Pompey today are mourning the passing of Pat Neil at the age of 79. Pat was considered by many as a Pompey legend even though he played just eleven games for the club over eight years.
I have written too many obituaries over the years and Pat who had become a good friend over the years even digging out books and articles to assist me in my writing for Toast. As a personal tribute here is the first article I wrote about Pat back in 2008.
Pat Neil was Skilful winger who has become a local legend. Fans in their 60s and 70s are always keen to talk about Pat even though he only played ten times for Pompey. I have tried to find out why he has become such a celebrity and hope I can outline some of them here.
Pat was I believe born in Portsmouth and we believe his father worked in an Off licence in the Kingston Road/New Road area. He started school in Binstead Road before progressing to Northern Grammar School where he played in the same school team as John, who we met last week in ‘My first match’ feature and Vital regular 007 or Bondie as we call him. John and Pat then progressed into the Pompey Boys side.
John tells me that he thought Pat made his Pompey debut before he left school as he remembers an announcement at Monday morning assembly. I think however it must have been Pompey Reserves rather than the first team but I may be wrong. It could have been the news that Pat had made his debut for England Schoolboys against Wales at Wembley. Pat also had the pleasure of playing for the same England schools side at Fratton Park a month later when they beat Eire 8-0. As it was on 20 August 1955 when Pat made his debut and that would have been during the school holiday at the time Pat was aged 17 and he became Pompey’s youngest ever first team player.
He played the first game away to Huddersfield Town on the right wing replacing the unfit Peter Harris in the first game of what to be a safe mid table 1955/56 season. Pat missed the midweek games with Wolves but made his Fratton Park debut the following Saturday at home to Blackpool; this time he replaced the injured Gordon Dale. The game awakened the nation’s press who all wanted a photo of Pat the Division’s youngest player with Stanley Matthews who by then was in his forties. Pat celebrated the rise to stardom with a goal in a 3-3 draw.
The next Saturday Pat starred in what Toast has always rated as one of Pompey’s greatest victories when they travelled to play champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Not only was it Pat’s first win in a Pompey shirt but it turned into a romp as Peter Harris (2), Derek Rees (2) and Jackie Henderson ensured a 5-1 victory!! Pat was to score two more goals for Pompey against Bolton in another 3-3 draw and the only goal against Everton. All of Pat’s three Pompey goals were scored at Fratton Park.
His final First Division game was a more than disappointing 5-0 home defeat by Birmingham City. Information on Pat’s career is then rather sketchy but we know he moved to Wolves in 1956 and played four games scoring once and then moved on to famous amateur club Pegasus in 1957 for five years before returning briefly to his home club. We also think he had a spell at West Brom somewhere along the line. Pat also went to Cambridge University and was always proud of his amateur status which is why he spent so long at Pegasus.
It was on 1st September 1962 that Pat played his last ever Football League game for Pompey, a 1-0 win over Derby County just seven years after his first; Ron Saunders providing the goal. Pat appeared once more for his beloved home town club in an FA Cup 4th Round 2nd replay against Coventry City at White Hart Lane in March 1963. The club were short on the left wing with Dave Dodson injured and Micky Lill ineligible. A swansong at just 25!!
He then moved to Poole Town and was known to have played for his old school side Old Nortonians in the Portsmouth Saturday League not long afterwards. Pat who lives locally has recently been working with Ray Crawford on a campaign urging the elderly to have a flu jab (I’ve had mine!!).
With the help of Pompey4me, Toast is hoping to put Pat in touch with some of his old school friends and perhaps have a chat about the game in general and his legendary status in particular. John for example has not met Pat since those school days fifty-five years ago.
Well that reunion with John did take place and the two had kept in touch ever since. Like all Pompey fans from the era he will be heartbroken by the news and want me to pass on sincere condolences to the Neil family – this would also apply to Simon pompey4me who is now based in Perth WA.
Pat wrote for a while for Vital Pompey contributing the Toast column which appeared every Sunday morning. As Chairman of the ex-players club he had a great insight into the whereabouts of former players and wrote some brilliantly worded pen pics. The first of those interested in looking back can be read it here .
Pat was a lovely man who would do anything for you, he was forever posting items through my front door and apologising if it disturbed me! He is probably the only Pompey player who went on to be a Head teacher at a Public School!
Pat, rest in peace and thanks for the memories.