London: John Neal has been hailed as the man who restored pride to Chelsea after it was announced the former Blues manager died on Sunday.
Neal passed away at the age of 82 after a long career in football which took in Hull, Swindon, Aston Villa and Southend as a player and Wrexham, Middlesbrough and Chelsea as a manager.
He took over Chelsea at a time when financial problems were crippling the club, but the manager`s eye for a bargain -- notably the small-fee signings of Kerry Dixon and Pat Nevin -- helped get the Blues back on track long before the current successful era sparked by the investment of Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich.
The club announced the news on Monday morning and gave their own fitting eulogy of his time at Chelsea.
"Chelsea Football Club is deeply saddened by the passing of John Neal, one of the most significant and loved managers in our history," the club said in a statement.
"To this day those years when the team that John built flourished remain among the very favourite Chelsea seasons for fans who lived through them.
"It is no exaggeration to suggest there might not be a Chelsea Football Club today had he not made such a success of dealing with crisis and getting the team back on its feet."
Appointed by Chelsea in 1981 as successor to Geoff Hurst, Neal prevented the Blues from slipping into the third tier and in 1984 guided them to the second tier title.
He had to stand down in 1985 due to heart surgery, was then appointed to the club`s board of directors and never managed again.