Dick Neal: 1933-2013

It is with deep sadness that we've learned of the death of former player Dick Neal, who has passed away at the age of 79.

Dick Neal was one of the best players to appear for the Imps in the post-war period and was the only Lincoln player in their first 100 seasons in the Football League to have represented England above youth level.

As a tall well-built attacking wing-half, Dick won three England U23 caps while on City's books in the 1950s and added a fourth cap after his move to Birmingham City.

He first came to prominence as an inside-forward with the Rother Valley Boys team before signing for Wath Wanderers who were a Yorkshire-based nursery club for Wolves.

He impressed enough to win a professional contract at Molineux moving to the Midlands at the same time as Ron Flowers, a future England international. Dick was converted to wing-half and progressed into Wolves' reserve team but never made the first team.

On the transfer list at the end of the 1953/54 season, Dick joined the Imps rather than opting for a move to Liverpool and after just a handful of games for City's second string in the Midland League he was promoted to the first team when manager Bill Anderson decided to restructure his side early in the 1954/55 season.

Bobby Owen and Doug Wright, two long-serving players who had been with the Club wince the late 1940s, went out and in came Dick along with Fred Middleton to form the famous Middleton-Emery-Neal half-back line for the Imps.

Dick missed just one League game over the next three years and his consistent performances earned him a reputation as one of the finest wing-halves in the Second Division.

His talents were recognised by England manager Walter Winterbottom and he was called up for an England Under-23 match against Denmark in September 1956.

Lincoln's fortunes were on the up after finishing eighth in Division Two in 1955/56 which was their highest final position of the 20th Century. But the following season things took a turn for the worse and the Club suffered a shock FA Cup defeat at the hands of Peterborough United, then a non-League team.

Attendances dropped below 10,000 and with the Imps already operating on a shoestring budget they were forced to sell Dick after Birmingham City offered the then large fee of £15,000 together with Bert Linnecor.

He went on to play over 200 first team matches for Birmingham and appeared in two campaigns in the Inter Cities Fairs Cup (forerunner of the UEFA Cup) whilst at St Andrews.

A move to Middlesbrough followed in 1961 but a series of injuries restricted him to just 33 appearances in two seasons and in the summer of 1963 he returned to Sincil Bank.

During his time away City had dropped into Division Four but under Dick's leadership the Club began to show signs of a revival. In his first campaign back at the Club there were hopes of winning promotion until a series of poor results over Easter saw them drop back to mid-table.

Unfortunately the Club's financial position worsened and Dick was forced to move on again, this time to Rugby Town. He spent a season at Rugby and then became player-manager at Hednesford Town. Brief spells followed at Brierley Hill and Blakenall before he retired.

Dick later worked as a free trade rep for a brewery before taking a pub in Staffordshire in 1975 where he remained until retiring in 1991.