Andrew Atkinson talks exclusively to Timmy Leech the former Middlesbrough FC team coach driver who lives in Los Montesinos, Alicante.
John Neal was manager at Middlesbrough when I became the first team coach driver in the seventies.
John later left the club and joined Chelsea. He was at ‘Boro during 1977-81, succeeding Jack Charlton as manager, moving to Chelsea in 1981, when replacing Sir Geoff Hurst.
John retired in the 1984-85 season, and was appointed to the Chelsea Board of Directors in 1985.
Before he arrived at the club he was at Wrexham, where he took the club into the European Cup Winners Cup in 1972 and 1976.
He was a great man who was sadly missed when he left. John died in 2014, aged 82.
Ultimately John’s departure at ‘Boro also lead to my departure soon after.
During my time at Middlesbrough I went on to pick up the away teams for three years at the Teesside airport – including Arsenal.
And I was lucky enough to pick up Boca Juniors – with then the young Maradona in the team.
Argentina international star Maradona was at Boca Juniors during 1981-82, and went on to play for Barcelona and Sevilla.
At Boro I began as team coach driver with the youth team – who had players in the calibre of Stan Cummins, David Hodgson and Mark Proctor, who all went on to bigger things.
Stan played for Sunderland and Crystal Palace after his time at ‘Boro during 1975-79. David, at ‘Boro during 1972-82, went on to play at Liverpool and Sunderland, and Mark played at Nottingham Forest and Sunderland, after his spell at ‘Boro during 1978-81.
We had a team which for me was the best youth side ‘Boro ever had.
My time with the ‘Boro senior side was for approximately two years – and I remain close friends with Jim Platt and Billy Ashcroft today.
Jim, at the club during 1971-82, was capped by Northern Ireland 23 times. Billy was at the club during 1977-82.
Protocol at the club was what went on ‘stayed in house’ – that’s how it was.
Tony McAndrew was one joker in the pack when travelling to away games. I recall one joke that was played on me was in Wales.
John Mahoney sent me out to check over the pubs during pre season. All the pubs were closed – which he knew – as it was Sunday.
I took some ‘jib’ when I got back – I can remember that as if it happened yesterday!
I’m still a big football fan and enjoy watching CD Montesinos play in the Valencia league.