West Ham wanted me more - Neill

January 23, 2007

Lucas Neill has revealed how feeling wanted made him choose West Ham over boyhood club Liverpool.

The 28-year-old Australia defender headed south to a relegation battle at Upton Park - and a reported bumper pay packet - rather than the chance of challenging for honours with the Merseysiders.

Neill, however, maintains the move from Blackburn was not about money, rather where he could make more of an impact.

The full-back was in the last six months of his contract at Ewood Park and would have left in the summer regardless.

Although it looked as if Anfield was set to be the player's destination of choice Neill admits he was taken aback by an apparent lack of interest from the Reds to push the transfer through.

'I did not get the chance to speak to the people who really matter at Liverpool,' the defender said.

'It would have been nice to have heard what the manager of Liverpool thought about me and the deal, but it did not happen.

'Maybe he (Rafael Benitez) would have talked me into it, but overall I was getting a cold feeling from Liverpool and a volcanic heat from West Ham, so that was why I chose them.

'It told me that they were desperate for me to come here and play, which is what every player wants. Nobody wants to go to a big team and then just sit in the stands.'

The defender added: 'It was the most difficult decision of my career - I followed Liverpool as a boy, I had posters of [Graham] Souness, [Ian] Rush and [Kenny] Dalglish on my bedroom walls.

'However, the most important thing was playing. Champions League football was obviously a big draw for me, but I can fulfil ambitions here as well.

'I needed the security and I also needed a new challenge. It was time to move on and the best opportunity was to go to West Ham. I think it is a great decision and I want to prove that to people.'

Neill maintains the future is bright for the Hammers, despite their predicament at the wrong end of the Premiership table.

'This is not a backward step - it is a huge forward step,' said the former Millwall defender.

'People's judgements have been clouded by the current league position, but Eggert Magnusson (chairman) has not bought the club with the intention of going to the Championship - he wants us to go up and up.

'I was one of many players he had on his shopping list and if he is true to his word it will be a very exciting time. I feel that I am one of the first new signings in the building of an empire here.

'The new owner will be aggressive and the speech he gave to me when I was listening to him almost blew me away.'

Neill hopes to be an integral part of manager Alan Curbishley's side as they battle against the drop.

He added: 'My decision was based on football. The truth is that the day the window opened, I was expecting Liverpool to come in for me - but it was well through the window until any formal approach was made. That made think, 'Where would I fit into those plans?'

'I also had to think about where I was going to get my best football opportunities and I have come to the club where I know I will fit in and play a big part.

'I have played 30 or 40 games in every season in the Premiership and it was important for me to keep that going.'

Neill insisted: 'It is crazy to suggest that it was about money - all that will happen is that it will unsettle the club I have come to. I have fitted into the wage structure here.'