Welcome to the Private memorabilia collection of 'theyflysohigh'
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Date of Birth:
May 15, 1935
Wembley Rovers (Eire)
3 Football League
2 Southern Floodlight Cup
1 Southern Floodlight Cup
'theyflysohigh' would like to pass on our condolences to Billy's friends and family, wife Brenda and their three children, Corinne, Yvonne and Paul..
Support photographs courtesy of the Neville family and Tim Crane
Claret and Blue Debut
Football League Debut
With 34 games under his belt manager Ted Fenton called the 21-year-old up for his first team debut in an end of season friendly against Fenton's former club Colchester United in their Pearson Charity Cup. On May 1, 1957 the Hammers won the cup after extra-time. Neville scored West Ham’s 2nd goal in the 4-3 victory.
Billy Neville (right) back at the Boleyn Ground one last time
with Jack Burkett in 2016
Billy Neville scores the Republic of Ireland's goal in the 1-1 draw
Neville heads towards the Romanian goal
Final First Team Appearance
Training at the Boleyn Ground in an effort to get fit following tuberculosis
Billy Neville must have made a favourable impression during his first campaign in the senior ranks as he was named as one of the 29 professionals retained for the club’s first season in Division One since 1932.
On September 29, 2018 shortly before the home fixture with Manchester United, a link to one of West Ham United’s best ever seasons, 1957-58, was broken when a member of the Hammer's squad which won the Second Division Championship passed away.
William 'Billy' Neville, an Irishman from Cork, was an inside-forward who made three Division Two appearances in the first half of the 1957-58 season as manager Ted Fenton was seeking to find his best attacking options.
In the same campaign Billy also played in a couple of Southern Floodlight Cup ties netting a single goal. This promotion winning season was Billy’s sole season of first team action as his promising career was cut short when at the age of 22 he contracted tuberculosis.
Neville’s other notable achievement while with the Hammers was to receive international recognition when in October 1957 he was capped by the Republic of Ireland in their first “B” international.
But for his career ending illness he was expected to progress to the Republic of Ireland’s full international side and become a regular in the Hammers' first team.
Born: Cork, Ireland May 15, 1935 Billy Neville died September 29, 2018 aged 83.
Neville attracted the West Ham United scout’s attention with his performances for Limerick side Wembley Rovers and was invited over to the Boleyn Ground in November 1956 for a two-week trail.
His claret and blue debut was for the 'A' team in a London Mid-Week League match at Clapton’s Spotted Dog Ground against Tottenham Hotspur on Guy Fawkes Night November 1956. No real fireworks in the match but nevertheless a promising start to his east London tenure as the match ended 1-1.
The West Ham team that day included eight youngsters who would progress to first team debuts: Brian Rhodes, Malcolm Pyke, Fred Cooper, John Morley, Ken Brown, Terry Matthews, Roy Smith and Billy Neville.
Five days later on November 10, 1956 and Billy started in the Metropolitan League match away to Wokingham Town. The Hammers drew 2-2 at the Town Ground thanks to a double from George Fenn.
The line up:
Goymer, Pitt, Walker, Morley, Nelson, Byers, Fenn, Neville, Pyke, Smith R., Foan.
The goal was described in The Stratford Express’ match report as “Bill Neville increased the lead with the best shot of the match”.
Neville's second goal came a week later in the same competition in the 2-0 home fixture with Luton Town 'A' at the Spotted Dog Ground.
West Ham manager Ted Fenton was so impressed with the inside-forward that he was duly signed as a professional on November 21, 1956 at £10 per week.
The club's board of directors also made a £25 donation to Wembley Rovers as a gesture of goodwill.
On November 17, 1956 the young Irishman delivered the first of his claret and blue goals in the Metropolitan League fixture away to Crawley Town in the 2-1 win at Town Meadow.
The Goals Start to Flow
Boleyn Ground Debut
Neville's elevation to West Ham's second string arrived on April 8, 1957 when he played his first reserve game at the Boleyn Ground in the 2-0 Football Combination win over Swansea Town.
Billy finished the 1956-57 season with eleven goals in all competitions. His total games for the season: seven in the London Mid-Week League (3 goals), 20 Metropolitan League games (6 goals) and seven for the reserves in the Football Combination scoring another 2 goals.
Senior Friendly Debut at Layer Road
Twenty days after the Layer Road cup game, he joined the Hammers’ first team squad for an end-of-season visit to Czechoslovakia.
The 11-day itinerary took in four matches against Spartak / Dukla Combined XI, Brno, Ostrava and Bresov.
Billy played in the third game against Ostrava on May 28, 1957.
A Billy Dare goal gave the Hammers a 1-1 draw and the West Ham line-up that afternoon was: Ernie Gregory, George Wright, Noel Cantwell, Bill Lansdowne, Ken Brown, Malcolm Allison, Mike Grice, John Smith, Billy Dare, Billy Neville, Malcolm Musgrove.
Neville made his Football League debut on Monday September 16, 1957 away to Sheffield United in the 8th match of the season. West Ham had made a disappointing start to the new season with just two wins to show from their first seven games. Ted Fenton re-shuffled the forward line with John Smith dropping out and Neville joining the team to play a deeper role behind John Dick and Billy Dare. Local newspaper match reports suggest Bill made a favourable impression and he kept his place in the starting eleven for a run of four matches.
In a time when post-World War II rationing hadn’t completely disappeared, to save using floodlights the match kicked-off at 6.30pm. The team in the 2-1 defeat to Sheffield United at Bramall Lane that evening included Malcolm Allison, in what turned out to be his last first team appearance in a claret and blue shirt.
West Ham's team:
Brian Rhodes, John Bond, Noel Cantwell, Andy Malcolm, Ken Brown, Malcolm Allison, Mike Grice, Billy Dare, Billy Neville, John Dick, Malcolm Musgrove.
Home First Team Debut
Five days later, on Saturday September 21, he retained the number nine shirt to make his one and only Football League appearance at Upton Park.
Southern Floodlight Cup
Third & Final League Appearance
On the following Monday, an unchanged side faced Leyton Orient in the 1st round of the Southern Floodlight Cup. A solitary goal from Scotsman John Dick gave the Hammers a safe passage to the next round.
Billy’s third and last Football League appearance was on Saturday September 28, 1957 in the 1-0 defeat to Barnsley at Oakwell. From the beginning of October to the end of the season it all changed. Forwards John Smith and Eddie Lewis returned to the side on October 5, and on October 19 new acquisition, Vic Keeble who had arrived from Newcastle United, made a goal scoring debut in the 1-1 draw away to Doncaster Rovers.
The arrival of Keeble and how his 40 goal partnership with John Dick had the Hammers blowing bubbles has been well documented. Results rapidly improved and West Ham climbed the table to eventually become Second Division champions and clinch promotion to the top tier of English football, the First Division.
Ireland International 'B' Cap
Neville reaped the benefits of signing for West Ham, and in graduating to the first team he attracted the eyes of the Republic of Ireland’s international team selectors. In early October he was called up for the Republic of Ireland’s first 'B' international against Romania.
On Sunday October 20, 1957 the young Hammer made his international debut in front of 21,500 at Dublin’s Dalymount Park. The pinnacle moment in the youngster's playing career was capped by him scoring the Republic of Ireland’s goal in the 1-1 draw.
In front of a 23,855 crowd West Ham’s performance improved as they beat Fulham 3-2. A Billy Dare brace and a Noel Cantwell net contributed the three West Ham goals.
The team showing three changes from the starting XI in Neville's league debut was: Ernie Gregory, John Bond, Noel Cantwell, Andy Malcolm, Ken Brown, Malcolm Pyke, Doug Wragg, Billy Dare, Billy Neville, John Dick, Malcolm Musgrove.
Billy Neville (half-hidden) challenging Fulham centre-half Derek Lampe. West Ham's John Dick watches for a likely chance to come his way
London Challenge Cup Semi-Final November 1957
In the 1950s clubs would often field a side mixed with first teamers and reserve players for London Challenge Cup (LCC) ties. And this was no exception for the LCC semi-final against Fulham on November 4, 1957.
The Hammers hosted and won the match 5-1 with Billy Neville in the scorers. Mick Newman notched a hat-trick and the other goal was a rare Andy Malcolm effort.
Eight of the eleven who played in the semi-final also made appearances in the season’s Division Two Championship winning campaign. One of his team mates was fellow Corkonian, John ‘Jackie’ Morley.
As an aside, in the March 1958 final against Arsenal the Hammers lost 3-1. The side that evening included two amateurs, Bobby Moore and Tony Scott, who would soon turn professional and make a significent impact in the senior ranks.
West Ham United:
Recalled to the side for the Southern Floodlight Cup replay away to Reading at Elm Park on Wednesday January 29, 1958 he was in the side which suffered a 5-3 defeat to the Division Three side. Despite exiting the cup to lower league opposition, the evening would have been slightly memorable for Billy as he scored the Hammers’ 3rd goal and what turned out to be his only senior goal for the first XI.
The eleven in the last of his five competitive first team appearances was: Ernie Gregory, John Bond, Noel Cantwell, Malcolm Pyke, Ken Brown, Bill Lansdowne, Mike Grice, Billy Neville, George Fenn, John Dick, Malcolm Musgrove.
Neville's concluded the 1957-58 season with 37 appearances in all competitions. These were:
5 First team appearances (1 goal)
20 Football Combination (5 goals)
1 London Challenge Cup (1 goal)
9 Metropolitan League (1 goal)
2 London Mid-Week (0 goals)
Retained for 1958-59 Season
While playing for the Hammers, Billy Neville lived around the corner from the Boleyn Ground in Lichfield Road and met his wife, Brenda. She recalls many stories from those halcyon days: “If anyone ever wanted to do extra training, Malcolm Allison was always there for you. He also introduced him to every night club in London!”
His daughter, Corinne, also recollected some stories that her dad had shared: “Bobby Moore visited him when he was in hospital and was very kind to my Dad. He also told me how he caught the bus home during a cross country run!”
"My Dad loved West Ham and the entire family are West Ham supporters. John Lyall always stayed in touch and helped us with tickets. I remember Dad taking me to Chadwell Heath in the late 1970s and meeting all the players. John Lyall made me a cup of tea and I was speechless because it was just magical. Trevor Brooking was an absolute gentleman, too.”
Ted Fenton, West Ham’s manager in the 1950s, helped Billy pursue a new career following his illness. He worked for the Port of London Authority in London’s Docks. Later, he became an area manager selling stainless steel, which meant a move away from London’s East End and starting a new life in Rotherham, South Yorkshire. He finally moved to the market town of Retford in Nottinghamshire.
Billy attended the Final Game at the Boleyn Ground against Manchester United in May 2016 and the family are very grateful to the club for inviting him. “He had a fantastic evening and never stopped talking about it,” said Corinne.
In 1958 aged just 22 Billy became seriously ill with tuberculosis. It was whilst in hospital when his good friend and fellow countryman and Corkonian, Noel Cantwell, urged him to make a speedy recovery because he had been selected for the Republic’s senior team. But it was not to be and eventually he was forced to give up playing.
Illness Ends His Promising Career
Reflections on Billy’s Time with West Ham From His Wife and Daughter