Trib­utes paid to Dons’ star

The Press and Journal (Moray) - - LOCAL NEWS - BY JON HEBDITCH

He was the Dons striker who was so beloved by the Pit­to­drie faith­ful that they called him “the mighty atom”.

But now, Ian McNeill has died af­ter a bat­tle with Alzheimer’s dis­ease at the age of 85.

The for­ward, who pulled on the red jer­sey of Aberdeen 10 times dur­ing his play­ing ca­reer in the 1950s, went on to have a long as­so­ci­a­tion with the club be­fore even­tu­ally pass­ing away at a Gran­ite City care home.

Glas­gow-born Mr McNeill signed for the Dons in 1949 at just 17, but was called up for Na­tional Ser­vice in 1952.

He made his se­nior de­but for the club in Jan­uary 1951 and left five years later to join Le­ices­ter City.

Af­ter mov­ing into man­age­ment, he steered Ross County to their first High­land League ti­tle in 1967 and later re­turned for a sec­ond spell in charge.

He led Wi­gan into the Foot­ball League in 1978, be­fore join­ing Chelsea, who were then in the Sec­ond Di­vi­sion, as as­sis­tant man­ager un­der John Neal in 1981.

The duo signed a num- ber of play­ers who went on to be­come ma­jor fig­ures at Stam­ford Bridge and else­where. Among th­ese were Dun­can Shearer, Billy Dodds, Kerry Dixon, Steve Clarke, Gor­don Durie, Joe McLaughlin and Pat Nevin. He fi­nally re­tired in 2006.

Dons star Mr Shearer, who was 21 when he was spot­ted play­ing for Clach­nacud­din in the High­land ranks, had sev­eral un­suc- cess­ful tri­als be­fore Mr McNeill took him to Chelsea in 1983. He said: “With­out that man, I wouldn’t have been a foot­baller. I’m for­ever grate­ful to him.”

Mr McNeill’s son Ian added: “We have been over­whelmed by the warmth and sup­port shown to us by the foot­ball com­mu­nity.

“In a news­pa­per ar­ti­cle he was called the Mighty Atom of Pit­to­drie; he loved that. When his health was de­clin­ing he would need to take taxis to get around and he would al­ways tell the driv­ers he was the Mighty Atom of Pit­to­drie.”

A spokesman for Aberdeen FC said: “It was with great sad­ness we learned of his pass­ing. Our thoughts are with Ian’s fam­ily and friends.” Mr McNeill died at Mary­field West Care Home on Aberdeen’s Queen’s Road.

Ian with the League Cup won by Aberdeen FC

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