Neal as a Port Vale player in April 2013.
|Full name||Christopher Michael Neal|
|Date of birth||23 October 1985|
|Place of birth||St Albans, England|
|Height||6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)|
|2004–2009||Preston North End||1||(0)|
|2005||→ Tamworth (loan)||5||(0)|
|2006||→ Shrewsbury Town (loan)||0||(0)|
|2007||→ Morecambe (loan)||0||(0)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 00:00, 25 January 2015 (UTC).
† Appearances (Goals).
He began his career at Preston North End, making his Football League debut in February 2005, having previously impressed in a brief loan spell at Conference club Tamworth. He had short loan spells at Shrewsbury Town and Morecambe in the 2006–07 season as a covering player, before he was signed by Shrewsbury Town permanently in July 2009. He was the club's regular custodian as promotion to League One was achieved in 2011–12. He joined Port Vale in July 2012, and helped the club to secure promotion out of League Two in 2012–13.
Preston North End
Neal began his career at Preston North End, signing professional forms under Billy Davies at the start of the 2004–05 season. He went on loan to Conference club Tamworth in January 2005. He made his debut for the "Lambs" on 8 January, in a 4–3 defeat to Aldershot Town at the Recreation Ground. He kept a clean sheet on his debut at The Lamb Ground 16 days later, as Tamworth recorded a 1–0 win over Accrington Stanley; during the game he was credited with making a "brilliant" save. He played a total of six games for Mark Cooper's side, before returning to Preston in February. He made his first and only appearance for the "Lilywhites" on 18 February, as Gavin Ward was forced to leave the field 83 minutes into a 1–1 draw with Ipswich Town in a Championship fixture at Deepdale. At the end of the season Chester City and Tamworth attempted to sign him on loan, but both clubs were unsuccessful. He was linked to a move to Oldham Athletic in July 2006, but again no move materialized.
Neal had to wait until September 2006 for another loan move, as he spent one month at Gary Peters' League Two side Shrewsbury Town, providing cover for Chris Mackenzie after an injury to Ryan Esson. Neal appeared on the Shrewsbury bench for six league matches but did not make it onto the pitch at Gay Meadow, though he did play the full 90 minutes of the Football League Trophy match at Hereford United. At the end of the season he was signed by Morecambe as an emergency loan after the club's regular custodian Steven Drench dislocated an elbow, leaving manager Sammy McIlroy to choose between Davies and Neal for the Conference National play-off final at Wembley. Despite being awarded a winners medal he did not spend any time on the pitch for the Lancashire club as the club's rookie goalkeeper, Scott Davies, proved up to the task of keeping goal in the club's successful promotion bid. Neal did not make a senior appearance in 2007–08 or 2008–09 under either Paul Simpson or Alan Irvine. During this time he shook off a bout of conjunctivitis.
In July 2009, Neal made a permanent move from Preston, rejoining Paul Simpson's Shrewsbury Town for a nominal fee. He started the first four games of the 2009–10 season, but lost his place to loanee David Button due to a groin injury, and played just six further games that season. He began the 2010–11 campaign as the "Shrews" preferred keeper following an injury to rival Ben Smith, but lost his first team place in November after 20 appearances, and only played a handful of games thereafter as a fit again Smith was preferred by manager Graham Turner. He made his first League Two appearance of the 2011–12 season on 8 October, but remained between the sticks for the rest of the season, as Shrewsbury won promotion as the division's runners-up.
He failed to agree fresh terms with Shrewsbury, having only been offered a one-year deal, and instead signed a two-year contract with Port Vale in July 2012, having impressed manager Micky Adams in a match between the two clubs some months earlier. He admitted that he had expected to stay at the New Meadow, but that he was happy to switch clubs in an attempt to win promotion out of League Two for a second successive season with the "Valiants". He began the 2012–13 season in excellent form, and was named as man of the match after saving eleven shots in a 1–0 win over Bradford City at Valley Parade on 29 September. However three days later he dropped a "clanger" at Vale Park as a weak 25 yard shot from Dagenham & Redbridge midfielder Luke Howell "somehow squirmed beneath the embarrassed keeper and trickled into the Vale net" in a disappointing 1–1 draw. He began wearing protective face gear after bruising his cheekbone against Dagenham, and then continued to wear the gear as he superstitiously believed they were essential to the team's run of good results (however he stopped this practice after a run of defeats in December). He made "a string of flying stops during a man-of-the-match display" in an FA Cup defeat to Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on 1 December. He remained a near ever-present, playing 51 games as Vale were promoted at the end of the season in third-place, and was voted as both the Port Vale's players' player of the season and away fan's player of the season.
Neal made a strong start to the 2013–14 season before injuring his wrist at the end of November. After returning to fitness he displaced deputy goalkeeper Sam Johnson and retained his first team spot until he damaged his ankle ligaments in a challenge with Tranmere Rovers defender Ian Goodison on 22 March; the resulting injury kept him out of action for the rest of the season. Despite his injuries he was again voted as both the Port Vale's players' player of the season and away fan's player of the season, and signed a new two-year contract in the summer.
Neal started the 2014–15 season on the bench, as Johnson was selected for the season opener. After returning to the starting line-up in September he won praise for his performances. He again earned praise in December for a series of consistent performances and impressive saves in close games.
|Season||Club||Division||League||FA Cup||League Cup||Other||Total|
|2004–05||Preston North End||Championship||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|2004–05||Tamworth (loan)||Conference National||5||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||6||0|
|2005–06||Preston North End||Championship||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|2006–07||Shrewsbury Town (loan)||League Two||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||1||0|
|2006–07||Morecambe (loan)||Conference National||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|2007–08||Preston North End||Championship||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|2009–10||Shrewsbury Town||League Two||7||0||1||0||1||0||1||0||10||0|
|2012–13||Port Vale||League Two||46||0||2||0||1||0||2||0||51||0|
- with Morecambe
- with Shrewsbury Town
- with Port Vale
- "Search 1984 to 2006 – Birth, Marriage and Death indexes". Findmypast.com. Retrieved 12 August 2010.
- "Neal extends Tamworth loan spell". BBC Sport. 7 February 2005. Retrieved 13 July 2012.
- "Keeper Neal in Tamworth loan move". BBC Sport. 7 January 2005. Retrieved 8 March 2011.
- "Aldershot 4-3 Tamworth". BBC Sport. 8 January 2005. Retrieved 13 July 2012.
- "Tamworth 1-0 Accrington". BBC Sport. 22 January 2005. Retrieved 13 July 2012.
- "Preston vs Ipswich Town". pnefc.net. 18 February 2005. Retrieved 13 July 2012.
- "Chester move in for keeper Neal". BBC Sport. 5 July 2005. Retrieved 8 March 2011.
- "Tamworth net veteran goalkeeper". BBC Sport. 20 June 2005. Retrieved 13 July 2012.
- "Preston keeper has Oldham spell". BBC Sport. 18 July 2006. Retrieved 13 July 2012.
- "Preston keeper leaves after loan". BBC Sport. 25 October 2006. Retrieved 13 July 2012.
- "Morecambe bring in keeper on loan". BBC Sport. 14 May 2007. Retrieved 13 July 2012.
- "Preston goalkeeper leaves on loan". BBC Sport. 17 October 2007. Retrieved 13 July 2012.
- "Keeper Neal signs for Shrewsbury". BBC Sport. 2 July 2009. Retrieved 8 March 2011.
- "Neal ready for Shrewsbury return". BBC Sport. 2 November 2009. Retrieved 13 July 2012.
- "Chris Neal strives to be first choice for Shrewsbury". BBC Sport. 16 September 2010. Retrieved 13 July 2012.
- "Ben Smith surprised by Shrewsbury Town start". BBC Sport. 20 January 2011. Retrieved 13 July 2012.
- "Shrewsbury Town keeper Chris Neal has double dream". Shropshire Star. 25 April 2005. Retrieved 13 July 2012.
- "Fate decrees that Neil is gearing up for League Two promotion challenge again". The Sentinel. 7 July 2012. Retrieved 13 July 2012.
- "Port Vale sign Richard Duffy, Chris Neal and David Artell". BBC Sport. 6 July 2012. Retrieved 12 July 2012.
- "Port Vale keeper Chris Neal did not expect move". BBC Sport. 11 July 2012. Retrieved 12 July 2012.
- "Micky Adams backs keeper Chris Neal after Dagenham and Redbridge howler". The Sentinel. 3 October 2012. Retrieved 3 October 2012.
- "Keeper's jeepers robs Vale of crucial victory". The Sentinel. 3 October 2012. Retrieved 3 October 2012.
- "Neal says players are up for Cheltenham clash". The Sentinel. 15 December 2012. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
- "Neal doesn't mind making a spectacle of himself ... as long as Vale keep winning". The Sentinel. 6 November 2012. Retrieved 6 November 2012.
- "Post-match stats for Port Vale's FA Cup clash with Sheffield United". The Sentinel. 3 December 2012. Retrieved 3 December 2012.
- "Tom Pope wins player-of-the-year award". The Sentinel. 29 April 2013. Retrieved 29 April 2013.
- Baggaley, Mike (30 November 2013). "Adams set to stick with 'terrific' Johnson while Neal is out for at least a month.". The Sentinel. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
- Baggaley, Mike (24 March 2014). "Goalkeeper Chris Neal set to miss rest of season". The Sentinel. Retrieved 24 March 2014.
- Baggaley, Mike (5 May 2014). "Tom Pope named Port Vale player of the year". The Sentinel. Retrieved 5 May 2014.
- Baggaley, Mike (9 June 2014). "Chris Neal signs new Port Vale deal". The Sentinel. Retrieved 9 June 2014.
- "Sam Johnson says he faces huge challenge from Chris Neal". The Sentinel. 11 August 2014. Retrieved 12 August 2014.
- Baggaley, Mike (5 October 2014). "Why Bearded Wonder Chris Neal is star man". The Sentinel. Retrieved 5 October 2014.
- Baggaley, Mike (1 January 2015). "Why this Valiant was Mike Baggaley's player of the month for December". The Sentinel. Retrieved 2 January 2015.
- Includes other competitive competitions, including the Football League Trophy
- "Games played by Chris Neal in 2004/2005". Soccerbase. Retrieved 4 September 2011.
- "Games played by Chris Neal in 2005/2006". Soccerbase. Retrieved 4 September 2011.
- "Games played by Chris Neal in 2006/2007". Soccerbase. Retrieved 4 September 2011.
- "Games played by Chris Neal in 2007/2008". Soccerbase. Retrieved 4 September 2011.
- "Games played by Chris Neal in 2008/2009". Soccerbase. Retrieved 4 September 2011.
- "Games played by Chris Neal in 2009/2010". Soccerbase. Retrieved 4 September 2011.
- "Games played by Chris Neal in 2010/2011". Soccerbase. Retrieved 4 September 2011.
- "Games played by Chris Neal in 2011/2012". Soccerbase. Retrieved 4 September 2011.
- "Games played by Chris Neal in 2012/2013". Soccerbase. Retrieved 4 September 2012.
- "Games played by Chris Neal in 2013/2014". Soccerbase. Retrieved 4 September 2012.
- "Games played by Chris Neal in 2014/2015". Soccerbase. Retrieved 4 September 2012.