On This Day: 9 March


Lucas Neill
Date of birth: 9 March 1978
National team: Australia
Clubs: Australian Institute of Sport, Millwall, Blackburn Rovers, West Ham United

Captain of both his club and his country, Lucas Neill has come a long way since he packed his bags to leave his native Australia for England at the age of just 17.

Over the past 14 years, Neill has become one of the Premier League's most consistent and versatile defenders on the pitch and most respected captains off it. Comfortable at either full-back or centre-half, the Sydney-born player was marked out for great things from an early age.

Neill was picked to attend the elite Australian Institute of Sport in 1994 on a football scholarship. The following November, however, he decided to try his luck in English football, joining Millwall. He remained at the Den for nearly six years before joining Premier League Blackburn Rovers for a fee rising up to £1m.

At Ewood Park, Neill would continue to build his growing reputation as a committed, no-nonsense defender with the ability to get forward and join in at the attacking end of the pitch. After more than five years in Lancashire, however, he decided to move back down south in January 2007.

Some eyebrows were raised when Neill, by now Australia's national team captain and having appeared at the 2006 FIFA World Cuo, decided to swap mid-table security at Blackburn for West Ham's relegation battle, but he was proved to have made the right decision as he played an influential role in helping the Hammers to beat the drop.

Neill was made captain before the start of the 2007/08 season and has accepted the responsibility with relish, assisting manager Gianfranco Zola and his staff.