The Binman Chronicles
by Neville Southall
De Coubertin Books, £18.99
Reviewed by Robert Davies
This autobiography from the former Everton and Wales goalkeeper begins with a volley of swearwords that will make you feel like you are in the middle of a barrage from Fergie’s infamous hairdryer treatment. The F bombs are not coming from one of Neville’s many ex-managers though; they are coming from one of his pupils.
This is because Big Nev, as the tabloids christened him, is now a teacher, which is a role he has come to after a variety of others. From a brief stint as a binman, which explains the title of his autobiography, through reaching his peak as arguably the best goalkeeper in the world at Everton, followed by a nomadic ending to his footballing career playing for a variety of non-league clubs.
The Binman Chronicles details all of this and throws in plenty of old-fashioned footballing anecdotes along the way; from lining up apprentices in the goal for the senior Everton pros to kick footballs at them, to the Keystone Cops-like amateurism of the Welsh national team. The stories are all picked over and dissected for laughs in a you just couldn’t get away with it these days kind of way.
However, if you want to know more about the person then there are disappointments as there are huge gaps in his personal life and a glossing over of facts. The breakup of Neville’s marriage and the subsequent falling out with his daughter are barely given a mention. Instead, we are given superfluous information such as being told three times that the Manchester City goalkeeper, Joe Hart, is a good prospect for the future.
What we do learn about Neville is that he never really got the respect he deserved from Everton and certainly didn’t stay there so long for the money. He played a total of 751 games for the club and was an integral part of the glory years of the mid-eighties. Nevertheless, when Neville was at the end of his Everton career a bid from Chelsea which would have tripled his salary was turned down by Howard Kendall, despite Neville no longer being in his plans. When Neville did leave Everton he was on £6k a week and Claus Thompsen (Whose he? Exactly) was on £10k. For such a loyal servant it hardly seems fair.
Big Nev was once described by a teammate as “the classic eccentric with a complex character.” This biography proves the statement to be accurate but a better editor would have explored his character more.