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Terry Neill: Pat Jennings, Gerry Armstrong and Sammy McIlroy pay glowing tributes to Northern Ireland legend after his death

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Terry Neill has passed away aged 80

Terry Neill has passed away aged 80

Terry Neill and Pat Jennings during a Northern Ireland training session in 1969

Terry Neill and Pat Jennings during a Northern Ireland training session in 1969

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Terry Neill has passed away aged 80

Terry Neill’s sad passing at the age of 80 has sparked a flood of tributes from fellow Northern Ireland greats.

A charismatic character who enjoyed a colourful career, his death has plunged the Northern Ireland football family into mourning again following the recent tragic loss of legendary manager Billy Bingham.

Former Arsenal, Spurs and Hull City boss Neill also had the privilege of managing and captaining his country.

Neill, who won 59 international caps and scored a famous winner against England at Wembley in 1972, was Arsenal's youngest captain at 20 and as manager he steered the Gunners to three consecutive FA Cup finals.

After his 1979 success over Manchester United, Neill is one of only two Northern Ireland managers who have tasted FA Cup glory – Brendan Rodgers joined him on the shortlist after his Leicester City side beat Chelsea last year.

He won the famous trophy with three compatriots in his team, Pat Jennings, Pat Rice and Sammy Nelson.

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Northern Ireland’s legendary goalkeeper Jennings said: “It’s very sad news, he has a massive influence in my career.

“Terry was in the Northern Ireland side when myself and George Best made our debuts in 1964 and we were together when he later took over as manager.

“I had a few seasons with him at Spurs before he moved on to Arsenal, then he brought me to the Gunners. They were four-year contracts and had a big impact on my career.

“Terry was a brilliant player and to spend as long as he did at Arsenal speaks volumes for how good he was. We had four finals, three FA Cups and one European Cup Winners Cup, unfortunately we only won the United one but it was a great achievement getting to the finals.

“I hadn’t seen Terry for a few years and you feel for the family as they feel the loss the most.

“Terry was a great team-mate and very proud of his achievements. He managed Hull as well and had a wonderful career.”

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Terry Neill and Pat Jennings during a Northern Ireland training session in 1969

Terry Neill and Pat Jennings during a Northern Ireland training session in 1969

Terry Neill and Pat Jennings during a Northern Ireland training session in 1969

Neill brought another Northern Ireland legend, Gerry Armstrong, to Tottenham in 1975.

“He signed me for Spurs all those years ago and I will be forever grateful to him for that,” said 1982 World Cup hero Armstrong.

“He loved joining in and playing, he loved the games on a Friday in the gymnasium.

“Joining Spurs was a huge move for a 21-year-old. It was a one-year contract with a one-year option and I had it all to do. Terry brought me into the first team squad and we went to Goodison Park to play Everton. I was left on the bench and never came on as we won 2-0 with John Duncan scoring both goals.

“But it was a fantastic time for me, he showed faith in me and picked me on merit. I didn’t actually make my debut until after Terry had left.

“Arsenal was his original club and he had great success with them. Bangor was the connection between the two of us and he scored that winning goal against England at Wembley in 1972 in the Home Internationals.

“He was good fun and a real character. Terry was a legend as a player and manager.

“I saw him at Harry Gregg’s funeral and we had a good chat about the old days. I will be remembering him fondly and God rest his soul.”

Neill also handed Martin O’Neill his first Northern Ireland cap when he was still turning out for Distillery in the Irish League.

Former Northern Ireland hero Sammy McIlroy scored for Manchester United in the famous 1979 FA Cup Final but he couldn’t stop Neill guiding Arsenal to a 3-2 win.

Neill also gave McIlroy his international debut in 1972.

“Terry was Arsenal boss when they beat us 3-2 at Wembley and he gave me my first game for Northern Ireland at Hull where he was player manager,” said McIlroy. “It was a very proud moment to make my debut.

“He played centre-half that day and I was up front. We couldn’t play in Belfast because of the Troubles and he was Northern Ireland player-manager.

“Terry was a colourful character and that goal against England at Wembley was a special memory.

“That was a rare victory for us against England and those memories stand out.

“To win the FA Cup was a special achievement for him too and he managed top clubs in Spurs and Arsenal.

“Those jobs would have given him great experience and he had a wonderful career as a player and manager.

“It’s more sad news when former colleagues pass away, no matter what age they are.”

Neill was a man who played with and was friends with some of the greats – someone who played with George Best and once famously tried to sign Diego Maradona.

He played in Bangor's youth team before joining Arsenal for £2,500 in 1959, making his first-team debut aged 18 and becoming Arsenal's youngest ever captain, aged 20.

He was fiercely proud of his upbringing in Bangor and had a sparkle in his eye when he attended the club’s centenary dinner at the Marine Court Hotel in 2018.

The former Bangor Grammar School student told me: "I'm delighted to be here. I grew up in Bangor and this is where it all started for me. I had a wonderful childhood here with great memories of Pickie pool and the great schools. This little town and the football club is what made me.

"I've got a million stories from a lot of people who formed my life, including Billy Hanna who was the manager when I was a young teenager before leaving for Arsenal.

"I had the most brilliant family, which is the most important thing, and an idyllic childhood in Bangor. I'm still in touch with the guys I grew up and have known for a lifetime and this is where home is."

Bangor FC Chairman Graham Bailie said: "It is with great sadness that we have learned about the passing of our former player Terry Neill.

"It was only very recently that Terry had flown over from England as the special guest at our centenary dinner. He was incredibly generous with his time, speaking with supporters and club officials.

"Terry moved from Bangor FC to Arsenal and later managed Spurs and the Gunners. He also played for and managed Northern Ireland and, as such, is our most famous son.

"Our thoughts are with his family and friends."


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