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Neal's Simple Task

6 August 2013

JOHN Sheridan calls new Argyle signing Neal Trotman “an old fashioned centre-half”, and it is a description with which the 26-year-old Mancunian has no problems.

“If the ball’s there to be won, I’ll try to win it,” said the Pilgrims’ new number 16, of his defensive duties.

“I’m not one to dribble out from the back like David Luiz. I’m just here to defend. As long as the ball doesn’t go in the net, that’s my job done.”

And at the other end?

“In terms of finishing, I probably think I’m better than I actually am,” he said. “I like to put my head in there and hopefully be a bit of a nuisance in the box.”

Neal and John go back nearly a decade, when the pair first hooked up at Oldham Athletic.

Neal said: “He signed me at 18 when I got released by Burnley. He obviously saw something in me. He gave me my debut, and I did really well there.”

A big-money move to Preston followed, with Neal having rejected overtures from Paul Sturrock to come to the Westcountry. Coincidentally, he made his North End debut at Home Park, before subsequent injury interrupted his progress.

“It was 2-2,” he remembers, of his first appearance in a white shirt in April 2008. “I played the rest of the games that season, did really well, and was ready to kick on.

“Unfortunately, I got a knee injury which kept me out for the best part of a year. I got back training in the January, but it was probably the most important time for me to play.

“Then I went out on loan to Southampton and Huddersfield, the season after, and got to the play-off semi-finals with Huddersfield. Then I went to Rochdale and then John Sheridan signed me for Chesterfield.”

John made Neal his captain in a frustrating 2011-12 season, when Johnstone’s Paint Trophy success was followed by relegation.

“I did quite well,” he said. “Unfortunately, we got relegated, but it was a shock to everyone when [John] got sacked because we really truly believed that we could get promoted, if not win the league.”

Neal was released by John’s successor, Paul Cook, at theend of last season, and has been training in Scotland during pre-season.

“I nearly signed for Partick Thistle,” he said, “but that fell through, and so did Dundee [United]. I’ve been training all week on my own – I’ve got a fitness coach – and the gaffer phoned me the other day and said ‘There’s a good opportunity here for you.’

“So I took it straight away. I’m eager to do well.”

Neal will get his first opportunity to impress in Tuesday’s Capital One Cup first round tie at Championship side Birmingham City, which follows hot on the heels of Saturday’s disappointing Sky Bet League 2 defeat at Southend.

He said: “It’s a big game – a great game to be involved in. A lot of the players are looking forward to it and trying to improve on what happened on Saturday.

“It’s the best way. The game could not have come at a better time for us in terms of bouncing back.”

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