All-time Wales XI: Neville Southall

August 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

Neville Southall won his first cap for Wales in 1985, keeping a clean sheet in a 3-0 win over Northern Ireland. He won his last – a record 92nd – fifteen years later, though in rather less impressive fashion, being taken off at half-time having conceded three against Turkey in Ankara. Wales went on to lose 6-4.

Ample of moustache and latterly frame, Southall was blessed with astonishing reach and reflexes, as well as complete command of his penalty area. He was noted for his single-minded dedication and professionalism, often training the morning before matches, and whilst with Bury was once (so the story goes) asked to train on his own as his shot-stopping was demoralising the strikers. At club-level he is revered as a legend by Everton fans, integral to the great 1984/85 team that won both league and Cup Winners Cup.

Welsh football being what it is, the high points of his international career were few and far between, but he can look back with pride at the clean sheets he kept in competitive victories over Spain (3-0, 1985) and a newly-unified Germany (1-0, 1991), two of the finer results in modern Welsh football history. He also played in Wales’ 1983 1-1 draw with a Socrates-led Brazil team, and a 1-0 win over England in the last Home Championships, 1984.

Like so many other Welsh goods and greats, he never represented his country at an international tournament – and the fallout from Heysel robbed him and a fine team of a crack at the European Cup – but his talent, moustache, and air of unflappable decency ensures that his claim on the all-time no. 1 jersey is secure.

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