one year and out the next"
DM: So how did it end up that you were permanently between the sticks?
Nev: "Well I think it was because my younger brother was too young to go in goal and my older brother was too old, so it was like "right, you're in fucking goal and that's it!" and that was that. Or maybe it was because I was tiny, and they thought tiny kid go in goal, he doesn't matter, yeah."
DM: Now you're working down South with youngsters who are NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training), how did you end up going down that route?
Nev: "I did my teaching qualifications when I was 50 years of age, I did alternative curriculum and it was through that really. And it's really good. I mean I've stopped doing it for now and I'm moving to South Wales to start again with a college in Llanelli to work with some young and persistent offenders when they come out of prison to see if we can help them find a job and get them into work because once they come out there's not much support..."
DM: To give them a chance, an opportunity...
Nev: "Yeah, they just need a chance. In today's job market if there's a kid who has just got out of prison and a kid who's never been in prison who are they going to pick? It's hard for them. But it's a problem, a real problem. Kid's go down that road. But, I do prefer it now to what I did. I enjoy it as much as I did football."
DM: Same rewards?
Nev: "They're better rewards. They are better highs and worse lows, in all fairness. It's a more intense thing but when things go right it's fantastic and I think if anybody can change a young kids life then it would be better off. I think it's worth it."
DM: Your testimonial. My uncle was the main sponsor and was Chairman of your Testimonial Committee. We brought Celtic down to play and I was the little bowl headed kid on the pitch at the end presenting you with the trophy. That was a special night for me. The Celtic fans sang your name all night as did the Everton fans. How was it for you, what did it mean, that experience, how special was that for you?
Nev: "Well it was brilliant but at the same time embarrassing. It was an incredibly emotional night and at the same time embarrassing."
DM: In what way?
Nev: "Well it was for me. And I don't deal with that very well t times. I find it hard. It's the same when they ask me to go on the pitch at half time sometimes. I find it hard, I don't do that very well and I find it embarrassing. And one of the reasons why I get embarrassed is because my time has gone. I think it's time for someone else. I think it's time one of them made an effort to get out there and give something back. I'd rather them see new people on the pitch, not old people. I mean drag them out of their grave if you want, but I'd rather look forward than look back. We was a good team, so was Bally's, so was Alex's and so was Gordon West's, but it's this generation now they need to push, and hopefully once they win something it will all be about this team."
DM: Last question, you still go to the match and follow Everton. What is it about the club which is infectious to you? What's so special about that club to you that makes you say "Yeah, I want to go there today."
Nev: "It isn't the game it's the people. The City. When I think of Everton I think of the City. And I think "everybody's tried to screw 'em. Every Government tried to screw the city. The Germans tried to screw 'em, they tried to bomb it off the face of the earth, loads have tried to do it, and no fucker has beat them." That is the team. That is the one, and I think it is brilliant in all fairness. So, it isn't the club, it's the people. And whatever they say, and whatever they do, in 100 years it will be the same type of people who go to the game. And it won't be the game, it will be the people, because without the people there's no club is there? They have to remember that and sometimes they need a kick up the arse to remember it. What they have to remember is without the people there is no club."
DM: So the "People's Club." They need to realise and remember that?
Nev: "I think so, because if they don't they'll get a kick in the bollocks soon enough because people will stop going the match and when people stop going they're fucked. They have to remember where the club came from, who built it. They could say it was managers but managers don't build clubs, the people build the club. And successful people have been into that club and have built it up. You know, I talk to people and they say it's getting expensive, and so maybe they need to get a feel for that bit, maybe they need to look at a cheap deal for kids. Have it £1 for kids and have it every week. It would take a lot of pressure off a lot of families, especially this day in age, so there's that they could do. I also think they could maybe do some more local stuff, especially this time of year, you know, maybe a fund to fund some food places, because food is so expensive now and it's going to go up again, so I think if they could feed more people and you know maybe give a little more shelter then that would be great. The people would still go to the match on a Saturday!"
Neville's book "Neville Southall - The Binman Chronicles" is available from Waterstones.
Follow Neville on Twitter @NevilleSouthall
Thanks to Tony Murrell (@MurrellTony) for making tonight possible.