Obituary: Dave ‘Chopper’ Neville, one of St Albans City’s most inspirational captains
- Credit: Archant
David Neville, one of St Albans City’s most inspirational and successful captains, has passed away at the age of 75 after a battle with Alzheimer’s.
He was born in Wood Green on February 10, 1942, and played for the Wood Green District Schoolboys as well as Middlesex and London Schools.
He had a trial with Arsenal and during 10 years with Finchley played representative matches for Middlesex, London and the FA Amateur XI.
He worked as a draughtsman throughout his life based in Deptford.
Neville joined Saints in January 1968 from Finchley where he was captain.
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He arrived during Sid Prosser’s first season as manager and went to make 281 appearances in City’s colours.
His debut came later that month in a 2-0 Premier Midweek League defeat at Hounslow.
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His first game at Clarence Park came a week later, ironically against his former club.
The 1967-68 season saw City to their highest placing for 13 years, finishing fifth in the Isthmian League.
Prosser’s second season at the Park, 1968-69, was a campaign of high drama with the manager targeting success in the Amateur Cup.
That was ended with a second round defeat at home to Hendon in front of 3,602 spectators but compensation was found in the FA Cup where City progressed through to the 2nd Round proper for the first time in 43 years.
Neville scored in the 3-2 win over Erith & Belvedere in the second qualifying round and his solitary strike in the first round reply against Wealdstone, with 5,108 people inside Clarence Park this time, set up a second round tie with the Division Three professionals of Walsall.
It was the highest profile strike of Neville’s 57 goals for the City.
Defeat followed in a replay against the Midlands side but Neville still picked up three winners medal that season as St Albans won the Herts Senior, Herts Charity and Wycombe Floodlight cups.
The following year saw Prosser get the run in the Amateur Cup he wanted 12 months earlier.
They reached the semi-final where they were pitted against Athenian League side Dagenham.
A 1-1 draw set up a replay at Luton Town’s Kenilworth Road but despite excellent form, poor finishing led to a 1-0 defeat.
For Neville it was the second time that he’d come within 90 minutes of reaching the Amateur Cup Final following a 4-1 defeat to Hendon in 1965 while he was at Finchley.
Neville took over the captaincy at the start of the 1970-71 campaign, and inherited the affectionate nickname of ‘Chopper’.
It was the Isthmian League that brought the near-miss this time as Prosser’s side scored the highest number of league goals for 44 years and conceded the least in almost 50.
Unfortunately, such form was not enough to deny Wycombe Wanderers the title but the champions were beaten at the Park and the double was completed over second placed Sutton United.
The league title and cup glory may have passed City by but the season did not end trophy-less as a Bobby Childs header defeated Enfield in the London Senior Cup final at Barnet.
The London Senior Cup was a prestigious competition at this time and the photograph of Dave Neville grinning broadly with his front teeth clearly missing as he holds the cup aloft at Underhill is one of the abiding images of the era.
Chopper lost his teeth not when playing football but cricket whilst still at school.
With the likes of John Butterfield, Bobby Childs and Tony Turley having long since left the scene, St Albans were in decline and Prosser announced his departure shortly before the end of the 1971-72 season.
Neville took over as caretaker manager and kicked off with a surprise 2-0 win at Claremont Road that ended Hendon’s year-long unbeaten home record.
His run as boss lasted for just eight games and included five wins.
In his final game before John Drabwell was appointed as manager, Neville scored the goal against Ilford that took City through to the Mithras Cup final in which he scored twice during a 4-0 1st Leg win at home to Tilbury.
He scored five times in the final seven games of the season including notching the deciding goal in the last match of the season, a 2-1 win over Boreham Wood in the final of the Herts Charity Cup.
Phil Wood joined the exodus from Clarence Park during the summer of 1972 and, just like Butterfield and Turley, soon became an England international.
Neville stuck with the Saints but Drabwell’s rebuilding of the team went disastrously wrong and following a 3-0 Isthmian League defeat at Hitchin Town on October 10, Chopper, along with Roger Grant, quit the club.
Drabwell was dismissed the following month.
After leaving Clarence Park Chopper signed for Hayes who were in their second season as members of the Isthmian League.
Neville later returned to his former club Finchley and went onto manage the north London side but he did don the City colours one last time in May 1977, as a member of the City Past team that beat the Present team 4-3 in Phil Wood’s Testimonial match.
He was married to Jill, with the couple having godchildren, and with his second wife Joan he had a son, Jonathan.
He had two brothers, Stephen and Mick.
After retiring, Dave and Joan bought a house in Austria and he became a most proficient skier.
Dave Neville passed away on August 26 and his funeral will be held at Enfield Crematorium on Wednesday, September 13, at 12.30pm.
The family will have a St Albans City flag at the funeral to mark the significance that the Club had in his life.