I am truly saddened to have been told today that Neil Young, a real local hero of Manchester City's glorious past, has passed away.
I had reported previously of Neil's bitter fight against cancer, and I believe he was heartened by the huge number of messages and the massive show of support from the City faithful that he received prior to his untimely passing at the relatively young age of 66.
Neil will be in the hearts and minds of untold thousands of football fans today and will forever be part of the history and fabric of Manchester's' greatest team.
I can do not better than to copy the words of Gary James' book Manchester The Greatest City and to say how truly sad I feel today at the loss of one of Manchester and Manchester City's greatest sons.
Many would argue that Neil Young was the most important of all City's forwards during the Mercer-Allison period of success. He certainly contributed the most goals during the Second Division Championship season of 1965-6 and the League Championship season two years later. In fact he was also the club's highest goalscorer during 1968-9 (shared with Colin Bell).
In Cup competition he also managed to score a few vital and noteworthy goals. His memorable strike in the 1969 F.A. Cup Final brought the trophy back to Manchester, while his opener in the ECWC Final of 1970 set City up for their first European success. He also scored twice in the ECWC semi-final against Schalke to help City reach the final.
Fallowfield born Young joined City as an amateur on 15th May 1959 and within two years went on to sign professional forms after proving his ability. In November 1961 he made his debut in the 2-1 defeat at Aston Villa, and remained in the side for the rest of the season. He made 45 consecutive League appearances and didn't miss a game until December 1962. Although he missed the occasional match, he remained a City regular right up until late 1971, shortly before his departure to Preston North End.
One game he probably felt fortunate to miss was the infamous 2-1 defeat by Swindon on 16th January 1965 which ultimately brought the departure of manager George Poyser. The departure actually aided Young's career as, under Mercer and Allison, he seemed to become a stronger, better attacker. He certainly benefited from the training and coaching techniques of Allison, while Mercer always felt that Young was the greatest of all his side: "He has got more talent than anybody else in the club. Six foot tall with a devastating left foot. His right foot works too! In fact he has got everything."
Mercer was always concerned that Young did not have the confidence that some of the other players, such as Summerbee and Lee, had. However, the time and effort put in by Allison helped Young to develop in that direction. It must be said though, that Young was never the type of player to boast of his success or of his part in City's many achievements, he simply let his football prove his ability. Unfortunately, the media rarely gave Young the credit he deserved and by the mid 80s few outside of Manchester really knew what the player had achieved. Videos and books about City's greatest players always seem to concentrate on Bell, Lee and Summerbee and rarely explain the importance of Young. This is unfair.
Young should be remembered for all his many important achievements at Maine Road, and for his often vital goals. He appeared in every significant match of the Mercer-Allison years, apart from the League Cup Final. He was only dropped from that game because he had just become a father, and Mercer and Allison felt his mind should be elsewhere.
In January 1972 he was transferred to Preston after being promised some kind of benefit match. The Blues were still struggling with political battles in the Boardroom and, when these were settled, the new regime did not support Young's claim. For a long while the former hero boycotted the ground and the whole affair appalled many supporters. Once the fanzine movement developed during the late 1980s stories of Young's treatment started to appear and, in 1991, steps were taken by various supporters groups to prove that the fans still held great affection for Young even if the directors did not. Various dinners were held with Young as guest of honour.
Once Francis Lee had gained control of the club in 1994, Young returned to Maine Road to watch a few games and in 1995 April 1995 he came on to the pitch with many of his former team mates to celebrate the 25th anniversary of winning the ECWC. A success that owed much to his attacking play.
Although Young may not be as famous as Summerbee, Bell or Lee, there is no doubt that he contributed as much, if not more, than the others. He will always be remembered by City supporters as one of the greatest English born players of all time.
YOUNG'S PLAYING RECORD
LEAGUE FA CUP FL CUP EUROPE TOTAL
App Gls App Gls App Gls App Gls App Gls
1961-62 24 10 2 1 0 0 - - 26 11
1962-63 31 5 1 0 6 1 - - 38 6
1963-64 37 5 1 0 5 1 - - 43 6
1964-65 31 8 1 0 1 1 - - 33 9
1965-66 35 14 7 3 2 0 - - 44 17
1966-67 38 4 5 2 2 1 - - 45 7
1967-68 40 19 4 1 4 2 - - 48 22
1968-69 40 14 7 2 2 0 2 0 51 16
1969-70 29 6 2 1 5 1 8 4 44 12
1970-71 24 1 2 0 1 0 7 1 34 2
1971-72 3(2) 0 0 0 0 0 - - 3(2) 0
TOTAL 332(2) 86 32 10 28 7 17 5 409(2) 108
Rest in peace Nelly.