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John Neal (13 April 1932 – 23 November 2014) was an English football player and manager.

John Neal
Personal information
Date of birth (1932-04-13)13 April 1932
Place of birth Seaham, County Durham, England
Date of death 23 November 2014(2014-11-23) (aged 82)
Playing position Defender
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1949–1955 Hull City 60 (1)
1956–1957 King's Lynn
1957–1958 Swindon Town 91 (2)
1959–1962 Aston Villa 96 (0)
1962–1965 Southend United 100 (1)
Total 256 (2)
Teams managed
1968–1977 Wrexham
1977–1981 Middlesbrough
1981–1985 Chelsea
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Playing careerEdit

Neal was a hard tackling full back who had seven seasons with Hull City, but seemed lost to the Football League when he joined King's Lynn in 1956.[1]

Swindon Town brought him back to the Football League and he missed only one game in two seasons with the Robins. His career peaked when he signed for Aston Villa in 1959, with whom he won the Football League Second Division championship and promotion to the Football League First Division. He won the inaugural Football League Cup a year later. He joined Southend United in November 1962.

Managerial careerEdit


Neal was appointed manager of Wrexham in 1968, succeeding Alvan Williams who had brought Neal to the club as his assistant.[2] He took Wrexham to 9th in Division 4 in 1969, and to 2nd in Division 4 in 1970 and promotion to the Third Division. With Welsh clubs now able to qualify for the European Cup Winners Cup by winning the Welsh Cup, and following Wrexham winning the Welsh Cup, Neal in 1972 took Wrexham to the second round of the European Cup Winners Cup, where Wrexham held the Yugoslavian side Hajduk Split 3-3, but lost on the away goals rule.

Two years later, Neal took Wrexham to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. Wrexham beat Shrewsbury Town, Rotherham United, Middlesbrough, Crystal Palace and Southampton before losing in the quarter finals to First Division Burnley at Turf Moor with just over 20,000 Wrexham away fans present.

In 1976, Neal took Wrexham on another run in the European Cup Winners Cup. They lost narrowly 2-1 in the quarter finals to the eventual winners RSC Anderlecht.

In the 1976-77 season, Wrexham beat First Division Tottenham Hotspur in the League Cup, and First Division Sunderland in the FA Cup.


Neal succeeded Jack Charlton as manager of Middlesbrough in 1977. He left the club four years later.


Neal was appointed manager of Chelsea in 1981 as a successor to Geoff Hurst.[3] The club narrowly avoided relegation to the Third Division of the Football League during 1982–83 for the first time ever, but over the summer Neal signed Kerry Dixon from Reading, Pat Nevin from Clyde, Eddie Niedzwiecki from Wrexham and Nigel Spackman from Bournemouth. The previous season he had brought in Joey Jones and David Speedie and then added Mickey Thomas in January 1984. This side won the Second Division championship in 1983–84, losing just four league games and securing their place in the top-flight for the first time since 1979.

Upon returning to the top tier, Chelsea finished 6th, reached the League Cup semi-finals, and for a time were challenging for a place in Europe, though the events at Heysel that season would have rendered European qualification immaterial anyway. Neal retired at the end of the 1984-85 season due to ill-health and underwent heart surgery in 1986. After retirement as Chelsea manager in June 1985 he was appointed to the Chelsea Board of Directors.[4]

On 23 November 2014, Neal died at the age of 82.[5] On his death, Chelsea paid tribute to Neal on their website praising his management at a time of crisis for the club and his purchase of future Chelsea legends, Kerry Dixon and Pat Nevin.[3]

Managerial statisticsEdit


Team Nat From To Record
G W D L Win %
Wrexham   1 September 1968 19 May 1977 474 199 125 150 041.98
Middlesbrough   1 May 1977 31 May 1981 196 69 52 75 035.20
Chelsea   1 May 1981 11 June 1985 204 84 61 59 041.18
Total 874 352 238 284 040.27


  1. ^ Soccer Who's Who. Compiled by Maurice Golesworthy. The Sportmans Book Club. 1965.
  2. ^ "Dragons mourn former manager". Daily Post. 23 December 2003. Retrieved 29 April 2016.
  3. ^ a b "Chelsea pay tribute as John Neal — the manager who unearthed club legends Kerry Dixon and Pat Nevin — dies aged 82". Mail Online. 24 November 2014. Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  4. ^ Chelsea Football Club The Full Statistical Story 1905-1986 by Scott Cheshire and Ron Hockings — ISBN 0-9511640-0-7
  5. ^ "John Neal: Ex-Wrexham, Chelsea and Middlesbrough boss dies". BBC Sport. 24 November 2014. Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  6. ^ "John Neal's managerial career". Racing Post. Retrieved 24 November 2014.

External linksEdit