Bolton School Junior Boys

Premiership Star Faces Grilling by Schoolboys

Everton Captain and former England footballer Phil Neville and his wife, Julie, made a flying visit to Bolton School Junior Boys' School to thank pupils for taking part in a schools' fundraising campaign in aid of the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital.  The Premiership footballer and his wife are patrons of the charity and told the boys of how they had become involved after their daughter, Isabella, had been born almost 3 months premature and doctors at the hospital had saved her life.  She was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy and continues to attend the hospital for treatment.  The charity aims to create an environment that is more child-friendly; to support research projects to improve our understanding of children's illnesses; and to provide state-of-the-art equipment for diagnosis and treatment.

Schools across the North West took part in the Tesco Wear What U Want Day - an event in which pupils were encouraged to pay £1 in return for being able to ditch their uniform for the day!  As a reward for their charity work, the pupils were afforded a once in a lifetime opportunity to ask the football star any questions.

The junior boys, all 194 of them aged 7 to 11, were given an opportunity to pose quick fire questions to the football star, following a talk from Julie Neville about how, by making the effort to join the Wear What U Want Day, they had helped the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital, which had already seen 135,000 children pass through its doors.

Phil Neville was delighted to see Mike Duxbury in the audience, who is now a PE teacher in the boys' school.  He said Mike and Bryan Robson had been his heroes at Man Utd when he had been growing up.  Phil answered all his questions very openly, saying the highlight of his career had been winning the European Champions Cup with Manchester United against Bayern Munich - he recalled how with only a few minutes to go the Bayern ribbons had already been put on the cup in anticipation of them winning the trophy yet United came back with two goals in the last two minutes to win the cup! 

Looking at the World Cup, he felt England could beat Germany on Sunday.  The player that really excites him in the tournament is Messi.  His favourite player in the England team is Wayne Rooney.  The best player he has ever played with is Ryan Giggs, who would regularly skin him in training.  The best player he has ever played against was Ruud Gullit, who he said was a colossus of a player.

Playing for England, he recalled, was a dream come true, although a massively nerve racking experience.  The best World Cup campaign he was involved in was in France 1998, when they went out on penalties against Argentina.   

Phil had fond memories of playing at Man Utd where he was from 10 years to 28 years of age.  His biggest regret was leaving his brother, Gary, behind who he had played with for much of his career and is still his best friend.  He said it is very strange playing against him these days and that they did not speak for a few days after Everton beat United recently.  If he could play for any team now, having played for United and Everton, he would play for Barcelona, who he thinks are the best team in Europe.

With Everton, he trains from 9.30am-12.00 noon and then tends to go into the gym and work out and push weights.  His best friend at the club is Tim Cahill.  He thinks Tim Cahill's goal celebration of going over to the corner flag and punching it is the best celebration he has seen and he vowed to do this next time he scores, although there could be a wait for this as he has only scored nine goals in his whole career.  He said his nickname at Everton is "Jigsaw" as when he gets in the box he goes to pieces.  He is 33 years of age now and hopes to play until he is 37.

He had never had a red card until he joined Everton and then got 3 red cards in one season - he said there is no worse feeling than sitting in the dressing room on your own, knowing that you have let all your team mates down.  He also recalled a low point in his career as being when he gave a penalty away playing for England, which meant they lost and did not progress through to the next round of a tournament.  When he got home, he found his house gates on fire!

The worst goal he had ever scored was an own goal against Liverpool.  This was a bitter pill in that they are the team that he always wants to beat - given his history with Man Utd and as Everton captain.

When asked about his largest defeat, he said one of his first games was for an U9s team and they were losing 16-0 at half time, when the game was stopped.  Although he had equally bad memories of being thrashed by Arsenal 6-1 at the start of the last season.

The hardest team to play against domestically is Man Utd but, internationally, it was always Brazil and he recalled being in awe of the skill of Ronaldo and Romario.

When asked who is favourite manager was, he diplomatically answered that the best manager ever is Sir Alex Ferguson but that he has massive respect for David Moyes, who he sees as being a younger version of Sir Alex.

Mr Whittaker, Head of the Junior Boys, commented: "We are delighted that Phil and Julie Neville have taken the time to thank our pupils and I know the boys have thoroughly enjoyed grilling a Premiership footballer.  It is important that boys understand the importance of helping others and it has been particularly useful for them to learn first-hand how their contribution will help the lives of others."

Having been presented with a cheque from the boys, Phil and Julie were then cheered off the grounds as they flew to their next visit in an Agusta 109 Grand helicopter.


Mr Whittaker and the Nevilles

Mr Whittaker, Head of Junior Boys, hands over a cheque to the Nevilles

Junior Boys, Nevilles and a flying visit

Junior boys give the Nevilles a big send-off

Flying off

The Nevilles fly off to visit the next school in a busy day