John O’Neill, the former Preston North End defender from the late 1950’s and early 1960’s has sadly died after a short illness. He had been suffering with cancer.
Dublin-born John actually signed for Preston at the same time as Alan Kelly, from Irish club, Drumcondra, at the end of April 1958. Due to the consistency of regular full backs, Willie Cunningham and Joe Walton, John had to bide his time in the Club’s reserve team [Cunningham and Walton had only missed one game between them since 1955!].
He eventually made his PNE league debut away, at Arsenal, on 20th December 1958 in a 2-1 win, but even his debut was overshadowed by 16-year-old goalkeeper, John Barton, making his debut too.
It took many months before John gained a regular spot in the first team line-up, starting in September 1960 in place of Joe Walton.
John was called up by the Republic of Ireland to play against Wales that September too. A proud moment for the proud Dubliner.
Having suffered relegation that same season, a change of managers usually means a change of ideas, and so it proved as Jimmy Milne decided to try a few of the Club’s successful youth team players.
George Ross was selected over John, but young Ross was destined to be a North End stalwart. O’Neill stayed at the Club for two more years, but in July 1963 he was transferred to Barrow for £1,500.
After a season at Holker Street, Barrow, John went over to play in Australia for a short spell. John, a plasterer by trade, enjoyed a game of golf and attended a number of the PNE Former Players’ functions.
Our condolences go out to his family and friends.
John Nicholas O’Neill
Born: Dublin, 8th September 1935.
Died: Blackpool, 23rd September 2012
Preston North End caeer: 50 league appearances, 4 FA Cup, 9 League Cup