Terry Neal: Pat Jennings, Jerry Armstrong and Sammy McIlroy pay tribute to Northern Ireland legend after his death

The sad death of Terry Neal at the age of 80 brought a flood of praise from other great people in Northern Ireland.

A charismatic character with a colorful career, his death plunged the Northern Ireland football family into mourning once again following the recent tragic loss of legendary manager Billy Bingham.

Former Arsenal, Spurs and Hull City boss Neil has also had the privilege of running his country.

Neil, who won 59 caps and scored the famous goal against England at Wembley in 1972, was Arsenal’s youngest captain at 20 and as manager led the Gunners to three successive FA Cup finals.

Following his success with Manchester United in 1979, Neil became one of only two Northern Irish managers to experience FA Cup glory. Brendan Rodgers joined him on the shortlist after his side Leicester City beat Chelsea last year.

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

Legendary Northern Ireland goalkeeper Jennings said: “This is very sad news, he has had a huge impact on my career.

“Terry was on the Northern Ireland team when George Best and I made our debut 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 to Arsenal and then he brought me to the Gunners. These were four-year contracts and they had a big impact on my career.

“Terry was a brilliant player and the fact that he spent so much time at Arsenal shows how good he was. We’ve had four finals, three FA Cups and one European Cup Winners’ Cup, unfortunately we’ve only won one final, but reaching the final was a big achievement.

“I haven’t seen Terry for a few years and you feel for the family as they are the ones who feel the most about the loss.

“Terry was a great teammate and very proud of his accomplishments. He also managed Hull and had a great career.”

In 1975, Neil brought another Northern Ireland legend, Jerry Armstrong, to Tottenham.

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

“He loved to join in and play, he loved the Friday games at the gym.

“Moving to Tottenham was a huge step for the 21-year-old. It was a one year contract with a one year option and I had everything I needed. Terry brought me into the first team and we went to Goodison Park to play Everton. I stayed on the bench and never took the field as we won 2-0 and John Duncan scored both goals.

“But it was a fantastic time for me, he believed in me and chose me on merit. I actually debuted only after Terry left.

Arsenal was his original club and he had great success with them. Bangor was the link between the two of us and he scored that winning goal against England at Wembley in 1972 in the home International Championship.

“He was a fun and 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 remember him with love, and may the Lord rest his soul.”

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Terry Neal dies at 80

Neill also presented Martin O’Neill with his first cap from Northern Ireland while still playing 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 failed to stop Neal from leading Arsenal to a 3-2 victory.

Neal also gave McIlroy his international debut in 1972.

“Terry was Arsenal’s 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 of my debut.

“That day he played as a centre-back and I was in front. We couldn’t play in Belfast because of the trouble and he was a player-manager from Northern Ireland.

“Terry was a colorful character and that goal against England at Wembley was a special memory for me.

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

“Winning the FA Cup was a special achievement for him and he has managed top clubs Spurs and Arsenal.

“This job would have given him a lot of experience and he had a wonderful career as a player and coach.

“It’s more sad when former colleagues pass away, no matter how old they are.”

Neil was a man who played and was friends with some of the greats – the one 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 at the age of 18 and becoming Arsenal’s youngest captain at 20.

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

A former student at Bangor Gymnasium told me: “I am glad to be here. I grew up in Bangor and this is where it all started for me. Here I had a wonderful childhood with wonderful memories of Pikki Pool and wonderful schools. This small town and football club made me.

“I have a million stories from many people who have shaped my life, including Billy Hanna, who was a manager when I was a teenager before leaving for Arsenal.

“I had a wonderful family, and most importantly, and an idyllic childhood in Bangor. I still communicate with the guys that I grew up and know all my life, and this is my home.

Bangor Football Club Chairman Graham Bailey said: “We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of our former player Terry Neal.

“Just recently, Terry flew in from England as a special guest for our centenary dinner. He was incredibly generous when talking to fans and club officials.

“Terry moved from Bangor to Arsenal and later managed Spurs and Gunners. He also played and managed Northern Ireland and is therefore our most famous son.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends.”