A Gentleman of the Game: Ed McNeil Returns to Soccer as Big Blue Assistant

When Kenny Leeder was named the head coach of the Swampscott High School girls soccer team, one of the first phone calls he made was to Ed McNeil, who retired as Lynn English High School girls soccer coach following the 2019 season.

Leeder called to offer McNeil a position as the Swampscott junior varsity coach and assistant varsity coach and the highly regarded 73-year-old coach from Lynn accepted the offer right away. He’s glad to be back on the sidelines after 17 seasons at English.

“This position has been a perfect fit for me,” said McNeil. “I had coached JV hockey at Stoneham for seven years and it was the best job. There’s no pressure and you play all the kids a lot.”

McNeil’s JV team has a 3-2-1 record. The Big Blue varsity is 2-3-1, having defeated Gloucester, 5-0, on Senior Night Tuesday. “The varsity’s record is a little deceiving because we’ve played Danvers, Beverly, Masco, Peabody, and Marblehead who are the best teams.”

Swampscott plays at its games at Blocksidge Field. “We play on the artificial turf and it’s great,” said McNeil, noting that virtually all of the NEC schools now play on artificial turf.

The Big Blue varsity has an upcoming rematch with Danvers. “They’re [Danvers] as good a team as I’ve seen in years,” said McNeil. “We were tied 2-2 with 12 minutes to go in our first meeting and they got three goals in the last 12 minutes. They just keep coming at you and they’re well coached. Jimmy Hinchion is a great coach.”

McNeil said his routine has been to take a separate bus with his JV players to their 4 p.m. away games. He then drives back to the field for the varsity games.

While McNeil was at English, he coached against Leeder’s Swampscott teams for four seasons. Leeder moved back to New Jersey before returning to the area and resuming his coaching career at Swampscott High.

“Kenny’s the best coach I’ve worked with,” said McNeil. “He’s so knowledgeable and the kids really buy into his program. It’s a shame it’s a shortened season because we would have made the tournament easily this year. It would have been nice for me for the first time ever to participate in the tournament.”

McNeil has good memories of his coaching career at Lynn English. “The girls at Lynn English were terrific kids. I can’t say enough about them. We had some great players – Megan Forti went on to WPI and she was the New England Division 3 soccer player of the year in her senior year. She was a gem. I went to see Emma Trahant play soccer twice at Simmons last year; she’s one of the nicest girls I’ve ever coached.  Grace Gately, who is the niece of School Committeewoman Lorraine Gately, Carissa Burton – I coached so many wonderful girls who went on to good colleges and became successful young women.  My 17 years at English were wonderful.”

And now the Swampscott High soccer girls are benefiting from Ed McNeil’s fountain of knowledge and outstanding coaching abilities.

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