Men's Team

Forever Young: Team-mates hail the enduring legacy of a true City legend

‘A quality player and a wonderful all-round person.’

As poignant and moving tributes go, they don’t come much better than that attributed to Neil Young, one of City’s most talented and fondly remembered players, who sadly passed away 11 years ago today.

A wonderfully elegant attacking winger, armed with a gifted left foot and an eagle eye for goal, Young’s impact and influence on City’s golden period of the late 1960 and early 1970s cannot be overstated.

Top scorer in the Club's memorable Division One championship triumph in the 1967/68 campaign, it was no coincidence that it was Young who claimed a vital brace during our decisive, title-clinching 4-3 win away at Newcastle on the final day of that special season.

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Just twelve months later, the lifelong City fan’s boyhood dreams were further realised when Young let fly with that sweet left foot to secure us FA Cup final glory as we overcame Leicester 1-0 in the 1969 Wembley showpiece.

And Young’s big game prowess was then further illustrated when Joe Mercer’s men lifted the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1970.

Young it was who both opened the scoring and then won the decisive, trophy-winning penalty converted by Francis Lee as City beat Gornik Zabrze 2-1 in Vienna.

DREAM TEAM: Neil Young (bottom row second from right) and City's 1970 European Cup Winners' Cup winning squad
DREAM TEAM: Neil Young (bottom row second from right) and City's 1970 European Cup Winners' Cup winning squad

All told, Young made 415 appearances for City, scoring 108 goals during more than 12 memorable years with the Club before moving on to Preston.

After holding down a variety of different jobs after his playing career, tragically, illness saw Neil pass away just two weeks before his 67th birthday on February 3, 2011

However, his impact and contribution have never forgotten by successive generations of appreciative City fans.

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Indeed, after news of his terminal illness was made public late in 2010, the City supporters paid their own emotional tribute to Neil by donning red and black scarves in our FA Cup third round trip to Leicester shortly before he passed away in honour of the iconic kit Young and City wore in that ’69 Wembley triumph.

That affectionate homage continued across our dramatic run through to the final itself that year as Roberto Mancini’s side ended our 35-year wait for silverware by beating Stoke 1-0.

But, arguably, the most telling testimonials as to Young’s enduring legacy and beguiling talent belong to those who knew him best – his City team-mates from that special team assembled by Mercer and visionary coach Malcolm Allison.

EMOTIONAL TRIBUTE: The City spelt out their affection for Neil with this tribute in red and black, in honour of our 1969 FA Cup final win
EMOTIONAL TRIBUTE: The City spelt out their affection for Neil with this tribute in red and black, in honour of our 1969 FA Cup final win

And when speaking to mancity.com to mark the 50th anniversary of that special 1969 FA Cup final triumph, Young’s colleagues needed no prompting to shine an appreciative spotlight on both the supremely gifted player – and humble, softly-spoken man.

Tony Book was captain of that magnificent City side and knew better than most the myriad qualities that Young - affectionately known as Nellie by the City fans - brought to the team.

And it was crystal clear that the ensuing years had only heightened Book’s appreciation of the key role played by the Fallowfield-born attacking wide man.

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“Neil had an educated left foot and was a wonderful, elegant player and a huge talent as he showed that day at Wembley,” Skip recalled.

“He was definitely good enough to hold down an international place with England.

“But Neil was so humble and such a down to earth guy too.

“He really was everything you would want in a player and as a person and more.”

MAGIC MOMENT: Neil Young's shot nestles in the back of the Leicester goal to secure FA Cup glory in 1969
MAGIC MOMENT: Neil Young's shot nestles in the back of the Leicester goal to secure FA Cup glory in 1969

Wing wizard Mike Summerbee, one of the fellow titans of that glorious side and now a Club ambassador, echoed Book’s warm words when recalling Young’s enormous contribution.

And he emphasised how for Young the team was everything.

“Neil Young was simply a fantastic player,” Buzzer fondly recalled.

“People like Neil were so, so important to what we achieved.

“Neil was a great player who scored countless vital goals for us. He was like a ballet dancer in the fact he was so graceful on a football pitch.”

CALLING THE SHOTS: Neil relaxes away in a candid moment away from the pitch
CALLING THE SHOTS: Neil relaxes away in a candid moment away from the pitch

Tommy Booth, another City legend from that halcyon period under Mercer and Allison, echoed Book’s bafflement as to how it was Young never won a full England cap.

And the centre half also attested to Young's wonderful all-round ability on the field.

“Why Neil never played for England I will never know,” Tommy recalled.

“You ask anyone - he had one of the best left foots going and he could also use his head.

“And he was a lovely lad to boot too.

“He was a real quality player – all of the City lads will tell you how just good he was.”

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