Summerbee hails 'great' Neil Young
- 03 February 2011 14:00
- Posted by Chris Bailey
City’s Club Ambassador Mike Summerbee has paid tribute to the passing of his friend and former teammate Neil Young who has lost his battle with cancer.
Young had been gravely ill for several months, though was greatly touched by the out-pouring of affection from the City fans recently, particularly the 24th-minute tribute at Leicester City last month and the tean wearing red and black when they entered the field against Leicester in the FA Cup replay.
“Today is a very sad day for Manchester City Football Club because we’ve lost one of our favourite sons and as a former team-mate of Neil’s, I feel I’ve lost a member of my family," said Summerbee.
“The team that won so many trophies in the late 1960s and early 1970s were a family and Neil was right at the centre of it.
“We worked together, played together and socialised together and we all feel this loss together.
“Everybody refers to those days at the ‘Bell, Lee and Summerbee’ era, but it really should be the ‘Lee, Bell, Young and Summerbee’ era because he was a great player who scored countless vital goals for us.
“He was like a ballet dancer in the fact he was so graceful on a football pitch. I know the tributes paid and help the club and our supporters have given Neil and his family during his illness gave him a tremendous lift.
“Obviously, everyone’s thoughts are with Neil’s family at this most difficult time.”
Fellow legend and former chairman Francis Lee echoed the words of Summerbee.
“It’s a very, very sad day. We have known that Neil hasn’t been well for a while but he’ll always be remembered for what a sublime player he was with an exceptional left foot.
He was a thoroughly decent man who was loved by the fans and by his teammates. Back in the day we were more like one big happy family than teammates. He will be sadly missed.”
Garry Cook, the Blues CEO, pledged the club would always remember their legends.
“Neil Young was a huge part of this club’s history and a great player,” he said. “His name at Manchester City will never die.
“We should all be thankful that we retain original film of some of his defining moments for all our supporters young and old to remember him by.
“From those clips we get the essence of what he was all about. All those who saw him play and witnessed his wonderful left foot in action have treasured memories and it is clear how much our supporters adored and respected him by the way our fans responded to the recent appeal and tribute game.
“Our sympathies go to Carmen and to Neil’s family.”
Fred Eyre, the secretary of the former Players' Association is one of Neil's oldest and closest friends. He said: "Neil and I were together playing football from the age of 11, we came through the Manchester Schools system, through City’s youth team and his career took off while mine didn’t.
"He was without doubt one of the greatest players to ever play for Manchester City. It has been said over and over again because of the absence of England caps that he was under-rated but not by me.
"I have spent half my life telling people what a great player Neil was. I spent many, many years watching his talent at close quarters."
Ex-City boss Tony Book spoke of his sadness at hearing the news his old friend had passed away. Book captained the Blues during the glory years of the late sixties and played alongside Young for many years.
“What a tragedy to happen to such a great lad," said Book. "He was a wonderful, elegant footballer who seemed to glide across the pitch. He took everything in his stride and came through the ranks to become one of our greatest players.
“He wore the blue shirt with great pride and I feel numb at the moment.”
Team mate Tommy Booth was saddended by Neil's passing, and he said:
"It’s terribly sad news. Neil was a great friend and a great player. People always spoke of the remarkable combination of Lee, Bell and Summerbee but everybody knew Neil was always part of that too. It should have been a renowned foursome.
"He was an absolute gentleman who will be sadly missed.”
Club Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak also paid tribute, saying:
“Manchester City Fans are the true historians of the Club. What is important to them survives the ages and is revered. Neil Young was and is important to Manchester City. What he and his teammates achieved remains the benchmark for all of us to aspire to.“
Please post your tributes to Neil on the wall of this special Facebook page