The story of Burnley winger Dwight McNeil: Growing up as a footballer's son, his home life and the reason why he's so good on FIFA 20!

Dwight McNeil with Mum, Tracy, Dad, Matty, brother, Baillie and sister, ChiaraDwight McNeil with Mum, Tracy, Dad, Matty, brother, Baillie and sister, Chiara
Dwight McNeil with Mum, Tracy, Dad, Matty, brother, Baillie and sister, Chiara | jpimedia
Burnley's Dwight McNeil doesn't often lift a finger around the house, but the England Under 21 international will put his thumbs to good use.

The Rochdale-born winger still lives at home with his parents, Matty and Tracy, as well as younger siblings Baillie, 17, and 13-year-old Chiara.

The family's humble abode bears testimony to two football careers - one past and one present - but it also carries evidence that McNeil is just like any other adolescent.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The 20-year-old's shirt from his Young Lions debut adorns a wall on the staircase. It sits alongside Macclesfield Town and Stockport County tops worn by Matty and a winner's medal from his play-off success with the Hatters at Wembley in 2008.

Burnley's Dwight McNeil up against Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold at Turf MoorBurnley's Dwight McNeil up against Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold at Turf Moor
Burnley's Dwight McNeil up against Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold at Turf Moor | Getty

Then, within a few steps, normality resumes. McNeil spends a lot of his time cooped up in the bedroom he shares with his teenage brother where he'll avoid household chores by playing FIFA on his Playstation 4.

McNeil offered a glimpse of his capabilities on the console when defeating West Ham United defender Ryan Fredericks 3-2 in the first round of the ePremier League Invitational Cup.

The Clarets wide man, who got one over on the Hammers full back on the pitch in November as the hosts prevailed 3-0 at Turf Moor, overcame technical difficulties to advance in the competition.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Goals from Jay Rodriguez and Ashley Westwood put Burnley 2-0 up, but Fredericks hit back with strikes from Albian Ajeti and Oladapo Afolayan. However, McNeil netted the winner late on when scoring with himself.

Matty, 42, who featured for the Silkmen in an FA Cup round round tie against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in 2007, dished the dirt on his eldest child as they started to get to grips with isolation amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Oldham Athletic coach described the Clarets' star as a man of few words. "Dwight is very quiet," he said. "He'll come in and say very little, he speaks when he has to, or when he wants something, which is the norm.

"He's good to have about, but he leaves everything all over the show, we have to tidy up after him.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"He'll come in and he'll be computer-bound or he'll be out eating food and seeing friends. A lot of the time he's in his room on the computer.

"He's even more laid back at home because there's a lot of action on the pitch. He's learnt that he has to come out of himself a bit more when he's on the pitch to impact on games.

"Any chance he gets to be quiet, that's Dwight. He's always been like that since day one. He's easy come, easy go.

"He's like all the children, he doesn't do anything. We, as parents, have to do a lot. I don't think any of them have ever done a chore in their life.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"They don't do anything, they don't even clean their bedroom. Nothing, they don't do a thing, we have to do it all."

McNeil's contribution at home compared to his contribution on the pitch, though, is like chalk and cheese.

While the Young Lions star hides away when it comes to doing domestic duties such as washing the dishes or tidying his room, he's always looking to play his part on matchday.

Since being given his big break by Burnley boss Sean Dyche the club's Young Player of the Year in 2017/18 has scored five goals and added 10 assists in 51 Premier League appearances.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

McNeil Sr confirmed that his son had shown plenty of promise from an early age. "With me playing and it always being around the house, we introduced him to a ball as soon as he could walk.

"He just loved touching it and kicking it. A lot of kids would bend down and pick it up, but he didn't do that. He'd just put his foot on it and roll it out.

"It was funny to see him doing it and he would just do it all the time. He always had a love for the ball and it just kept developing.

"He'd come to watch me and then he'd just sit there watching other games. He wouldn't move, he'd just sit there watching everything that was going on.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"He just got this bug for balls. When JJB was around years ago they used to have these fly away balls that had faces on, they were all different colours.

"He had a collection of them and every time we took him into Oldham we'd walk past and we had to buy him one. We ended up with about 30 of these balls, it was just bizarre, but that was just him.

"He was just focussed, he wanted to kick balls and play. He'd always want to practice, you'd take him outside for a little kickabout and run drills."

McNeil began watching his Dad play for Runcorn FC, who would later reform as Runcorn Linnets, and then later sat in the stands at Ewen Fields as striker Matty became a one-in-three man at Hyde United.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It was around that time when McNeil was spotted by a scout from Bolton Wanderers while playing at a JJB Sports soccer school near the Trafford Centre for which his parents used to pay £10 for two hours of football activity.

But it was the lure of Manchester United that eventually provided the young hopeful with his first experience of academy football at the age of five. "He was probably about three when he first came to watch me," said Matty.

"He would always play in the back garden and when he was about four there were Bobby Charlton schools taking place, which I attended when I was a kid. We looked at that and there was one in Oldham at Failsworth Primary School and there was one at JJB inside the Trafford Centre.

"We used to take him over there for sessions on a Sunday and then there were a few scouts that came along. He never played for a junior side.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"There was a Bolton scout who saw him first at JJB, he went there and then Manchester United came on the scene. From there, if they were good enough, they'd then send them to The Cliffe.

"Watching him go there and get through was great because it was the club we supported. It was a fantastic moment when he signed for the Under 9s having been there from the age of five or six. They had a lot of lads going in there so he did really well to come out on top. That was a pleasing moment."

He added: "I saw what he could do when we used to go to the park, he'd stand there and listen. I'd ask him to do something and he would go on and do it. He was a good kid, he just listened and got on with it.

"In the end it just became second nature to him. When he was learning about it later in his career it was just reinforcing what he had already been taught.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"He took stuff on board, he was technically very good, he's always had a good left foot, he had skills, he could dribble with the ball, he had a good touch and he had a love of the game from day one.

"Once he got to 12/13 I told people that he would be a professional footballer. I've been a professional, I know what it's like in levels and I know what's around so I knew he had enough, even after the Manchester United knock back at 14.

"Being a professional and making it with Manchester United are two completely different levels. I was never stupid enough to say that my son was going to play for the first team there, whereas there were a lot of other parents saying that."

McNeil joined the Clarets' Academy system at Gawthorpe in 2014 and was then rewarded with a two-year scholarship in the summer of 2016. He starred for the Under 18s and the Development Squad and went on to sign his first professional contract in April 2018.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The rest, as they say, is history. The name of the former Oasis Academy pupil continues to be mentioned in the same breath as some of the highest rated stars on the planet and he's only going to keep getting better.

Having signed a new contract to keep him at the club until June 2023, with the option of a further 12 months, Matty continued: "I'm absolutely buzzing that Dwight has done what he's done. Having those experiences will only help him.

"He's always been one of the best boys in his age group and he's always scored fantastic goals. He's scored better goals than those that you've seen for the first team.

"They'll come in time because through the under 15s, 16s, youth team, under 23s, he's always scored goals from outside the area for fun. He just bangs them and they'll fly into the top corner.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"It's a different game for the first team - I understand that and he's beginning to understand it. Before you're getting your long range shots off there's a lot of work to be done to get to those points.

"You've got to get into that situation because football is improvised. You just don't know what's going to happen in the game. He's started scoring long range goals and they'll come more often as people start to give him the ball a lot more.

"The rise has been good and he deserves credit as do the coaching staff and everybody at Burnley. He doesn't realise how lucky he is! He's done well and one of his key secrets is his love for the game.

"He's comfortable, composed, he's cool on the ball. He has good vision, he's a good passer of the ball, his decision making is massive in the game and that's also one of his qualities.

"He's getting a lot of joy coming off the shape, he's getting his shots off, he overloads in midfield and the opposition just doesn't know what to do at times. He's doing really well."