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In profile: Lucas Neill

In profile: Lucas Neill

Lucas Neil arrives at Vicarage Road on a short-term contract until the end of the season, already well-known to Watford fans.

The 35 year-old right-back or centre-half is something of a rarity as signings under the Pozzo regime go - both experienced as a professional and someone who has spent the vast majority of his career playing in this country.

Born in Sydney, Australia on March 9 1978, Neill began his football career with the brilliantly-named Manly United in 1991, before transferring to the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) on a football scholarship in 1994.

After a year at the AIS - credited with playing a large role in Australia's sporting excellence since its foundation in 1981 - Neill moved to England to join Millwall in what was then the Football League Division Two (League One as its now known).

Despite joining the Lions in mid-November of 1995, Neill would have to wait until February the following year to make his professional debut against Luton Town.

The 6ft1in defender made 13 appearances during his maiden season at The Den, but came into his own the following season (1996/97), making 41 appearances in all competitions for the south London side.

What proved to be Neill's final full campaign at The Den also proved to be his most memorable as the Lions were promoted to Division One (The Championship) as Division Two winners.

In just under six years with Millwall, Neill made 146 starts and a further 30 substitute outings for the club, scoring 13 goals before eventually forcing through a £600,000 move to Premiership side Blackburn Rovers.

Neill made his top-flight debut in the 1-0 defeat to Sunderland in September 2001 as part of a Rovers' defence that included future Golden Boy, Martin Taylor.

Arguably best-known for his time at Ewood Park, Neill assumed the role of club captain during his six-year stay in Lancashire, winning the hearts of the Rovers' supporters for his commitment, tenacity and never-say-die attitude.

In August 2006, Neill rejected a brand-new four-year contract offer which had been put to him, sparking interest from Liverpool.

A reported £2m offer from the Reds - with Stephen Warnock included as a makeweight - was never confirmed by either club, but Neill insisted that an offer had been launched by the Merseyside outfit.

Warnock eventually completed a move to Rovers, but Neill headed south, joining West Ham United in the 2007 January Transfer Window as the Hammers beefed up their squad ahead of a relegation battle.

Neill's West Ham debut was overshadowed by Anthony McNamee and Watford, the diminutive winger scoring the Hornets' winner in a 1-0 F.A Cup triumph at Upton Park.

The defender also picked up an injury to complete a miserable debut for the east Londoners.

Things improved for Neill and West Ham, though, and the Australian captained the side for several of their remaining fixtures as they avoided the drop at the expense of Sheffield United in 'Carlos Tevez-gate'.

Appointed club captain on a full-time basis following Nigel Reo-Coker's move to Aston Villa ahead of the 2007/08 season, Neill managed 34 Premier League starts out of a possible 38 for the next two seasons before rejecting a one-year contract extension in favour of a move to Everton.

Used sparingly during his first six months at Goodison Park, Neill opted to sample another league, joining Turkish giants Galatasaray in the January 2010 Window.

With the security of an 18-month contract at Gala, Neill made 47 appearances alongside Australian teammate Harry Kewell, before being released at the end of the 2010/11 season.

In August 2011, Neill took in another league, joining Al-Jazira of the UAE Pro League.

Despite spending a relatively short time with Al-Jazira, Neill did win the 2012 President's Cup with the club.

Eleven months and 23 appearances later, Neill joined another UAE outfit in Al-Wasl. In January 2013, he was released to make way for another 'import' signing.

With games frustratingly hard to come by in the Middle East, Neill returned to Australia in February 2013, linking up with A-League side Sydney FC on a short-term agreement.

Appearing just four times for his home-town club before his contract expired, Neill moved to Japan's J-League, inking a four-month contract with Omiya Ardija.

Not offered a new contract after nine appearances in four months, Neill left Japan.

Captain of the Australian national team, Neill arrives in WD18 with 96 full caps for the Socceroos to his name, having made his debut in 1996.

In 2013, Neill scored his first - and to date, only - international goal during Australia's 4-0 FIFA World Cup 2014 qualifying win over Jordan.

Neill has represented his nation at two previous World Cups - 2010 & 2014 - and having linked up with the Hornets, will hope to complete a treble this summer as Australia head to Brazil to take on Spain, Chile and the Netherlands.

You can follow Lucas on Twitter - @LucasNeill

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

Writer:Tom Bodell
Date:Monday February 24 2014
Time: 11:39PM

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