Lucas Neill

West Ham United captain Lucas Neill has been an influential and consistent presence on and off the pitch since his arrival from Blackburn Rovers in January 2007.

The combative defender, who is equally comfortable at right-back or centre-back and can also fill-in as a defensive midfielder, played a huge role in helping to steer the club clear of relegation from the Barclays Premier League at the end of the 2006/07 season and has never looked back.

The son of a Northern Irish emigrant who played for Belfast clubs Linfield Swifts, Cliftonville and Brantwood, Neill attended the famed Australian Institute of Sport in 1994. A year later, the 17-year-old took the decision to move to England to pursue his dream of becoming a full-time professional.

Neill joined Millwall in November 1995, going on to make 174 appearances and score 13 goals during six years with the Lions and winning the old Second Division title in 2000/01.

In September 2001, Neill moved to Barclays Premier League side Blackburn Rovers in a £1m deal, scoring his first goal for the club against Bolton Wanderers later the same month. Rovers would end the campaign by lifting the League Cup after beating Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, but the Australian missed the final through suspension.

Neill went on to make 227 league and cup appearances for Blackburn, appearing in two UEFA Cup campaigns.

In January 2007, Neill decided to move back to London, joining West Ham for an undisclosed fee on a two-and-a-half year contract. His first half-season at the Boleyn Ground saw the full-back help the Hammers clear of the Barclays Premier League relegation zone with a memorable run of seven wins in their final nine matches.

The summer of 2007 saw Neill appointed as club captain, a role his mature, composed and confident approach appeared to make him perfect for. The defender responded by helping West Ham avoid the dramas of the previous season by finishing tenth in 2007/08.

Neill scored his first goal for the club in the 3-2 Barclays Premier League loss at West Bromwich Albion on 13 September 2008 and went on to enjoy another impressive season in claret and blue as Gianfranco Zola's side finished ninth in the standings.

At international level, Neill is also captain of his country, leading the Socceroos to their first FIFA World Cup finals in Germany in 2006. There, under Dutchman Guus Hiddink, Neill played a key role as Australia came through a difficult group containing Brazil, Japan and Croatia. However, Neill's unfortunate tackle on Fabio Grosso allowed Francesco Totti to fire Italy to a last-gasp second-round victory over the Australians.

In 2007, Neill endured more pain at the AFC Asian Cup in Vietnam, missing a spot-kick as Australia fell to Japan in a penalty shoot-out at the quarter-final stage.

Playing as a central defender, Neill has played another strong hand to help Australia to the brink of their second consecutive FIFA World Cup in 2010. The Socceroos captain is leading his team through a qualifying group containing Japan, Bahrain, Qatar and Uzbekistan.