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Neill Faces a Challenge

Terry Neill, the Irish international and former Arsenal centre half, start the new season under even more pressure than a new manager usually suffers. For he holds the key to the success or failure of a club which has promised for several years to make a big breakthrough.

Hull city finished 13th in the second division last season, a ridiculous position for such an attractive team, boasting one of the most effective forward lines in the country.

They scored 72 goals, four more than Huddersfield, who topped the division. And no wonder, Ken Houghton, Chris Chilton, Ian Butler and Ken Wagstaff are fast, skilful and determined enough to test any defence.

But the defence conceded 70, and that was seven more than Preston North end, who finished bottom, allowed their opponents.

Hull’s fine forwards get a great service from Chris Simpkin, tall, powerful midfield player who has the talent to grace any level of football. Add to all this Hull’s excellent ground, and the only question is why have why they have not risen to greater heights.

The answer is that defence, and this is where Neill comes in. Hull paid Arsenal £44,000 for his services as player manager, and not unnaturally the home supporters will expect him to do something fast.

Neill is never a man to make rash promises. But he is a determined and intelligent footballer, and it would be rash to ignore the possibilities of this Yorkshire side. It could take Neill a season or two to bring his defence into line, but on the other hand if there is a man who could work a miracle that man is Terry Neill.

Another manager at a new club is Freddie Goodwin, who almost took Brighton to promotion from the third division last year. He moved to Birmingham, a team who have known greatness, and always seem to be out of place struggling in the second division.

But Birmingham are quick to lose patience with a manager who doesn’t obtain overnight success. Goodwin is a splendid member of the footballing fraternity, if there is some luck going he needs it and deserves it.

Goodwin’s successor Brighton, Pat Saward, faces a different problem. Within two seasons since the advent of Goodwin, Brighton sprang from near disaster to almost promotion.

Saward has to keep the pot boiling, fifth place in the third division last season whetted the fans appetite for success. They will be looking for second division football very soon.

And its problems, problems, problems for Theo Foley. Promoted to manager of Charlton since Eddie Firmani’s departure towards the end of last season, a season in which the dreadful drop was only just averted. Foley has a lot of work to do with a team whose morale needs a big uplift.

A footballing family who occupy opposite poles are the Balls. Alan Ball Jr, World Cup hero and Everton captain, has the world at his feet. Alan Ball senior, has a long, hard road in front of him.

Possessed of as fiery temperament as his son, the elder Ball starts the season as manager of Preston, now down in the Third Division. His experience at Halifax should stand him in good stead, he is used to a struggle.

Darlington, re-elected after a bad season, now have Len Richley in charge from useful Third Division side Rochdale.

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