Somewhere along the line, people in the game have to realise that the transfer market is dead. Terry Neill, 1982
A quote from an Arsenal manager and its not Arsene Wenger, but stunningly fits him so well. Anyhow, Terry Neill, who had a up and down time at Arsenal playing for us from 1958 to 1970 and managing us from 1976-1983. I’ve actually meet Terry for an interview I did with him on a piece I did on Paul Vaessen as a friend knew him from a pub he frequented. Thanks to my mate Matt who told him:-
Terry, a mate wants to interview you about Paul Vaessen. By the way, he said you were a crap manager whilst at Arsenal though.
Thanks Matt. Though Terry got his own back, as he ordered a couple glasses of Large wine at £7.50 a shot (I could have got a bottle with dinner at Wetherspoons).
Anyhow, Terry Neill is, in many way a legend at Arsenal and also a man thoroughly detested by many fans who remember the last few years managing Arsenal. This is a man who was the youngest Arsenal captain (until Tony Adams took the record), the most capped player (until Kenny Sansom and Patrick Vieira surpassed him), youngest Spurs manager, youngest Arsenal manager, youngest sacked Arsenal manager, and a man who replaced two double winning managers in Bill Nicholson and Bertie Mee.
I’ve got to be honest, I never saw Terry player for us, as he made his debut in 1958. Therefore I asked a couple ‘veteran’ Arsenal fans on twitter about him. These were Cockney Green, Tony and Pete N. Tony said the following:-
— Tony Fisher (@vidfish1) April 10, 2014
Images via Revelations of a Football manager
Terry Neill joined Arsenal in 1959 from Bangor. Terry was a mere 17 year old and played for Bangor and importantly the boy Brigade, which are regarded as the cornerstone of Northern Ireland football’s growth. A year later, Terry Neill made his debut on the 23rd December 1960 against Sheffield Wednesday as a centre half. When I met Terry, he told me that he was replacing Tommy Docherty* (I didn’t even know he played for us). Terry said he was pretty scared, as Tommy was Scotland captain, but came in and wished him the best which steadied his nerves enough to score on his debut. By the age of 20 (1962) Terry Neill had been made captain by manager Billy Wright. Terry later wrote of it:-
Although I was honoured to be given the job, I knew I was too young and inexperienced . I think Billy Wright saw me as a reincarnation of himself,a centre-half who was destined to lead the side from a young from an early age. With senior players like Joe Baker, George Eastham and Geoff Strong around, I did not find it easy, but I retained the job until Frank McLintock took over in the late sixties.
By 1968 Terry Neill was also captain of Northern Ireland.
Terry Neill played in the 1968 defeat in the league cup final to Leeds, but was injured for the 1969 cup final defeat to Swindon. Ian Ure took his place in the final and had a stinker (which was not rare). By mid 1969-70:-
The signing of the big blond Welshman John Roberts from Northampton – meant that Mee would soon end the Highbury careers of Terry Neill and Ian Ure.
Arsenal also had a new defender at the the back who was playing more regularly in the team, Peter Simpson.
His success at Hull was two fold, in that the club came close to promotion and he proved adept at public relations. He was one of the first managers to make his side trot to the centre of the field before kick off and salute the crowd, a gesture unknown until the 70’s.
In his international career of 59 caps, Terry is remembered mainly for being the only player manager to score the winning goal against England at Wembley in 1972:-
By 1974, Bill Nicholson had decided to retire as manager of Spurs, with his last game in charge being a defeat in the UEFA cup final, in which the Spurs fans rioted (such a lovely bunch):-
Terry Neill then became manager of Spurs. For many an Arsenal fan though, Terry Neill’s time in charge was one we thoroughly enjoyed. In the season of 1974-5, Spurs had to win their final game to stay in the top division. Although we laughed at them finishing 19th, only one place and point above the relegation zone, our own torrid season had seen us finish a mere 16th place (we had been bottom in October). The following year, Neill got them up to 9th (whilst we languished in 17th). Before the season had finished, Bertie Mee had handed in his resignation. Mee had wanted to stay on at the club, but Terry Neill wanted total control when he accepted the job. On the appointment of Neill, one author was moved to say:-
Mee’s replacement was a surprise [due to his lack of success at Spurs], although he followed the tradition of being an Arsenal man.
Terry’s first bit of transfer business was Malcolm Macdonald (or supermac) from Newcastle for £333,333.34. A man with an eye for goal and a big gob as well, he was a welcome change to the team.
His first game in charge was at Highbury against newly promoted Bristol City. A pitiful Arsenal turned up (nothing unusual in the mid 1970’s). Brian Glanville said of the game:-
Will Malcolm Macdonald succeed at highbury, where City, after a groggy beginning, were efficient, quick, lively, methodical, Arsenal were inept……Macdonald had to do what little he could with pathetic service. Brady, it is true, did not play, but he has the task of Atlas.
Although not a treat season for Arsenal, there was steady improvement, to 8th place. Better still, Spurs were bottom and relegated. Also, Supermac, after saying he would score 30 in a season, failed. By one goal. We also suffered 7 defeats on the trot at the start of the year (a club record).
Not a bad first season, but if Terry was doing anything correct it was buying a new and better team. Along with Super Mac, we also signed Pat Jennings (arguably our best keeper ever in my opinion for a paltry £45,000 (and selling Jimmy Rimmer for £65,000 to Aston Villa). Alan Hudson from Stoke for £200,000, Willie Young from Spurs for £80,000. Later he would sign Alan Sunderland for £220,000 and Brian Talbot for £450,000.Terry was making a team that was on a roll.
By the following season and the 2 that followed, Terry would get us to 5 semi-finals, 4 finals and one F.A Cup win. Arsenal were one the rise. As Tyler & Soar have said of that period and the 3 consecutive F.A cup finals:-
The Gunners contrived to win the one[Manchester United] they were expected to lose and lose the two [Ipswich & West Ham] they were expected to win.
Spectacular defeat and victories were always with Terry Neill. The season of 1979-80 sum it up all so well. A semi final win in the F.A cup, after five attempts with League champions Liverpool followed a hollow defeat to West Ham in the final. Worst still was the defeat to Valencia in the European Cup Winners Cup in 1980. In perhaps Terry Neill’s finest moment, being in charge of Arsenal against Juventus in 1980 and being the first English club to win there. Especially after having drawn 1-1 in the first leg on which Juve striker Roberto Bettega had nearly broken David O’leary leg. As said in a previous piece on the game :-
Not only that, Roberto Bettega was the star of Italian football, so Neill’s comments “we had to take the studs out of O’Leary” in the first leg had created a cauldron of hate. After the first match, Neill had added, when speaking to the Italian press, “You must be ashamed. It must be difficult admitting you are Italian tonight”. O’Leary was incensed that Bettega’s tackle was ‘criminal’ and disgusted he didn’t even come to see him after the match.
Upping the tempo was Juventus chairman Giampiero Boniperti saying “Neill’s behaviour was unacceptable and he should be fired”. Animosity between the teams had reached such heights that Juventus’ General Manager warned Arsenal fans and players that “the atmosphere will be very tense. Feelings have been inflamed by newspaper reports of what was said at Highbury. We fear our fans may be planning something for Arsenal. They are very angry that Juventus players have been called animals”.
Bettega had also tried to diffuse the situation by inviting Neill and O’Leary onto his TV show he had at the time. O’Leary refused, but Neill did go. During the interview, Bettega asked about his violent reaction to the incident. Neill responded “I am not a violent man, but I reacted to the situation as I saw it. I don’t regret a word I said”. Hardly conciliatory.
Arsenal win was secured with a player called Paul Vaessen, a mere 18 year old sub in the last 3 minutes of Normal time.
From 1980 to 1983 it all went downhill. Terry, a man who had ideas but often not the respect of the team, had arguments with Alan Hudson, after him and Supermac went on a drinking spree on an Aussie tour. His most famous fall outs with any player though was with Willie Young. Willie was a man who knew his own mind and never suffered fools Brian McDermott recalls:-
Willie was one of the funniest blokes I met in football. Even now, I look back to his arguments with Terry Neill and I just laugh. Once, in pre-season training, Terry decided to hire an aerobics instructor…….Anyway, Willie refused to do it. He just said ‘bollocks, I’m not doing it, boss. Terry said to him ‘Yes you are Willie, and if you don’t i’ll fine you £50’ This was actually quite a lot of money to a footballer back then. Still, Willie refused. Anyway Terry continued to up the fine, until it got to a full weeks’ wages, if he wouldn’t dance. At that point, Willie relented and said ‘Ok, Ok, I’m fucking dancing. Yippee!!!!’ and he jumped up in the air and waved his arms and legs around. Even the aerobics instructor nearly killed herself laughing.
By the season of 1980-81, Arsenal had lost Liam Brady for a derisory £650,000. In his biography So Far So Good : A Decade in Football, Liam Brady was critical of Terry, feeling that he promised to build a team around him but this never occurred. As Nick Hornby said in Fever pitch of Brady’s loss:-
After Brady had gone Arsenal tried out a string of midfielders, some of them were competent, some not, all of them doomed by the fact they weren’t the person they were trying to replace: between 1980 and 1986 Talbot, Rix, Rollins, Price, Gatting, Peter Nicholas, Robson, Petrovic, Charlie Nicholas, Davis and Williams… all played in central midfield.
The loss of Brady, psychologically seemed to hit the team, even though in the season of 1980-81 Arsenal finished a respectable 3rd place. The next few years for Neill’s were often called ‘the dark days’, as Arsenal signed player on the cheap, or worst, they signed Lee Chapman, even though Rix and Sansom told him that he was ‘fucking crap’ and should sign Garry Thompson. Although Arsenal get to two semi finals in 1982-3 (losing both to Manchester United), rumours had surfaced prior to the 1983 FA cup semi that the board (and David Dein especially), had been looking for a new manager. It was felt Arsenal had needed a change as Arsenal had suffered a humiliating 5-0 loss to Spurs:-
Neill’s dislike of Dein had been well known and underlined in his biography, in which Neill said that Dein had started going for drinks with some of the vociferous elements of the Arsenal supporters, and also been saddling up with some of the senior members of the playing staff.
The season of 1983-4 would see Neill’s time come to an end. Terry seemed to be finding motivating the players difficult at best saying during this period:-
‘They [the players] don’t seem to know what it is to hunger for goals and glory. On (some) days I think they just want to pick up their money and go home. But i’ll tell you know; we’ll finish in the top six again this season. Whether or not I’ll be around to see it is another matter.’ They did finish 6th, and Neill was not around to see it.
Terry’s downfall started with the defeat at home to Walsall in the league cup, almost 50 years to the day Arsenal had lost to Walsall in the FA cup.
After the game Terry said to the gathered press (whilst the fans screamed for his resignation outside) :-
I’ll never know how the team that beat Spurs [in the previous round at WHL] could then go out and perform like a bunch of pantomime horses.
A defeat to WBA and WHU followed and Terry Neill was sacked. Rumours flew that Arsenal were going for such high profile names as Jack Charlton and Malcolm Macdonald. Instead, we were left with Don Howe for 2 and a half years.
So, in writing this piece I was struck by how ‘unlucky’ Neill was. I was also taken by something Tim wrote about Neill recently:-
With Arsenal in the semi-final of the FA Cup and facing Championship side Wigan, some people are already invoking memories of Walsall and Neill. Those comparisons seem a bit of a stretch. Wigan is not Walsall, Arsenal in 4th place is not the same as Arsenal in 16th, and Terry Neill won just one trophy in his tenure at Arsenal whilst Arsene Wenger has won eleven and we simply cannot discount Wenger’s record securing Champions League football.
Tim is correct in the league position and cup wins, but in his period in charge, Terry Neill got us to 7 semifinals in 7 years (2 Milk cup, 4 FA cup and 1 Cup winners lost). Of those Semi-finals Neill faced Liverpool twice, Manchester United twice, Wolves, Juventus and Leyton Orient. Of those, only Orient could be seen as an easy win. Wenger, over the same period, Wenger has had 17 semi-finals in 17 years (one a year, the same as Neill), losing 7 (two of these being to Middlesbrough and Wigan). Terry Neill put us back challenging after the last years of Bertie Mee and he faced only one ‘poor’ team in the semi’s, whilst Wenger has faced Middlesbrough twice, Wigan twice, Sheffield United, Lens and Villarreal in 6 semifinals.
Also, I feel Neill did something Wenger has never done. Twice. Bought two goalkeepers that are in my top five in Pat Jennings and John Lukic for less than £150,000 combined. Wenger has bough Richard Wright and Lukasz Fabianski for £7,000,000 combined. If Terry failed it was his strikers in comparison to Wenger. I mean, none of his strikers ever scored over thirty (Wenger had RVP (and Adebayor, e.d.) and Thierry Henry to score more than 30 per season). Neill also wasted so much money (like Wenger has to……Francis Jeffers anyone). If you want to see just look below at my own calculations.
|Terry Neill Successful signings||Price||Terry Neill Successful signings||Price|
|Pat Jennings||£45,000||Ray Hankin||£20,000|
|Kenny Sansom||£1,000,000||John Hawley||£50,000|
|Brian Talbot||£450,000||John Kosmina||£30,000|
|Alan Sunderland||£220,000||Peter Nicholas||£500,000|
|Willie Young||£80,000||George Wood||£140,000|
|Malcolm Macdonald||£333,333||Clive Allen||£1,000,000|
|John Lukic||£75,000||Lee Chapman||£500,000|
|Vladimir Petrovic||£40,000||Tommy Caton||£500,000|
Ultimately though, I’ve got to say Terry gets a bad time from fans. Yes. His last few years were dreary, but when he started he came in with new idea’s (clapping the fans). He tried to revitalised the club, but as he told me when I spoke to him last January I said the following and got this response:-
I also asked about John Hawley and Ian Rankin. Spurling said their nickname by the fans at the time was the H-bums they were so bad. When I asked I thought Terry might not want to discuss them, but he was quite open.
“Oh, Ian Rankin. I think at that stage I couldn’t see the wood for the trees, a bit like the present boss. [my italics]‘** I asked what he meant; ‘well I wasn’t making the best signings for Arsenal, though Rankin was Don’s idea. When you manage a club, you get too close and can’t always see clearly.
I thought that was a pretty honest outlook on his and the present managers problems at a club like Arsenal.
*Tommy Docherty is one of the ‘characters’ of football. Most likely the third best scottish manager at Manchester United, until he was sacked for having an affair with the physio’s wife. Check David Tossell’s biography on him.
**During the interview, Terry was nothing but respectful of Arsenal, its fans and employee’s. Therefore, I am in no way insinuating that Terry had an axe to grind with his previous employers.