Forget the scary clowns – Alex Neil is proving to be a ruthless juggler at Norwich City
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It’s not been a bad month for Alex Neil.
Of the week...
That’s the way to play Spikeball
HEROES OF THE WEEK: Since my son discovered Spikeball at uni and brought a set home, I’ve become a huge fan (and think we can play a bit). But the City goalkeepers and coach Dean Kiely showed how to really do it in their brilliant video, which has gone viral.
Poor decisions cost Wes so many caps
VILLAIN OF THE WEEK: We are no longer surprised when Wes is man of the match for Ireland, as he was at the weekend. He should have bagged dozens of caps by now – and the decision by previous managers to overlook him for so long is looking more crazy.
I just can’t wait to get back to league action
HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK: This season seems to have been stop/start already with the international breaks. The World Cup qualifiers have hardly been classics and I can’t wait until 3pm on Saturday to be back in my seat in the River End at NR1 and see my team back in action.
Row, row, row the boat after scoring a goal
FUNNIEST MOMENT OF THE WEEK: I’ve headed Down Under for a great comedy clip. After Ivan Franjic netted in an Aussie match, he and his team-mates embarked on a brilliant kayaking celebration, including the corner flag. I’ve tweeted the funny footage.
Far from perfect but Gareth will be the man
PREDICTION OF THE WEEK: A win, a draw, two goals, two clean sheets and four points. Gareth Southgate’s start as interim England boss has been fairly average. However, I fully expect him to get the job permanently.
Apart from that crazy 90 seconds at St James’ Park, things have gone pretty well for the City boss.
Five league wins out of six and cup victories over Everton and Barnet ensured the Championship manager’s gong will be on AN’s mum’s mantelpiece.
The Canaries are looking in a decent position as we return to league football this weekend.
While the Championship fixture list has been on hold for the internationals, clowns (of the scary type) have never been far from the headlines.
I won’t make any cheap jokes about some of the performances we’ve seen in the World Cup games, but it got me thinking about circuses – and the City boss as a juggler.
I can only imagine what it’s like for the Scot to try to keep all the balls in the air of pushing for promotion, trying to progress in all the cup competitions, worrying if the star players will return unscathed from their overseas trips, finding the perfect combination in his team, looking ahead to the next transfer window...I could go on.
There seems little doubt (quite rightly) that a return to the Premier League is the number one target.
However, the attitude and performance at Goodison Park proved the League Cup is important.
And there was a telling sign from Neil that he also sees the Checkatrade Trophy as another ball worth keeping in the air.
That indication (apart from the two big wins so far) came in a tweet from my colleague Paddy Davitt following the 5-0 romp over the Bees.
Paddy tweeted: “Just said to #ncfc AN ‘You could have gone a bit easier at the end’. He gave me one of those looks that said ‘Keep the foot on the throat’.”
I really like Neil’s ruthlessness and want to see it in bucketloads as he continues to juggle the balls over the coming months.
Saturday’s visit by Rotherham is a classic potential banana skin.
The Yorkshire side have lost all five league games so far, letting in 16 goals and scoring just three.
We have to see early intensity and intent to see them off.
Then comes a trip to Fulham (need I say more) followed by the visit of 17th placed Preston.
Of course none of those will be easy – but are a great chance to show we really mean business.
Authorities just aren’t thinking about the fans
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had a moan in this column about the lack of consideration given to football supporters.
Players, managers, owners, officials come and go from clubs up and down the land – but the fans remain and stay loyal to their team.
There has never been more money swilling around due to the huge sums paid out by TV companies and yet supporters have to dig deep to be able to afford their tickets as well as all the other associated costs.
What really frustrates me is that the dedication is rewarded with bizarre scheduling of games.
A few weeks ago I highlighted City’s long midweek trips which make no sense at all.
This week two City games around Christmas were rearranged for TV coverage and will lead to considerable inconvenience for many.
The home match against Huddersfield has moved to the evening of Friday, December 16 from the following day.
I know of festive events in Norwich which have had to be changed to accommodate the new date – and it’s certainly pretty rough on the fans from Yorkshire.
And the Canaries’ New Year’s Eve trip to Brentford has inexpicably been shifted to 5.30pm.
With a bit of luck supporters may just be back to swap On The Ball City for Auld Lang Syne.