The Cult Hero
The name Neil Hood and the phrase ‘goalscorer’ were inexorably linked throughout his career, starting with Ayr United, his first senior team. Ally MacLeod signed Neil at the end of May 1969, and gave him his debut in late September of that year, when he sent Neil on as a 60th minute substitute in a home league match against Morton. Seven minutes later Neilly had scored his first senior goals, as he rifled home the only goal of the game.
But this was an Ayr United team that was hard to fully break into, and despite some further games and goals he was eventually released, whereupon, almost exactly two years since he signed for Ayr United, he moved to Queen of the South.
The goals flowed down at Palmerston, with Neil finishing up as Top Scorer for Queens in 71/72, obviously the first time he had achieved this. From his 32 starts he notched 18 goals, but despite many protestations from Queen’s fans, he was transferred to Hamilton Accies.
Hamilton Accies had got themselves a great deal, and once again the goals flowed for Neilly. His three seasons at Douglas Park brought him another three top scorer accolades.
A game worth mentioning here is a friendly Hamilton Accies played prior to the start of the 73/74 season against the (then) mighty Leeds United (72/73 had seen Leeds take third place in England, and reach the finals of both the FA Cup and the European Cup Winner’s Cup). Leeds included household names such as Gary Sprake, Paul Reaney, Terry Yorath, Frank Gray, Peter Lorimer, Mick Bates and Joe Jordon, but they never reckoned on one Neil Hood, who grabbed a hat-trick as Hamilton somewhat surprisingly ran out 4-3 winners, after leading 4-1 at one stage.
As things quite often happen in football though, matters at Douglas Park weren’t particularly working out for Neil despite all his goals, thus when Stan Anderson approached him to come to Shawfield at the start of October 1975 it came as a relatively easy decision for Neil.
His debut came against Falkirk at Brockville a few days later, and it also brought a debut goal in a 2-1 victory that day. The following Saturday he scored on his home debut against Airdrie, then before the end of October he had notched the first of two hat-tricks for Clyde, in a league match against Montrose.
Clyde had aspirations to leave Division One for the Premier League, but as we know football can be a cruel game. We did leave Division One, but it was down to Division Two that we went at the end of the season. Relegation wasn’t for the lack of effort or contribution from Neil, though, as he finished the club’s top scorer with 17 goals from 28 games.
The following season Clyde struggled in the Second Division, with managerial problems meaning we had four managers over the course of the season. All this turmoil failed to upset Neil, as he once again led the club’s scoring chart with 19 goals from 43 matches.
The start of 77/78 saw a quiet revolution at Shawfield, with Craig Brown coming in as manager. In a great Centenary season for the club the Second Division Championship was a fantastic achievement, and Neil’s contribution was to finish the club’s top scorer for the third consecutive season with 21 goals from 43 matches. It was also quite fitting and appropriate that Neil scored the final goal of the season, Clyde’s fourth in a 4-0 win over Stranraer at Shawfield, curling a tremendous 20-yarder into the net from over at the Stand side to bring the crowd to its feet.
The team started season 78/79 looking as if back-to-back promotions were a possibility, only to taper off as the season went on, but consolidation in Division One was achieved. It was, though, a bit of a barren season for Neil, as he “only” finished third top scorer. This has to be tempered with the fact that Neil had finished top scorer for his team in each of the last SEVEN seasons before this one, a tremendous achievement.
Season 1979/80 brought another relegation for Clyde, and towards the end of this disappointing season Neil moved to Stranraer as player-manager. Despite this, normal service was resumed in that Neil was back at the top of the club’s scoring charts for the fourth time. His goals this season included a second hat-trick in Bully Wee colours, this time a most enjoyable one against his former club Hamilton Accies in a 4-0 victory in September 1979, and also a tremendous effort against Rangers in the Scottish Cup. With no scoring after an hour in the match at Shawfield, and Clyde giving as good as they got, Neil picked up a pass inside the Rangers half. Neil described the goal in an interview for the Clyde programme…
I picked the ball up midway in their half, the score was 0-0 at the time, and I beat three players – Colin Jackson, Tam Forsyth and Sandy Jardine (all Scottish Internationalists by the way) before lobbing Peter McCloy
Neil only omitted to add that Peter McCloy himself was also a Scottish Internationalist!
In March 1980 Neil took up an opportunity to be player-manager with Stranraer. Between then and the end of that season Neil managed 6 goals from 11 games, but the following season – despite him scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win over Clyde – Neil only managed 4 goals from 13 (+5 subs) appearances. The opportunity wasn’t entirely working out as Neil had wanted, and a parting of the ways inevitable, but it gave Craig Brown an opportunity to bring Neil back to Shawfield in late November 1981.
The Bully Wee were again on their way to winning the Second Division Championship, and Neil’s return helped see us over the finishing line with a record points total.
Neil’s 3 starts and 11 substitute appearances in the league matched him with Davie Rae in terms of total appearances, but Davie had more starts so he was awarded what was thought to be the last medal for the team. Many years later another medal surfaced, thus it was only appropriate and fitting that Neil was awarded his medal – some 26 years later!
Being inducted into the Hall of Fame isn’t the first time Neil has been honoured by the Clyde fans. In 2004 the BBC’s Football Focus show ran a competition for every senior team in Britain to find and honour its ‘Cult Hero’. Clyde’s nominees were Archie Robertson, Danny Masterton and Neil, and in the final count Neil won most votes and thus remains Clyde FC’s Cult Hero to this day.
Neil’s entry into the club’s Hall of Fame is a well-deserved accolade and has hardly taken into account what Neil has done for the club since retiring from the playing side. For instance, over many year’s Neil and his great friend and former Clyde player John Brogan hosted Hospitality Events at Broadwood, and Neil is a regular presence at other club functions.
However, it is naturally Neil’s effort, commitment and skill – as well as his goalscoring exploits – on the field of play that we turn to and bestow this honour upon ‘Big Neilly’.
As we have already seen, Neil finished top scorer for the club on no less than four separate seasons. In the entire history of the club, going back over 140 years, and considering the club has used something of the order of 1750 players, Neil is in a group of only FIVE players who have achieved – or bettered – this record.
Top Scorer on 5 Occasions
- Dougie Wallace
Top Scorer on 4 Occasions
- Alan Brown
- Billy McPhail
- Archie Robertson
- Neil Hood
Also, Neil’s total of 78 goals is also enough to put him in 10th place in the club’s all-time scoring chart.
Whilst it would be an almost impossible exercise to level the playing field with regards this table, and thus we have to take this table as it is presented, one things we can say is that since the departure of Harry Hood in 1968, Neil is the leading scorer for the club in the last 50 years.
Whilst all the information above was correct at the time of writing, on-the-field events since then have meant that David Goodwillie’s 109 goals for Clyde put David in 6th place in the overall Clyde Goalscorers Chart, thus Neil now finds himself in 11th place overall.