Port Vale: Fate decrees that Neil is gearing up for League Two promotion challenge again
FOOTBALL is a funny old game – just ask Chris Neal.
The 26-year-old stopper couldn't have been happier when Shrewsbury sealed promotion to League One by finishing runners-up last year.
But a few months later, he'd left the club and is now looking forward to another season in League Two.
Not that he minds one bit.
"My contract had run out at Shrewsbury and they wanted me to stay," he explained.
"But they would only offer me a one-year deal and I was looking for two. It was as simple as that really.
"I was part of a good side and I'll admit it was tough to give up the chance of playing in League One after working so hard to get there.
"But that's football and that's just how it goes sometimes.
"Things didn't work out in that respect, but I'm now looking forward to a new challenge in a new environment."
And Neal, with one promotion already in the bag, is ready to do it all over again.
"With the quality players the manager is bringing in, I'd like to think we'll have a great chance of being promoted," said Neal.
"I met him in the last couple of days and things got sorted out quickly.
"He showed me around the place and I was really happy to come here in the end.
"I met the chairman (Keith Ryder) the other day as well and he obviously has big ambitions for the club.
"He clearly wants to take it back to where it has been in the past, and to have people in charge who have such vision is a massive thing for me."
Neal started his career at Preston and spent brief loan spells at non-league Tamworth, Shrewsbury and Morecambe before landing back at Town in 2009. He went on to make 74 appearances in all competitions for the Shrews, producing the kind of form that made him a target for several clubs when talks with boss Graham Turner over a new contract broke down.
But it was the Valiants he plumped for in the end, agreeing a two-year deal.
"I knew all about Port Vale from having played here before," he said. "The crowd makes it a cracking atmosphere, and that's great to play in.
"I've seen the quality that is coming in and that appeals to a player too. Playing in a winning team is obviously what everyone wants to do and I hope we are looking good for a promotion push."
Confident Neal describes himself as a goalkeeper who is the "all-round package". "I'm a good shot-stopper, but that probably goes without saying for a keeper," he added.
"I'd say I'm also good at talking and coming for crosses, so a bit of an all-rounder.
"But last year was the first time I'd played almost a full season and I felt I grew as a professional. Now, I want to build on that."