Our thoughts are with the family and friends of former Spireites player Peter Neale, who recently passed away. Stuart Basson chronicles Peter’s life and career…
Peter Neale was born in Bolsover on April 9, 1934, and played in local football in his youth, at Duckmanton Miners Welfare and Markham Sports. He appeared to have been completely overlooked by Chesterfield, signing amateur forms for Mansfield Town.
Peter was taken on by Oldham Athletic in January 1953 and worked at Bardsley Colliery while progressing through the Latics’ junior sides. Upon his release from National Service in 1955 he signed as a full-time professional and immediately won a place in the first team. He was noted as a “lively half-back with a rare turn of speed” and that speed, along with a wholehearted playing approach, served him well when playing at wing-half, or as an inside-forward.
He played in all but one Latics games in his first season, usually at left-half. In his second season, he was played up front and responded with a tidy scoring rate that lasted into his third season at Boundary Park, where his 16 goals from 38 games saw him finish as joint top-scorer. Oldham were placed in Division Four at the end of 1957/58, and Peter retained his place, but was attracting the attentions of scouts from higher-placed clubs.
On October 16, 1958 Tony McShane, the Scunthorpe United manager, signed Peter for a fee of £2,500. After early games up front for the Iron, he settled into a half-back berth, and became a dependable member of the Scunthorpe side that punched above its weight in the old Division Two during the 1960s. McShane left not long after signing him but Peter established himself in the middle of the halfback line, where his ability in the air was unquestioned; as his shock of blond hair rose to head another cross away, Iron fans nicknamed him ‘Noddy’, but his tackling was sometimes noted more for its enthusiasm than its accuracy. This earned him occasional cautions and suspensions.
In 1966. Peter was placed on Scunthorpe’s transfer list. October of that year saw Tony McShane move to sign him again – this time, for Chesterfield. A fee of £2,000 changed hands. Paying a fee for a player was not something Chesterfield did lightly, if at all, in those days, but they got their money’s worth all over the pitch. Peter’s arrival added another defender and thus allowed Albert Holmes and Gerry Sears to get forward more as overlapping full-backs, which produced crosses and goals for the likes of Billy Stark and Ivan Hollett.
McShane was replaced by Jimmy McGuigan in the summer of 1967 but Peter retained his place, adding another 36 appearances to the 33 he made in ’66/67. His third Football League goal for the club came 15 minutes from the end of his last appearance, at home to Swansea on the last day of the 1967/68 season. With McGuigan determined to re-shape the side after their early promotion challenge had foundered, Peter was freed by Chesterfield that summer.
Midland League Scarborough snapped him up, but joined their fellow Midland Leaguers Alfreton Town in January 1969. He featured in their four-match FA Cup battle with Football League side Barrow in 1969/70, sustaining a cut to his face that required seven stitches in one of the games, and helped the club to the Midland League championship in 1970. Peter finished his playing career locally, with the Brimington team that had a short spell in the Midland League in the mid-1970s.
Upon taking up part-time football, Peter began working as an insurance salesman, but he joined the East Midland Motor Services as a bus driver in 1970. A year later he became a driver for the NCB, working out of Markham Colliery until retirement.