The mechanic who kept the international out of the side

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First published in Sport

THERE are not many Hereford mechanics who can say that they kept a Wales international out of the Bulls starting line-up.

But that was John Neville's distinction when he was preferred to 27-cap Ray Daniel in United's successful side under Bob Dennison during the 1960s.

Neville is now 73 and lives in Nailsea but a visit to the Hereford Times office shows that he retains vivid memories of his career at Edgar Street.

"Ray Daniel was a real joker in the dressing room," recalled Neville. "And although I kept him out of the side for a spell he never held it against me. He was nothing but helpful."

Daniel was one of several United managers that Neville was associated with.

"I first came down to the ground in around 1952 when Percy Lovett was in goal and Billy Dymond on the wing," he said. "I used to clean their boots.

"It was Johnny Layton who got me to come down - he was a Whitecross boy and we all used to play up on the Bagallay Meadows; 22-a-side matches and more.

"That was the time when George Tranter arrived. He gave me a players' pass so I could get into the ground and they used to send me up into the town to the chemists to get bandages etc.

"It was Joe Wade who signed me on.

"Roy Williams was another player who I cleaned boots for and when he had his testimonial game against Southampton, Roy asked me if I would like to play and of course I wanted to.

"After the game, Ted Bates the Southampton manager came up to me and asked me if I would be interested in coming down and playing for them.

"Joe saw the conversation and afterwards asked what we had been talking about.

"I told him and he asked whether I wouldn't prefer to stay and sign for him. I didn't take any persuading."

All of the managers had different characteristics.

"Joe was a gentleman and he was the only one who wouldn't tell you off after a game," said Neville.

"He used to wait until the following Tuesday at training and then he would take you to one side and tell you what he thought.

"Bob Dennison was completely different - he thought nothing of shouting at you after a game."

Neville remains grateful, however, to Dennison for the part that he played in his career.

"I was working for Saunders Valve on Widemarsh Common at the time and so it was not far to walk to Edgar Street for training after I had finished work as there was not time to go home," he said.

"I used to get there at 5.10pm, long before the other players arrived, and Bob used to put me through a training session on my own - and then another when the other players arrived.

"I was shattered, but I didn't mind as I knew it would make me a better player.

"And I was fit - I never pulled a muscle or broke a bone, at least not one of my own," he joked.

"I played two games in a day on one occasion for Bob - we had a first-team game, the last one of the season against Kings Lynn, which I played in and we won 5-0. Afterwards, I was in the bath and he came in and said for me and a couple of others to get our kit and get on the coach - we were going down to Lydbrook to play in a cup final for the reserves. We had won the cup for the previous four years but he wanted to make sure we won it again.

"That went to extra-time and, although we won, 1-0 I think, you can imagine how tired I was."

It's hard to imagine contemporary players playing twice in a day or putting up with the same schedule that Neville enjoyed, or endured, in one particular spell under Joe Wade.

"There was a time when we played eight games in 13 days under Joe," he said. "We were part-time players - my great friend Peter Isaac was a bricklayer and I was a mechanic.

"We used to earn £5 a week for playing and there was a win bonus of £2 and £1 extra if we drew.

"Not much compared with the money that the top players earn these days but we loved every minute of it."

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