Share in the wisdom of Phil Neville
Published 06/12/2010 | 05:00
PHIL NEVILLE tells a story about the time Real Madrid came to Old Trafford for a Champions League game with a team packed full of galacticos and a list of names which children of that generation grew up wanting to be.
United lost the match and, afterwards, several of their stars swapped shirts with the likes of Ronaldo, Luis Figo and Raul, who were happy to oblige some of the more famous actors from the Theatre of Dreams.
A few minutes after the defeat, Neville knocked on the away dressing-room, handed his shirt to the Real Madrid kit-man and waited patiently for a famous white shirt. The next time the door opened, Neville's red one was thrown back to him.
It's not that over 600 professional games, 59 caps for England and an average weekly five-figure salary for about 15 years is anything to be sniffed at, but it says something about the way he is perceived that the story is so easy to envisage. Over the past few generations, millions may have dreamed of emulating Beckenbauer, Maradona, Baresi, Van Basten, Ronaldo or Zidane but there aren't too many who kicked a ball around the back garden with the fantasy of being a solid, dependable professional with a great work ethic and one who delivers seven out of 10 every week for their delighted manager.
For those who did, however, there is now the perfect tool to go along with their limited imagination -- 'Phil Neville Football Training'.
Anybody with an iPhone who is willing to spend 79cents to download the app is promised something "to help and guide aspiring footballers, fans of the game and coaches in getting a real insight in to how Phil lives his life as a top professional player".
It may not get pulses racing to the extent of many of the other things that are possible to download online but it's hard to feel short-changed when a man who has been a professional for nearly 20 years is handing out all he knows on the subject for the price of a packet of Doritos.
If Lionel Messi ever did the same thing, it might be considerably more expensive.
The app has been out for a couple of months although, after his shocking backpass on Saturday which helped Nicolas Anelka earn a penalty and almost got Tim Howard sent off, there may need to be a new chapter entitled 'not giving the ball to the opposition and nearly costing your team the match'.
Yet if the recurring theme of the app holds true, it's likely that Phil will spend much of this week maniacally practising backpasses, such is the minute attention to detail that he seems to give everything else.
There are videos on how to practise throw-ins by aiming at a mannequin because, says Phil, "it's vital you don't neglect the art of practising a throw-in (because) it can become a major weapon for the team".
If that isn't sexy enough, then Phil shows us how to jink in and out of training poles; sprint towards a cone and move laterally or even going through training ladders with such impressive speed that it's frightening to think just how quickly somebody like Cristiano Ronaldo must do it.
Want to know about his eating habits? "I eat six meals a day, spreading the portion sizes rather than having three large meals. My eating times are as follows: 7.30am; 10am, 12.30pm, 2.30pm, 5.0pm, 7.0pm" and after a match he'll treat himself to either fish and chips or a Chinese. Wild stuff.
Along with that there's details of his training week -- the highlights of which include yoga (from the yoga teacher employed at Everton); several ice-baths, lots of massages and sleep, with the two-hour afternoon nap that he has on a Friday being "the most important couple of hours in the week in terms of preparing for a match".
It's easy to be sceptical about somebody who can deliver a dead-pan speech about how often he practises shooting when his average is one goal every 55 games, but in an era of football fads from nose clips to vapour rub on shirts and snoods to keep your neck warm, it's rare to find something so practical that could be useful to youth players whose dreams can't match their ability.
"I have to practise all of these things during the week so that when I go into a game I know that I've done everything perfect and there's no excuses when I go onto a pitch," says Phil with his usual intensity that's ripe for slagging off.
But then, if you've got millions in the bank, six Premier League medals, three FA Cups and a Champions League to show for your professional career, you're more entitled than most to give out advice.
And all for just 79c.