In an interview with The Guardian, Phil Neville has talked about his time at Everton, following his transfer to the Merseyside club in 2005.
David Moyes made Neville his captain, much to the amusement of Liverpool supporters, but he didn’t feel as though he was really accepted until he had been at the club for a few years.
“He made me captain after a month,” he said. “If I’m honest, I didn’t want it. I just wanted to bed in and get a few mates. I really didn’t want the captaincy and for 18 months it was really difficult, the most difficult period of my career. There was a lot of scepticism from the other players. I was close to the boss and I can understand if they were suspicious of me. They had just finished fourth, they had qualified for the Champions League. They had some brilliant characters in that team – [Alan] Stubbs, [Lee] Carsley, [Thomas] Gravesen, [Alessandro] Pistone and many others – and the boss had put all that faith in me. David Moyes, from day one, wanted me to lead that team every single day. He wanted me to set a level of professionalism and a standard the rest would follow. And he would never let me fall beneath those standards. He challenged me every day, threatened me every day. There would be days when I might think ‘I feel a bit tired today’ but the minute he came on the training field I knew he wanted me to be at the front of the running, to be the most intense, to lead the others. I was replacing a great guy in David Weir, and he was brilliant, but it did take the others longer to accept me. The fans too, maybe. I had nailed my flag to the mast. Everyone knew I was a United fan. Liverpool’s supporters used to sing: ‘Your captain’s a Manc’. Gary’s relationship with Liverpool didn’t help either. I really don’t think I was properly accepted until I made that tackle on Ronaldo.”