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Appearances in the following year’s drawn Wembley League Cup final and the final replay would only have bought partial compensation for missing out 10 months earlier.
When Jimmy joined the Hammers from Norwich City in September 1979 he could never have envisaged the heights his four year stay would bring.
Jimmy Neighbour must be counted as one of the unluckiest West Ham players. Why? He was in the 1980 FA Cup final squad but suffered the disappointment of missing out on a place in the starting XI despite playing in the four league matches leading up to the May 10 final and in the first four games of that successful FA Cup campaign.
Squad member for three Wembley games: two finals and the Charity Shield
A Second Division championship winners medal
European Cup Winners Cup football
During his four season stay he made 96 competitive first team appearances and netted six goals.
Prior to signing for the Hammers Neighbour had enjoyed distinctive spells with Tottenham Hotspur, the highlight of which would have been winning a League Cup tankard in 1970, and later Norwich City.
Born: Chingford, Essex November 15, 1950 Jimmy died April 11, 2009, aged 58.
John Lyall signed Neighbour, a winger, from the Canaries for £140,000 on September 12, 1979. Three days later he was drafted straight into the first XI for his West Ham debut in the 2-0 Division Two victory at home to Sunderland.
The 2-0 home win against the 'Black Cats' also marked the home debut of full back Ray Stewart.
Football League debut versus Sunderland
Saturday September 15, 1979
West Ham United line up:
Phil Parkes, Frank Lampard, Paul Brush, Billy Bonds, Alvin Martin, Ray Stewart, Jimmy Neighbour, Stuart Pearson, David Cross, Trevor Brooking, Alan Devonshire
The first of his goals arrived three months later in the Division Two 3-1 win over Cambridge United at Upton Park on December 21, 1979.
When the 1980 FA Cup campaign kicked off on January 5 away at The Hawthorns, Neighbour was a regular in the side. He was in the team for the first four games of the run to Wembley starting with the 3rd round draw and replay win over West Bromwich Albion, the 4th round victory away at Orient and the 5th round home win over Swansea City.
Injury in February curtailed Jimmy’s appearances which meant he missed the quarter-final win over Aston Villa by which time Paul Allen was an established first team starter. Though Jimmy was the unused substitute in the FA Cup semi-final replay win over Everton on April 16, 1980. Despite a spell in the reserves he returned to the first team towards the end of April and kept his place in the team for the season’s final five Division Two games as manager John Lyall had to cope with the unavailability of a few key injured players.
Unfortunately for Jimmy whilst a member of the 1980 FA Cup squad, he didn’t make the final 12, as Paul Allen and Geoff Pike filled the wing roles.
In addition to his 23 Division Two and four FA Cup appearances his season’s stint included six Football Combination games for the reserves.
Canary Signs from Norwich City
Neighbour's £140,00 Handshake
Jimmy Neighbour bags his second ever goal for the Hammers against Cardiff City. Bluebird's goalkeeper on the ground is ex Hammer Peter Grotier
1980-81 “The best night of my career” and Wembley Again
The League Cup provided the season’s and possibly Jimmy’s defining moment in his West Ham career. Recalled to the starting line up in time for the League Cup semi-final 2nd leg at home to Division One side, Coventry City, Jimmy hit the headlines. The Hammers 3-2 down after the first leg stormed back to win the second leg 2-0 and 4-3 on aggregate thanks to Neighbour netting the deciding goal. In front of 36,551 packed into a floodlit Upton Park, the teams were level on aggregate when Jimmy took his chance.
“With just 11 seconds of normal time to play at Upton Park and a somersaulting semi-final locked at 3-3, Neighbour emerged from an anonymous performance on West Ham’s right-wing with the decisive goal.
Neighbour who had not played in the 3-2 first leg defeat at Highfield Road and had hardly had a kick last night, appeared unmolested in Coventry’s goalmouth to shoot West Ham into next month’s final against Liverpool – the Hammers’ third visit to Wembley in less than a year.
Frank Lampard’s forward pass squeezed through Coventry’s defence off the head of David Cross to leave Neighbour with the opportunity to claim “the most important goal I have ever scored”.
European Cup Winners Cup Appearances
An unexpected bonus during his four season stay in East London would have been his appearances in the Hammers’ European Cup Winners’ Cup campaign.
Jimmy played in four of West Ham’s six games as they progressed to the quarter-finals exiting at the hands of Dynamo Tibilisi.
His four European games were the home and away legs against the Romanians Politechnic Timisoara and the crack Russian side Dinamo Tbilisi.
1981-82 – 30 First Team Appearances
The following season began well for Jimmy as he started in 16 of the season’s first Division One games. Then the signing of Belgium Francois Van de Elst in January 1982 meant the door was closing on Neighbour’s West Ham career.
After Van de Elst’s signing Neighbour only made a further seven league appearances, four of these as substitute that season.
1982-83 Final Claret & Blue Season & Loan to AFC Bournemouth
By now Jimmy was no longer guaranteed a regular first team place and in this his final claret and blue season he made just three league appearances and a further three in the League Cup. His final league appearance was on November 20, 1982 in the 2-1 defeat away at White Hart Lane.
The team that Saturday afternoon was:
Phil Parkes, Ray Stewart, Frank Lampard, Billy Bonds, Alvin Martin, Jimmy Neighbour, Francois Van Der Elst, Paul Goddard, Sandy Clark, Paul Allen, Geoff Pike.
Last First Team Claret & Blue Game v.
Colchester United – May 16, 1983
Jimmy’s last first team game was a testimonial game against Colchester United at Layer Road on Monday May 16, 1983. The U’s won the game 1-0 beating the following strong line up:
Phil Parkes (Tom McAllister), George Cowie, Frank Lampard, Neil Orr, Ray Stewart, Alan Devonshire, Jimmy Neighbour, Glen Burvill, Tony Cottee, Paul Allen, Bobby Barnes.
Final West Ham appearance for the Reserves
May 19, 1983
Three days after the Colchester benefit match Jimmy donned a claret & blue shirt for the final time in a Football Combination game against Charlton Athletic reserves at The Valley on May 19th, 1983.
The Hammers won comfortably 5-1 with goals from Cottee 2, Barnes, Brush and Holland.
Non-League Football and Coaching
After leaving West Ham he turned out a couple of times for the Isthmian League side Cheshunt in the 1984-85 season. This concluded with him hanging up his playing boots to embark on his coaching and managerial career. In the late 1980s he returned to West Ham as their Youth Development Officer. Not long after he was on the move again, this time as Doncaster Rovers’ assistant manager and subsequently as manager of Isthmian League amateur side St. Albans City.
The following season he was again a regular first teamer making 33 first team games and scoring in the league, FA and League Cup competitions. Jimmy spent much of the season vying with Pat Holland for the number seven shirt. He had also slotted into the same team with Holland, as replacement for an injured Trevor Brooking in October.
Form came together for Jimmy as he held his place for 14 of the season’s last 15 Division Two matches as the Hammers comfortably won the second tier title. His two league goals came in the 1-0 home win over Cardiff City (October 7) and in the 2-0 away win at Orient (April 18).
The 30 year old winger, replacing the injured Pat Holland, said: “I didn’t even know whether I would be in the team. I have played 13 games this season but I know I have only been a stand-in. But it has ended as the best night of my career.”
Not surprisingly Neighbour kept his place in the team for the drawn Wembley final against Liverpool and the replay at Villa Park (April 1, 1981). But the fairy tale didn’t continue as Liverpool won the Villa replay 2-1. Though Neighbour had the satisfaction of providing the cross for the replay's opening goal by Paul Goddard.
Neighbour's last competitive game was nine days later in the home League Cup replay against Lincoln City, deputising again for Alan Devonshire. The Hammers’ XI was the same as for his last league match.
In January 1983 with limited first team opportunities, Neighbour made a short term loan move to AFC Bournemouth, where he played a further six league matches. These turned out to be his last appearances for a football league club.
On his return to Upton Park Jimmy played several Football Combination games for the reserves scoring five goals in 20 games.
Date of Birth:
November 15, 1950
7 FA Cup
12 League Cup
4 European Cup Winners Cup
1 League Cup
Newspaper coverage courtesy of Richard Miller
John Lyall's FA Cup holders regained their First Division status after only three years in the second tier by lifting the Second Division championship trophy with a record points haul of 66 points. This was 13 and 16 points clear of their nearest rivals and fellow promotion achievers, Notts County and Swansea City.
1980-81 Div II Champions
Neighbour, Parkes and Brooking receive their 1980-81 Division Two championship medals