Manchester-born Neil Young grew up with his parents and elder brother in Fallowfield. In his younger years he experienced domestic problems with a violent father, but together with his brother Chris he escaped the days playing football and collecting autographs. He was a true blue right from the beginning and was delighted when he was recruited by City's Chief Scout Harry Godwin as an apprentice in 1959. Ironically he was offered a deal with Manchester United the week after, but luckily he could turn them down. He spent his first two years looking after the training equipment and cleaning Bert Trautmann's shoes, but then signed a professional contract and made his debut in a 2-1 defeat at Aston Villa in November 1961. From there on he was a regular in the City side right up until his departure to Preston North End in 1971.
Young was a great Forward that many will argue was the most important of all City's forwards during the Mercer-Allison period of success. He had a taste for important goals and looking back there is no doubt that his contribution meant the difference between success and failure. During the second division championship season of 1965/66 Young was the top scorer, and the same happened in the Championship season of 1967/68 and in 1968/69 (shared with Colin Bell). He may not have been City's greatest goal scorer, but he was definitely a scorer of many great goals. He netted twice against Newcastle in the important title-winning last game of the 1967/68 season, and in cup competitions he also managed to net vital and noteworthy goals. His memorable strike in 1969 FA Cup final brought the trophy back to Manchester. In Vienna he scored the opening goal in the ECWC Final in 1970, and thereby helped City to European success. He also scored twice in the semi-final to help City reach the final.
He appeared in every significant match of the Mercer-Allison years apart from the 1970 League Cup final, when he was in the hospital receiving his third child. Unfortunately the media seldom gave Young the credit he deserved. With so many personalities in the team Young was never one to boast his success. Often he would let the other players enjoy the media spotlight while he was letting football abilities speak for him. The result of course was that every video and book about City's greatest players always seems to concentrate on Bell, Lee and Summerbee, and rarely explain the importance Young meant to the team. Some of the reason was the silent nature of Young and he would rather stay in the background than be in the spotlight. On one occasion he turned the microphone to Mike Summerbee saying that he was better suited to answer the reporters.
Just like another home-grown player Alan Oakes, Young was overlooked by England. He only played one youth game for his country in a 3-2 win against Holland. Considering that he scored a hat-trick in that match it is incredible that he was never capped at the highest level. He was picked for a pre-season warm-up tour to Mexico with England's B-side in 1968, but since he had just returned from America and was recovering from an ankle injury he turned down the opportunity. He was never asked again. It often seems that players that are involved in big money transfers and making flashy headlines will more easily find their way to international recognition and honours, than the local boy that stays loyal to his team.
After suffering personal tragedy in the loss of his brother Chris due to cancer in 1970, his career faltered. Weeks with traveling between the training ground and the Liverpool Hospital took its toll, and Young was not the same player in the 1970/71 season. He only managed 1 league goal in 24 games, and Allison told him to move on to Preston, promising him a benefit match in exchange. The Boardroom battles and political changes in the club meant that Young was never given a testimonial match, which was common for players serving the club as long and successful as he had. With today's high wages it might sound odd, but to Young a benefit match would have secured the life for him and his family for some time and help him settle for life after football. Instead he went on to Preston, playing for Bobby Charlton, and later Rochdale. But it was City that he loved through and through.
He left Rochdale with £60 in his hand and after that had to queue up at the dole office. His first marriage ended after 17 years as Young struggled to adjust to life outside the limelight. He remarried, but his second marriage also faltered. Young now went through some of his hardest times ever. He suffered from pains in his left leg, and also injured his back. He moved back to his mother and stayed with her until she died in 1990. During this time he had lots of different jobs. He worked as a removal guy, managed a sports shop in Urmston, worked as a milk-man, and later did night-shifts in a Supermarket. One of his most memorable jobs was selling insurance and investments for Royal and Sun Alliance, a job he really enjoyed but had to give up due to his back-illness.
In later years he remarried again (third time lucky?) and opened his own football school for kids. Life turned to the better and Young could once more look upon life with a smile on his face.
For many years Young rightfully felt ill-treated by the club and boycotted the ground where he had experienced so much success. The supporters found the whole affair appalling, and voices came through supporting Young's claim. The Fanzine movement did take his side and soon various supporter groups took steps to show their support and disgust with the way the club had treated a former hero. Young was invited as guest of honour to several dinners and celebrations, and when Francis Lee gained control over the club in 1994, Young returned to Maine Road to watch a few games and in April 1995 he came on to the pitch to celebrate the 25th anniversary of winning the European Cup-Winners Cup, a success that owed so much to his attacking play. To the fans he is still remembered as one of the greatest players of all time.
For a person that offered so much joy to his club, and has suffered so
much tragedy in his personal life it is a shame that the club never acknowledged
his wish for a testimonial. He describes his three worst blows to his
life being the loss of his brother, his mother, and City.