John McKeand “Ian” McNeill was born on 24 February 1932, and grew up in the Baillieston area of Glasgow. He was scouted by Aberdeen whilst playing for junior side Bridgeton Waverley, and the Scotland under-18 youth team, and joined the club as a part-time player in 1949 while continuing his apprenticeship as a draughtsman. He made his first team debut in January 1951 against St Mirren, scoring his first goal for the club within ten minutes in a 1–1 draw. His playing career at Aberdeen was interrupted by National Service for 18 months before returning to the club in 1955. He struggled to break into the first team, and in 1956 he moved to England to join Leicester City.
He scored 18 goals in his first full season at Leicester, helping the club win promotion to the First Division. He made 72 appearances for the club before joining Brighton & Hove Albion in March 1959. He went on to play for Southend United before finishing his playing career in Scotland with Highland League side Ross County.
Ian played 116 matches for the Seagulls between 1959 to 1962 scoring 12 goals.