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Notts Alumni: Neal Bishop

Joe Jones

Born in Stockton-on-Tees, Neal Bishop's journey in football began with Middlesbrough, though he was released by the Teessiders as a teenager.

From there, he joined Northern League club Billingham Town and had two spells there either side of a short tenure at Gateshead FC.

While in his first spell at Billingham, Bishop once played in a game alongside his brother Craig and father Rob due to a run of eight matches in 15 days towards the end of the 2000-01 season.

Bishop continued to ply his trade in the non-league but worked his way up the food chain as he earned the captain's armband at Scarborough, before joining York City and helping them to the Conference playoffs in 2007.

In a show of ambition, he rejected a new deal at York and went on to fulfil a lifelong ambition of playing in the Football League by joining Barnet on a free transfer that year.

Bishop didn't exactly make the best start at Underhill, being sent off for violent conduct in just his second match at the club, against Norwich City in the League Cup, but went on to make 47 appearances in the 2007-08 season.

The following season, he initially handed a transfer request but went on to withdraw it and ended up becoming club captain after Ismail Yakubu was handed the role.

In December, Bishop suffered a fractured jaw after being kicked in the face by Ricky Ravenhill, then of Darlington - fate would reunite the two players at Notts County later on in their careers.

In May 2009, Bishop's Magpies journey began when he signed a pre-contract agreement to join the club, which was to undergo an adventure of its own in the shape of the Munto "takeover".

On the pitch, Notts were a force to be reckoned with as they cruised to the League Two title, with Bishop's tenacious, never-give-up style and strong engine a crucial part of the setup as he made 43 league appearances that season.

Despite the off-the-field uncertainty as Munto ended up being a con, the midfielder never let said issues bother him and, as matters were settled at boardroom level in the summer, he signed a two-year contract extension that would keep him at the club until 2012.

In League One, Bishop continued to go from strength to strength as he helped Notts consolidate their place in the third tier, being rewarded with the captain's armband by Paul Ince and finishing the campaign with 51 appearances, two goals, the Player of the Year award, and a new two-year deal at the Lane.

Bishop's finest display for Notts came in the fourth round of the 2010-11 FA Cup as the Magpies welcomed Manchester City to Meadow Lane.

Just before the hour, he headed home the opener against the Citizens from Alan Gow's corner kick, and for a while, Notts fans were dreaming of a huge upset.

Sadly, the match ended up as a 1-1 draw when Edin Dzeko struck a late equaliser, which meant a replay at the City of Manchester Stadium where the hosts upped their game and claimed a 5-0 win.

Given that Man City's eventual FA Cup win marked their first trophy in 35 years and was followed up with a Premier League title win the following season, one can't help but wonder how the trajectory of English football may have differed had Bishop's goal been the winner.

There was yet more time for a grandiose contribution from Bishop - he was County's captain when the team took on Juventus in their new stadium inauguration in September 2011, a season where the Magpies came within a whisker of making the League One playofs.

The 2012-13 campaign would prove to be Bishop's most fruitful one from a scoring perspective, bagging seven goals, but sadly it would also be his final one at the Lane.

In an interview with the official Notts site ahead of his departure by mutual consent in June 2013, he said: “It’s an emotional day.

"This club has been a major part of my life for four years and I can honestly say I wouldn’t change a thing about my time here. It’s been the best part of my career.

“The club are heading in a different direction and there are a number of changes this summer and it just seemed the right time.

“I’ve had meetings with the Manager and the board and I’ve given my reasons and I’m really grateful to Jim Rodwell and the Trews who have been very understanding and helped me.

“It’s been fantastic. From the rollercoaster of the first season, the cup runs, captaining the club at Juventus and leading the lads out everytime, representing the club was a massive honour. It’s probably my proudest moment in my life.

“The fans have been absolutely fantastic with me. I’d like to wish them all the best and thank them. I can’t speak highly enough of them.”

Bishop subsequently joined Blackpool, then in the Championship, in August of that year, penning a five-month contract that was extended to take him until the end of the 2013-14 season.

Following his spell at Bloomfield Road, he joined newly promoted League One side Scunthorpe United in June 2014, where he continues to ply his trade today.

We at PON are delighted to have had the privilege of seeing Neal Bishop in Notts colours at the peak of his powers and contributed countless quality moments to the team, which is why we are delighted to include him in our Notts Alumni list of illustrious Magpies of years gone by.

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