Lazaridis urges former Socceroos team-mate Neill to come out of hiding

Former Australia captain Lucas Neill has been urged to resurface from self-imposed exile and embrace the game again by his former Socceroos team-mate Stan Lazaridis.

Stan Lazaridis and Lucas Neill

Stan Lazaridis and Lucas Neill ahead of Australia's friendly against Norway at Craven Cottage in 2004 Source: Getty Images

Recently declared bankrupt after a string of disastrous investments, the one-time multi-millionaire Premier League defender has, in his own words, gone "to ground" since being jettisoned by Australia coach Ange Postecoglou before the 2014 World Cup.

Postecoglou excruciatingly details the awkward telephone conversation in which he cut short Neill's 96-cap Soceroos career in his recently published book Changing The Game and Neill, true to his word, has changed all his contact numbers and become almost invisible since to all those but his closest friends and family.

"The guy has given so much and I am sure the door is open for him to get involved again and maybe he needs a new challenge," said Socceroos great Lazaridis, who reluctantly called time on his own career at the age of 35.


Neill, now living with his partner and twin children in the Lancashire countryside near one of his former clubs Blackburn Rovers, was 36 and struggling for game time in England's second tier when Postecoglou made his tough call.

While acknowledging that Neill may well be suffering from depression as he searches for a post-football panacea, Lazaridis added:"There are so many doors that can still open for him but right now he probably doesn't want to step through any of them and he may be suffering depression or something like that.

"When I left the game I had that feeling of 'what am I going to do now?' and I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel pretty low for a while.

"Football was all I knew. You wake up every morning and train. You have your chicken and pasta and my body fat was below 10 per cent. 

"Then, all of a sudden, 35 years comes around and it all stops. The trouble is you still have 40 or 50 years of living to do.

"Maybe a similar feeling is running through Lucas's head right now."

Lazaridis stressed the importance of players setting themselves up for life after football and urged Neill to reach out to him or other former teammates.

"I am not sure if he's done any coaching badges or whatever but you have to find a new passion in life," he said.

"I got involved with property and I am happy with my life but I still really miss the game.

"I want Lucas to know that my phone is switched on and I am sure that extends to other his former teammates too.

"I would love to hear from him and share a glass or two of wine or champagne and he can tell me anything he wants."

Asked whether Neill was may have still had something to offer in Brazil despite being permanently axed by Postecoglou ahead of the tournament, Lazaridis said:"Everything is easy to say after the event.

"I went to the 2006 World Cup and didn't play, so there's a couple of ways of looking at it.

"In hindsight it would have been great if he had been involved but Ange had a decision to make. 

"He had an aging squad and you have to change the guard a bit and bring in the new generation.

"It was always going to be a tough call... It's very rare you see a player exit the game on their own terms.

"In my case, I could maybe have played another year but I didn't want to be the last one on the dance floor and I got out of my career what I wanted. 

"The question for Lucas is did he get out of his career what he wanted?"

Lazaridis praised Neill's glittering career and put him up there alongside Mark Viduka, Mark Schwarzer, Harry Kewell and Tim Cahill as one of the Soceroos greats.

"In my view, a player would bite your hand off to have had a career like his and he should be really proud of what he's achieved," he said.

"He still has a lot to bring to the game but he's got to want to do that.

"Out of his 96 caps he probably only had one or two average games. You'd put him up there with the Vidukas, Schwarzers, Kewells and Cahills.

"I haven't spoken to him for a few years, and I just hope he is well."

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4 min read
Published 26 October 2016 at 11:26am
By Dave Lewis