ON THIS DAY IN 1998: Brothers Gary and Phil Neville entered the history books of international football when Glenn Hoddle’s England cruised to a 3-0 victory over Portugal at Wembley.
Image: Popperfoto via Getty Images)
Gary and Phil Neville have made their mark on English football in a big way, both at club and international level, and continue to do so.
Gary won many Premier League medals, many as captain, and became one of the most decorated members of Manchester United’s Class 92.
Several of those early honors came alongside his brother, who continues to try to carve out a managerial path for himself.
Both were England’s colleagues at three major tournaments: Euro 96, when Phil was still a teenager, as well as the 2000 and 2004 editions of the continental championship.
In between those summer masterpieces, though, they accomplished something no brother had ever done before when one replaced the other in an England game.
Phil Neville may not have made it to the 1998 World Cup, but he was involved for Glenn Hoddle’s side in the run up to the tournament. In fact, in an April friendly against Portugal, he was given minutes off the bench when his own older brother made way for him.
Other than that, it wasn’t the most remarkable of games. Two goals from Alan Shearer and one from Teddy Sheringham had put England 3-0 up against a Portugal side that features future Champions League winners Luis Figo and Vitor Baia.
Phil Neville returned after missing a friendly against Switzerland in Bern, and his involvement came after a warning from manager Hoddle. “This is a meeting with an eye on the 22 finalists and I hope all the players are there,” the coach said. “Surely I am not asking too much to assemble a group of 30 players two months before the World Cup final.”
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Football dynasties at club and international level are not unique to England, of course. Eidur Gudjohnsen replaced his father in an Iceland match in 1996, while brothers Eden and Thorgan Hazard had minutes against England at the 2018 World Cup.
Some brothers or combos of fathers and sons have also not represented the same country. England could face US international Timothy Weah in Qatar after the striker’s father George represented Liberia, while brothers Jerome and Kevin-Prince Boateng were on opposite sides when Germany played Ghana in the 2014 World Cup. .
However, Neville’s situation was still significant for England, and remains so if only for being the first instance of one brother replacing the other. However, based on how their respective youth careers went, one might have expected Gary and Phil to be in opposite places.
“Phil was always more talented when he was young,” Gary told FourFourTwo in 2003. “He got into school teams in England and things like that.
“I struggled to even get into the county team, sometimes I was a substitute, whereas Phil was always one of the best in the country. I was never close to making England teams. As for now, you would have to ask the managers “.
However, youth and senior soccer are rarely the same. While Gary finished his England career with 85 caps, Phil only reached 59 and never stepped foot in a World Cup.
“It’s 100 percent easier if they tell you when you’re home,” said Phil, who heard firsthand from Glenn Hoddle that he had missed the cut in 1998 but received phone calls in 2002 and 2006. “I flew home from La Manga with six other players after being told they had been left out of the team, my wife and father picked them up at Birmingham airport, drove home and it felt like torture.
“It felt easier, Sven [-Goran Eriksson] calling you Sven was a nice guy, ‘hello, you’re not in the team, bad news, bye’. It felt a little bit easier than sitting in a room with Glenn, one on one, after I thought he should have left.”
In the end, then, Gary and Phil never got a chance to share a field at a World Cup, or even travel to one together as international teammates. However, for a brief moment in 1998, they wrote their names forever in the history of England.
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