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Everton captain Phil Neville hails Blues fans ahead of Europa League return
Published : 15 Feb 2010 05:00:00
A THREE-SIDED stadium in a European backwater would not necessarily be the most obvious source of footballing inspiration for most players. However the experience, sights and sounds of Everton's trip to Metalist Kharkiv in the group stages of the 2007-08 UEFA Cup resonate strongly with club captain Phil Neville. The dramatic 3-2 win at Metalist Stadium in the Ukraine was the moment when the Blues' skipper fully appreciated what it means to be a member of the Goodison fraternity and therefore the expectancy levelled on him as he leads their side into battle every week. On the eve of the Goodison Park outfit's latest foray into continental competition against Sporting Lisbon, Neville barely paused for thought when asked if he was worried about an early kick-off time leading to empty seats and a below par atmosphere on Tuesday night. Without hesitation Neville recalled the awe inspiring picture painted from the stands that cold October evening as the significant travelling contingent created their own small suburb of Liverpool in deepest, darkest Ukraine. The presence of so many Everton fans came as a pleasant surprise and the memories fill Neville with the knowledge Sporting will be playing against more than just the 11 men manager David Moyes selects tomorrow evening. 'The kick-off time is a bit of a pain for all supporters because they will have to leave work early but knowing Evertonians like I do then I know they will get there. 'I have been out to Kharkiv and I thought 'oh dear me, there will be no Everton fans here' but 3-4,000 turned up. They will get there by hook or by crook and that is the beauty of this club and I am convinced there will be a full house on Tuesday. 'If Sporting have been watching us over the last month then they will know we are a team that has been playing well and I'm sure the gaffer has done his homework on Sporting Lisbon and we will no doubt be watching lots of videos of them this week. We know technically they are going to be a very good side but this is going to have to be the type of night where we produce the atmosphere and performance we did against Chelsea.