SYDNEY (AP) — Lucas Neill has accepted a public apology from television football analyst Les Murray for alleging in a book that the Socceroos captain led a mutiny against Australia's coach at last year's World Cup in South Africa.
Murray has retracted a claim that Neill instructed his teammates to defy the defensive gameplan of the then coach Pim Verbeek immediately prior to Australia's opening World Cup match against Germany in Durban. Australia lost 4-0.
Neill, a former West Ham, Blackburn and Everton defender, issued a statement Wednesday saying that while he's "obviously still disappointed that my name has been wrongly attached to these allegations," he'd decided against pursuing legal action after speaking to Murray.
"It was important for me to ensure that my reputation remain intact and make the public aware that I have never, nor would ever, behave in this manner towards a manager," Neill said. "Furthermore I'm happy that any further prints of the book will exclude this extract. I sincerely hope that anybody who reads the book in its current form understands that the allegations that were reported about me are completely false."
Respected broadcaster Murray, a member of the FIFA ethhics committee, made the claim in "The World Game: The story of how football went global," citing unnamed sources as alleging Neill asked Verbeek to leave the dressing room, then told the players to ignore the game plan.
"In the light of new information that has come to hand I accept that I was misled by my sources and that Lucas Neill did not call for the team to ignore the then national coach's instructions," Murray said in a statement on Wednesday.
"In my view Lucas Neill has been an outstanding captain of the Australian national football team and the third-party report of the Australian game against Germany was never meant to be disparaging of Mr. Neill's character and sense of duty to the team.
"I take this opportunity to unreservedly apologize to Lucas Neill for any hurt or embarrassment concerning this matter."
Neill has described the claim as "scandalous," and says he didn't deliver any pre-match motivational speech to the team before Australia's opening match in South Africa.
Several of Neill's Australia teammates, including former Glasgow Rangers and Newcastle defender Craig Moore, also denied the incident took place.
Verbeek announced before the World Cup that he wouldn't be renewing his contract as Australia manager.
Verbeek was widely criticized for not picking any attacking players against Germany, aiming for a draw so he could concentrate on winning the subsequent group matches. Australia failed to advance after a draw with Ghana and a win over Serbia.