One of the best loved and most unconventional characters in football, Neville Southall was the finest goalkeeper of his generation. The huge Welshman belied his bulky frame with countless feats of agility between the sticks. His remarkable 751 games for Everton is a record unlikely to be broken.
Southall's love affair with the Goodison club began in 1981 when he joined from Bury and lasted 17 years. Many Everton fans believe he is the greatest player the club has ever had, although there are plenty of legends who can lay claim to that title. The unorthodox shot-stopper was the rock that Everton's greatest ever team was built on.
His speed off his own line, mastery of one-on-one situations and razor-sharp reflexes set him apart from his peers. With the knowledge that they had Southall behind them, confidence spread throughout the team and in the mid-1980s Everton were a force to be reckoned with.
An inspiring presence known for berating his defence, Everton won two league titles, two FA Cups and a European Cup Winners Cup with Southall guarding their goal. In the first of those title seasons, 1984-85, Southall won the Football Writers' Player of the Year award, a feat almost unheard of for a goalkeeper. Everton's manager in those glory years, Howard Kendall, summed it up best when he said: "I am a firm believer that you never win trophies without an outstanding goalkeeper."
Like all keepers he had an eccentric streak as anyone who saw his sit-in protest during a game against Leeds United will testify. With his team-mates in the dressing room at half-time, trailing 3-0, Southall just sat down on the turf next to his goal. That incident apart, Southall was irreproachable during his spell at Goodison. Even in the dark days of the 1990s he shone in a struggling side.
Towards the end of his Everton career, Southall had one of his finest moments. In a season when they had flirted with relegation Everton made it to the 1995 FA Cup final to take on the might of Manchester United. Paul Rideout gave the Blues a first-half lead and thereafter United threw everything at their opponents in search of an equaliser.
But Southall was in imperious form and a sparkling double save from Mark Hughes late on insured the cup was on its way to Goodison. Big Nev, as he was affectionately known, went on to play for a host of clubs in his later career and finally retired from the game in 2002, at the age of 44.