Little bit of research unearths plenty of encouraging parallels about new Norwich City boss Alex Neil

06:30 10 January 2015


FROM THE ARCHIVE: Norwich City's Gaetano Giallanza gets to grips with Bournemouth's Carl Fletcher in a 2-1 League Cup win at Dean Court in September 2000.

Given a surrender at Preston that was even more abject than that at Reading, Monday afternoon’s events can hardly have come as too much of a surprise, nor did the inevitable social media meltdown that accompanied them.

Given a surrender at Preston that was even more abject than that at Reading, Monday afternoon’s events can hardly have come as too much of a surprise, nor did the inevitable social media meltdown that accompanied them.

The travelling fans had been treated to two uninspired, gutless away performances in succession with no sign of inspirational leadership either on the field or from the dugout. After the encouraging pre-Christmas recovery the patient was heading back into intensive care with vital signs dropping fast. In his post-match interview Neil Adams sounded like a broken man, forced once again to acknowledge that what had just been produced by his team was far from acceptable, and apparently devoid of ideas of how to change things for the better.

However, the blame for City’s infuriating inconsistency cannot simply be heaped upon Adams. Leaving aside the board’s widely derided decision to appoint such an inexperienced manager at such a key time, the chemistry between manager and players, the vital ingredient at any club, just never got going at City.

Despite the usual slick PR there always seemed to be tensions in the squad, with numerous on-field spats (often healthy enough in a winning team, less so in one that is struggling for results) and some worrying body language.

I particularly remember one player looking totally distraught after the defeat at Forest, but receiving not one consoling word or gesture from his team-mates.

Players and managers have a symbiotic relationship; one can’t produce their best results without the other. Once the players cross that white line the manager is totally reliant upon them, but equally it’s down to him to come up with a formation and approach in which they have total belief.

It’s naively simplistic to try to isolate one party or the other when apportioning blame as ultimately the responsibility always has to be shared.

Nevertheless, the realities of football mean that Adams is now on extended leave while the players who repeatedly let him down get another chance to be the darlings of the crowd.

There is still a realistic prospect of promotion at this stage, but something had to change, and change quickly, if it is to be achieved.

What wasn’t an option was continuing to pretend that everything was actually fine and that it would all work out in the end, because that clearly wasn’t going to happen in the real world, so great credit is due to Adams for his actions in resigning, whether or not he was encouraged to do so.

And so as one Neil leaves another arrives. Most of us knew little about Alex Neil when he appeared on the radar on Wednesday morning, but that may be no bad thing, as neither does anyone else. Neil has not only taken a small club to the upper reaches of the SPL against all expectations, but kept them there, an achievement which has probably not achieved the credit it deserves south of the border, where Scottish football is routinely derided.

As I researched Neil I found myself getting more excited by what I was learning.

Scottish contacts talked of Hamilton’s attractive football based on pressing high up the pitch and defensive solidity, Neil’s faith in youth and lack of time for prima donnas and, most importantly, his burning ambition.

As one pundit I spoke to put it: “What he lacks in experience he makes up for in sheer hunger and desire to play good football.”

Ultimately, though, I don’t mind who is manager of City as long as he makes the players want to run through brick walls for the honour of wearing that yellow and green shirt, because there’s been little sign of that since Paul Lambert left.

1 comment

  • Once gain an excellent piece from Robin Sainty.

    Report this comment

    Bury Yella Fella

    Saturday, January 10, 2015

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