New Watford signing Lucas Neill hoping to help foreign players understand what is expected in England

Pictures: Action Images

Pictures: Action Images

First published in Latest Sport
Last updated

Lucas Neill's main motivation for joining Watford is reaching a third World Cup but he also believes he can help some of the Hornets’ foreign players understand what is expected in English football.

The former West Ham United defender was without a club and joined the Golden Boys on Monday after impressing during a trial last week.

The 35-year-old remains the Australia captain and has been told by his national team manager that he must play regularly if he is to board the plane for Brazil.

Neill said: "It is definitely my last chance to compete in a World Cup and we have a really challenging and exciting group against Chile, Holland and Spain.

"For any player, going to a World Cup is amazing but to do it three times will be something I would never forget and an opportunity I don't want to let go. That is one of many reasons why I am highly motivated."

Neill has not played a competitive match since Australia’s last fixture in November and the Socceroos manager Ange Postecoglou said that was a primary factor in his decision to omit his captain from Thursday’s friendly with Ecuador, which will take place at Neill’s old stomping ground The Den.

"Yes he [Postecoglou] did explain the decision," Neill said. "There are three or four experienced players not in the squad because it is the last chance for the squad to get together before May and the manager wants to try a few ideas and I respect his decision.

"My focus now is on making sure all the reports he reads about me and the games he sees of me will be positive ones. I have been training hard and I hope to play in as many games as I can."

Australia are in a period of transition and their manager said this week that he is keen to discover the next 'golden generation' as some of the country's more experienced players come towards the end of their careers.

Neill has come under criticism from some supporters and was booed during his last outing in November.

"There is no point talking about that," he replied when asked about it.

"I am playing for a great Championship club in Watford who have ambitions of reaching the Premier League and I need to be judged on my performances on the field. Football is about opinions and I just have to get on with it as best as I can."

Neill had been training at his former club Blackburn Rovers for six weeks but they were unable to offer him the first-team opportunities he was hoping for.

The former Millwall man revealed there were a few Championship clubs and others abroad who were keen to acquire his services. But he wanted a Championship club with play-off ambitions and said there were only two or three of those.

He called on his old West Ham colleagues, Watford chief executive Scott Duxbury and technical director Gian Luca Nani, and they were happy to give him a trial.

Neill said: "I specifically wanted to come back to England and I wanted to try to be in a team where I was in a squad where I could compete to play regularly.

"I called on my old connections from West Ham to see if there was an opportunity here and they asked me to come down to train. They said they would be willing to take me if I could prove my fitness and having been at Blackburn for the best part of six weeks, I knew I had the fitness and it was about ticking the boxes that the manager wanted. There are no regrets. I am really happy to be here."

The Hornets have lacked leaders this season and Neill confirmed that point was highlighted by Duxbury and Nani in negotiations.

He said: "They wanted the squad to be able to lean on my knowledge of England and what they see as my leadership qualities and I will accept those responsibilities here. Otherwise I would be wasting my time and everybody elses."

He continued: "I definitely bring commitment and passion and over time I have gained some good experience of dealing with not only English players but foreign players as well, so I feel I can help get some of the foreigners to understand the expectations of playing in England and what is required in games and in training.

"Then hopefully I can offer my leadership and organisation when I get my chance as a defender."

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Neill, pictured, spent 14 years playing in England, with spells at Millwall, West Ham, Blackburn and Everton before he left to join Galatasaray for 18 months.

He subsequently moved to the UAE, whilst his family remained in England, with stints at Al Jazira, who are run by Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour, and Al Wasl before briefly returning home to Australian side Sydney before having a four-month stay at Japanese side Omiya Ardija.

Neill said: "It wasn’t about dropping down levels, it was because I had been in England for 14 years and had the opportunity to go to Turkey to one of the biggest clubs in Europe and I wanted a change.

"Because I was trying to experience new things, the opportunity arose to move to the UAE and then Japan. I got to play in the Asian Champions League, the Europa League and had great life and football experiences.

"But now I have come back to the tried and tested and what I know will push me all the way building up to June."

He continued: "The teams in Japan could comfortably compete in the Championship. The league has a lot of fantastic, technical players and they are all very fit. It was an amazing experience, good crowds, very good football and a great lifestyle as well because I was living in Tokyo so it was a lot of fun.

"A lot of people don’t give the UAE league a lot of credit and think you only go there for the holiday but the standard of football there is also good. And it has ambition to become a lot better.

"I was playing for Al Jazira which is the team Sheik Mansour at Manchester City started so the consensus for him was that he expected top performances and a high level of professionalism and that is what I delivered."

Neill's family remained in England during his four-year spell playing abroad and that was another factor in his decision to return to the country he first moved to 20 years ago.

He said: "The opportunity to see my kids a bit more was a motivation [to come back to England]. I didn’t get to see them much when I was playing in Japan.

"But also I wanted to be back training at a level where I knew it would test me every day in training and also in games at the weekend in the build-up to the World Cup.

"My family played a part [in coming back to England] but football was always the main motivation."

We understand Neill is on a very modest wage with performance incentives based around reaching the play-offs.

He would be open to staying at Watford beyond the initial six-months should the club decide to exercise the year option they have in the contract.

"Yes of course [he would be open to staying next season]. I want to play football at a high level for as long as possible and be challenged and tested. I know I will be comfortable here in a strong London club but it all depends on performances and results. In the next two months, I think my performances and where the club finishes will dictate what happens next year.

"Looking forward on a positive note, I would love to be a part of next year and let's hope it is in a team that is possibly in the play-offs and then who knows where they will be next year."

Click here to read why deputy sports editor Frank Smith believes the gamble to sign Neill was worth taking.

Comments (6)

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7:25pm Thu 27 Feb 14

JHEAFFEY1 says...

Whatever people think of him as a signing nobody can deny that he is an experienced player in the English leagues, and as much as I do fully believe our squad want to compete I can only think a little bit of education (John Eustace style) about what it takes to win in English football and the Championship in particular can't go amiss, and if he is willing to provide it as far as I'm concerned he could justify his short-term signing on that front alone.
Whatever people think of him as a signing nobody can deny that he is an experienced player in the English leagues, and as much as I do fully believe our squad want to compete I can only think a little bit of education (John Eustace style) about what it takes to win in English football and the Championship in particular can't go amiss, and if he is willing to provide it as far as I'm concerned he could justify his short-term signing on that front alone. JHEAFFEY1
  • Score: 21

7:31pm Thu 27 Feb 14

rousman 2 says...

Could he explain English football to the Manager as well.
Could he explain English football to the Manager as well. rousman 2
  • Score: -13

8:23pm Thu 27 Feb 14

watfordrick says...

Are we grooming this guy to be the new manager?
Are we grooming this guy to be the new manager? watfordrick
  • Score: 0

9:09pm Thu 27 Feb 14

Stoney77 says...

Slightly off subject but nice to see the East stand finally being built. To outsiders It might just be a new stand but to us Watford fans this is a bloody momentous occasion!
Twitter reports saying it will be useable in 6 weeks.
I also had a chuckle at one of the hashtags doing the rounds:
#eaststanderection
Slightly off subject but nice to see the East stand finally being built. To outsiders It might just be a new stand but to us Watford fans this is a bloody momentous occasion! Twitter reports saying it will be useable in 6 weeks. I also had a chuckle at one of the hashtags doing the rounds: #eaststanderection Stoney77
  • Score: 5

8:18am Fri 28 Feb 14

Surbiton says...

Let's be honest we have not had a proper leader on the pitch since John Eustace left. It has undoubtedly been a contributing factor to our poor form. So I for one am prepared to give the guy a chance and get behind him. As previous posters have pointed out he brings a wealth of experience to playing in this country, he is obviously highly motivated. Can he be any worse than some of the imported dross that we are currently suffering from? Give the guy a break.........
Let's be honest we have not had a proper leader on the pitch since John Eustace left. It has undoubtedly been a contributing factor to our poor form. So I for one am prepared to give the guy a chance and get behind him. As previous posters have pointed out he brings a wealth of experience to playing in this country, he is obviously highly motivated. Can he be any worse than some of the imported dross that we are currently suffering from? Give the guy a break......... Surbiton
  • Score: 10

11:29am Fri 28 Feb 14

Kismet110 says...

Stoney77 wrote:
Slightly off subject but nice to see the East stand finally being built. To outsiders It might just be a new stand but to us Watford fans this is a bloody momentous occasion! Twitter reports saying it will be useable in 6 weeks. I also had a chuckle at one of the hashtags doing the rounds: #eaststanderection
Seconded. Can't explain it but after months of seeing no movement at all (a bit like the actual team!) to see the framework going up is definitely an event for every true Watford fan.

God bless the Pozzos. No matter how poor and frustrating this season has been getting a four sided ground again is very important aesthetically, physically and to show the owners intent.

Back to the subject at hand, I think this signing is a win-win like I said on another thread.

Experienced and a leader, worse case scenario we get some on and off field leadership at long last, best case he inspires the team to finish the season strongly and gets his (personal) reward by reaching the World Cup Finals and a contract extension.
[quote][p][bold]Stoney77[/bold] wrote: Slightly off subject but nice to see the East stand finally being built. To outsiders It might just be a new stand but to us Watford fans this is a bloody momentous occasion! Twitter reports saying it will be useable in 6 weeks. I also had a chuckle at one of the hashtags doing the rounds: #eaststanderection[/p][/quote]Seconded. Can't explain it but after months of seeing no movement at all (a bit like the actual team!) to see the framework going up is definitely an event for every true Watford fan. God bless the Pozzos. No matter how poor and frustrating this season has been getting a four sided ground again is very important aesthetically, physically and to show the owners intent. Back to the subject at hand, I think this signing is a win-win like I said on another thread. Experienced and a leader, worse case scenario we get some on and off field leadership at long last, best case he inspires the team to finish the season strongly and gets his (personal) reward by reaching the World Cup Finals and a contract extension. Kismet110
  • Score: 4

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