In the roll call of Heroes of 2017, few would have predicted that former Everton and Wales goalkeeper Neville Southall would have been in it.
Social campaigner, unashamed self-improver, lover of skeletons: what’s not to like about Big Nev? Nothing, that’s what.
And now there’s another reason to love him.
An extract from a new book by James Corbett - Faith of our Families: Everton an Oral History - has been burning its way round Twitter and features a story from the time when Southall was playing for the Merseyside club.
Manager Joe Royle had resigned from the job in March 1997 after 123 games in charge, and head of communications Alan Myers was discussing the situation, and who would be caretaker manager while a replacement was sought, with then-owner Peter Johnson.
Myers takes up the story:
“I don’t think anybody, including Neville himself, was aware of how close he came to becoming Everton manager. I was outside Belleﬁeld with Peter Johnson the morning after Joe had left and we were discussing who should take over as caretaker boss. ‘I have a shortlist of two,’ said the chairman, ‘Dave Watson and Neville, but I’m leaning towards Neville because a goalkeeper has less responsibility on the pitch.’
“At this point Neville pulls up in the carpark - it was early and he was always ﬁrst in for training - gets out his car and heads to the Belleﬁeld entrance. Seeing me he yells, ‘Alright Alan, you fat cunt!’ As he headed in through the doors, Peter, says very dryly, ‘I think the shortlist is down to one.’”
And so it proved, with centre-back Dave Watson taking charge of seven games for the Toffees until Howard Kendall was appointed for his third spell as manager later that summer.
It was a move that worked out for both of them, with Watson restoring Southall to the starting lineup after he’d been dropped by Royle, and leading the club to safety despite winning only one of his seven matches (they drew three).
The next season saw Southall’s last game for the Toffees, a 2–0 defeat at home to Tottenham Hotspur, before he went on to play for several other clubs, eventually retiring in 2000.