Former Lancaster bosses on ‘manager’s dream’ Marshall

Neil Marshall salutes the Lancaster City fans for one final time.  Picture: Gavin Haworth
Neil Marshall salutes the Lancaster City fans for one final time. Picture: Gavin Haworth
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It’s hard to find someone who has a bad word to say about Neil Marshall.

The long-serving Lancaster City stalwart, who is battling cancer, brought the curtain down on his 10-year Dolly Blues career with a week to remember at Giant Axe.

First Phil Brown’s side cemented sixth place in the Evo-Stik First Division North with a 2-0 win over New Mills on Saturday.

Then, nearly a 1,000 fans packed into Giant Axe on Tuesday night for Marshall’s testimonial as a Lancaster City Select XI took on a Liverpool Legends and Invited Guests side with Anfield heroes Alan Kennedy and Phil Neal amongst those in action.

Mick Hoyle, who along with Barrie Stimpson signed Marshall from North Lancashire League side Marsh United when City went into administration back in 2006, was the manager of the Dolly Blues side on a special night at the West Road ground.

He said: “We didn’t have any players and raided the local leagues.

“He came along and got in the team first and foremost because he was left footed.

“He was a skinny left back and he was the only one who wanted to play there so he got in that way.

“He’s developed himself as a person and as a young man and gone from a boy to a man over the last 10 years.

“He’s been coached very well by different managers and has turned into a centre half who is one of the best at this level without any question.

“The times when I was manager of the team he was always the first one on my team sheet and always led by example.

“He’d run through a brick wall for you. Just a true leader.”

Blues favourite Tony Hesketh, Marshall’s manager for five years, was also in attendance on Tuesday night and revealed he never needed the number of the tough-tackling central defender, such was his reliability.

He said: “It’s an old cliché but you wish you had 11 Neil Marshalls.

“He played for me for five years and I never had his phone number.

“He never rang me and I never rang him.

“He turned up for every game, turned up for every training session and was never late.

“He always had a smile on his face, always a cheeky chappy but what a player.

“He never had a bad game for me. He wore his heart on his sleeve and would risk injury to save goals for the side.

“He was a manager’s dream and a superb lad.

“People have left this club for a few bob more and he’s had the chance many, many times to leave this club and hasn’t.

“It speaks volumes for him and why he’s held in such high esteem.”

Hesketh admitted the night was tinged with sadness with Marshall taking the decision to retire after confirmation that his cancer was incurable but manageable.

The former City boss said: “It is tinged with sadness.

“We know the diagnosis. He’ll fight it and they’ve been wrong before in the past and people have won these battles.

“I know the prognosis isn’t good but everyone’s got their fingers crossed and everybody here tonight will wish him and his family well.”