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Phil Neville: I understand Jamie Carragher’s decision

Phil Neville: I understand Jamie Carragher’s decision

Aug 8 2007

by Ian Doyle, Liverpool Daily Post

Jamie Carragher in action for England

AMID a summer of big-money transfers and high-profile club takeovers, it was Jamie Carragher’s decision to consider calling time on his England career that surprisingly provoked the most impassioned public debate.

Exacerbated by an unwise radio phone-in host dismissing the Liverpool man as a “bottler”, supporters and pundits were quick to offer their views on the 29-year-old.

Steve McClaren’s attempts to persuade Carragher to changed his mind ahead of this month’s friendly with Germany are almost certain to fall on deaf ears.

But across Stanley Park, Phil Neville can understand why the centre-back is contemplating following the example of Alan Shearer and Paul Scholes in concentrating on club football.

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It was more than five years ago when, having grown disillusioned at his perennial bench duties with his country, Neville thought of quitting the England team ahead of the 2002 World Cup.

The moment quickly passed, though, and despite missing out on trip to Japan and South Korea, Neville remains a part of McClaren’s plans.

Nevertheless, the Everton skipper has every sympathy with Carragher’s situation.

“I can fully understand the lads that retire,” says Neville. “When Paul Scholes retired, his decision has been vindicated by his performances last season.

“I’ve only ever once thought in my career that being with England wasn’t enjoyable, which was before the World Cup in Japan when we played a friendly against Paraguay at Anfield. For a couple of weeks I contemplated concentrating on my club career.

“I was going away for periods of time, not getting a look in and knowing I wasn’t getting a look in but still having to train every day knowing that I wouldn’t be playing. That can be disheartening sometimes.

“It’s not that I ever thought it wasn’t worth it, but I had just stopped enjoying it. Sometimes I just questioned whether being in the squad and not playing was the best thing for my career.

“But that was maybe the kick up the backside that I needed that I didn’t want to retire from international football.

“It gave me the hunger back to play for England. You only have this career once, and I made the decision then that only the day I retired from football was when I would make myself unavailable for England.”

Neville, who can expect to receive a call-up for the forthcoming Wembley encounter with Germany, is now enjoying international football again and is keen to add to his 56 caps.

And the prospect of helping England end their lengthy wait for silverware continues to drive the 30-year-old.

“I love everything about England,” says Neville. “I feel as though it gives me extra sparkle coming back to Everton when I have been in the England squad.

“When I came into the international scene I was a youngster and everyone thinks you’re the best, then you have the period where everyone thinks you are the worst, and you come out the other side and people begin to respect what you can bring to the squad.

“I want to get as much out of international football between now and the end of my career. It’s too important for me to miss out on, the incentive of winning a medal with the national team is something I will fight for the rest of my career.

“You look at the boys of 66, and they are heroes. That’s the reward for all those in the international team.

“It helps with Steve McClaren being in charge. I know him and he knows me and we trust each other.

“You never know if you’re going to be in or out of the England squad, so I take nothing for granted and always enjoy it when I’m called up and treat every call-up as my last.

“I’ve had my ups and downs over the years with England, but I can’t let that effect me while I’m captain of Everton.”

England face an important autumn, in which games against Croatia, Russia and Israel will determine whether McClaren’s men qualify for Euro 2008.

And Neville adds: “It’s a massive year for the England team, with the games that will decide whether we qualify for the European Championships, and that’s enough incentive to want to be involved.

“I’ve been to three European Championships and I want to make it a fourth in the summer in Switzerland and Austria.”


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