WFFC Advent Calendar: 12 – Neil Tilley

Today, our countdown enters uncharted territory as we take a closer look at the first of our 14 100-club members, Neil Tilley.

Tilley came from good footballing stock, so it is not such a surprise that he was such a successful player for Pennant.

His father, Les, was a right back who captained Leyton and also played for Leytonstone, where he was an England amateur international. Club Historian David Chapman rates Les as “one of our best post-war players”.

Neil made his Leyton Pennant debut on the 12th of February 2000, a 1-0 defeat to Bedford Town, and went on to make 8 appearances that season.

For the next two seasons however, Tilley was an immovable object in the Pennant first team, making 40 starts in 2000-1, and 46 in the memorable 2001-2 side, where he also chipped in with eight goals.

Many people who saw Neil play would vouch for him being one of the best passers of the ball the club has ever had.

Far from being the most mobile of players (the webmaster can remember him helping himself to a few bites of a burger during a break in play), Tilley rarely left the centre circle.

However, it was in the centre of the pitch where Tilley was his most dangerous, spreading the play to all corners of the pitch with pinpoint accuracy.

His eye for a pass was somewhat surprising, when you consider that without contact lenses, Neil was practically blind. In one end of season encounter with Cheshunt, play was halted for some considerable time while Neil (and a few others) scoured the pitch on all fours in an attempt to find a missing contact lense.

Perhaps even more surprisingly, Neil was also a dab hand between the sticks. During Pennant’s run to the third round of the FA Vase in 2001, ‘keeper Russell Ling was forced off injured, and Tilley stepped up to the job, with Pennant only losing 2-1 after extra time to Mildenhall Town.

Tilley only made 6 appearances at the start of the 2002-3 season before moving on to pastures new.

He was last seen playing for Enfield Cricket Club, where accounts suggest he is a dab hand with the bat. He captains their first XI with a batting average of 32.

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