Player name in full: Neil James Young
To/from dates: 1961-1971
Number of appearances: 413
Goals scored: 108
Neil Young was born in Fallowfield, Manchester on 17th February 1944. His childhood home was half a mile from Maine Road, the ground was visible from his bedroom window.
During his youth playing for Manchester Boys, Young caught the eye of scout Harry Godwin and signed for Manchester City as an apprentice in 1959. He turned professional in 1960 and made his first-team debut in November 1961 against Aston Villa. He scored his first goal in December 1961 against Ipswich Town.
Young’s first few seasons were punctuated by a bad run of form for City. They were relegated at the end of the 1961-62 season to the second division and by the end of the 1964/65 season, the club was at the lowest place in the league in its’ history. Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison joined the club as managers in an attempt to change its fortunes.
Mercer and Allison encouraged Young to shoot more frequently, and as a result his position began to vary. Playing inside-forward in an FA Cup tie against Leicester City, he scored the winning goal.
Young quickly became a key player for the squad – and a threat to other teams.
During the 1967-8 season, Young and Mike Summerbee were switched inside, with Young remaining at inside-forward for the rest of the season. With the arrival of Francis Lee, City entered 1968 as possible title contenders. A tense remainder of the season followed with a decisive win against Newcastle required. Young scored twice and had another goal disallowed during a 4-3 match, securing victory for Manchester City.
1969 saw success in the FA Cup, with Young scoring the only, and winning goal, against Leicester in the final. This success continued into 1970, when again Young scored one of the winning goals against Gornik Zabrze in the European Cup Winners’ Cup final – making City the first English team to win a European and domestic trophy in the same season.
The death of his brother in 1970 saw Neil’s performance suffer, and he began to play less for the club. Widely considered to be one of the most important players of that era, Young’s last appearance for City was in October 1971.
Keen to maintain his fitness after retiring from football, Neil regularly played badminton, eventually representing Cheshire in tournaments.
Non-City career (briefly):
Neil transferred to Preston North End, where he made 68 appearances, scoring 18 goals, but left after relegation in the 1973-74 season. He made a final transfer to Rochdale, where he finished his footballing career during the 1974-5 season.
After leaving the sport, Young had various jobs from working for a removal company to being a milkman, selling insurance and working in sports shops and supermarkets.
He returned to football in the mid-1990’s, coaching school football teams.
Sadly, Neil was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2010. That season’s FA Cup tie with Leicester was dedicated to Neil with proceeds from specially produced scarves (in the red and black colours worn in the 1969 final) going to Wythenshawe Hospital.
Neil died on 3rd February 2011, just short of his 67th birthday.