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Alex Neil relishes leading from the front at Norwich City

06:45 16 January 2015

Alex Neil has wasted no time getting down to work at Norwich City. Picture: Denise Bradley

Alex Neil has wasted no time getting down to work at Norwich City. Picture: Denise Bradley

Archant

Alex Neil wasted little time stamping his mark on Norwich City’s squad. Here he tells PADDY DAVITT what he expects from a group of players he aims to mould into a Championship force.

"I’ve told the players what our aims are for the rest of the season and you hope they buy into it. If they don’t there are going to be problems."

Alex Neil

Alex Neil will only have a problem with his Norwich City players if they fall below his exacting standards.

The newly-appointed Canaries’ boss can still measure his tenure in hours rather than matches, but the squad he inherited has been left in no doubt they either buy into the Scot’s philosophy or fall by the wayside.

Neil aims to be their biggest champion and greatest critic to extract the maximum from plentiful resources at Carrow Road.

“I would like to think man-management is one of my strengths,” he says. “The one thing people quickly learn about me is I am completely honest and open with everyone and as a player that is all you want. If somebody tells you exactly where you are and how they see it, then there can be no room for error, no arguments to be had.

“I have already described that to the squad. I have told them I will be honest with them in how I see things. Now, we might not always agree but the bottom line is they have to be respectful of my view.

“I’m not saying I will be going out with them for a drink, I won’t be their best mate, but I have their best interests at heart as well as the club. I want to make sure they are okay and if I can help them in anyway then I will do. The Norwich City players have been told that already, but I will put certain demands on them to do their job because if they don’t then its difficult for me to do mine.”

Neil bats away accusations a 33-year-old who had operated in Scottish football guiding Hamilton from the Championship to the upper echelons of an SPL missing Rangers, Hibs and Hearts will struggle to exert his authority over a Norwich dressing room crammed with international players.

The former Accies’ chief exudes self-confidence but that disguises a streetwise edge fashioned in the less glamorous surroundings of a playing career that took in spells at Barnsley and Mansfield before he returned north to his spiritual home.

Neil has already embraced the expectation and the pressure that comes with replacing Neil Adams. He knows he is expected to deliver.

“They are people at the end of the day. If you speak to them with respect and honesty and let them know up front where you are coming from then generally you get that back,” he says. “Every player at any level in this game has aspirations. That will always be the case so I never gave that any thought.

“I’ve told the players what our aims are for the rest of the season and you hope they buy into it. If they don’t there are going to be problems.

“I think, longer term, that process is always going to be better for a manager because it gives you more time to work with players, to bed things in and make sure they all know their jobs.

The bottom line, however, is managers nowadays don’t have the longer term. It is about the here and now and what is going to happen between now and the end of the season. That will dictate a lot for myself and Norwich. I am fully aware of that and it’s why I am trying to get things bedded in and, to give them their due, the squad have bought into it as much as they can.”

Neil talks in measured tones but the passion is never far from the surface. The inevitable focus on his relatively tender age is turned into a huge positive by the man himself after becoming the second-youngest manager in the Football League.

“I think one of the benefits for me with the age-thing is that I can relate to the players,” he says. “I can relate to how they are feeling, relate to how they are spoken to by a manager, how it feels when they are being told they have been left out, because I have been there myself as a player.

“That is certainly an advantage I do have in dealing with the players and sometimes that allows me to speak to them on their level, and a lot of the time like I said earlier players are receptive to that.

“I’m young for a manager. There is no getting away from that but I have been a professional football player since I was 16, so in terms of the dynamics of football and how a changing room works I am used to that since I have been a lad. I have been coaching for five years.

“I was still playing when I left (Hamilton) last week. Really when they first came to me two years ago that is where my focus was. They asked me to take on the manager’s role at the time, they said they felt I was the right person and they respected me and wanted me to do it and looking back I am really, really pleased I did now because it has benefited me.”

16 comments

  • impressed by the positivity...... genuinely impressed as I thought there would be more mixed feelings with this appointment and I will be there as always and give my 100% support. I just hope that the support remains if or when the going gets tough. As for captain please not Jerome he is scoring and he would be in my team but he is not a Holt by any means doesn't grab the team by the scruff of the neck like GH did. As for who should be captain hmmmmm easier to say who shouldn't be and say no to others suggestions erm still struggling had not realised how much of a leader we have lacked. I would go with and this wont be universally popular but Ruddy

    Report this comment

    OhhhhHuckerrrrby

    Friday, January 16, 2015

  • Timbo you can be sure things will be very different from now on. This guy wants the EPL and won't stop until he gets it. Our team won't know what's hit them after 23 weeks of training. That's how Hamilton Accies did so well...fitness.

    Report this comment

    Bogaz John

    Friday, January 16, 2015

  • "Tactical Zone"...I can't imagine this room was used much during Hughton's reign. (Unless playing with 10 men behind the ball + the Dutch toe-stubber in front of it for 90 mins was a tactic). Oh silly me, I almost forgot...bring on a sub @ the 89th min mark when it's virtually impossible for him to have any meaningful influence on the game...Trust the new Sir Alex will have a few more tricks up his sleeve- OTBC !

    Report this comment

    Timbo

    Friday, January 16, 2015

  • It cant be the boardroom in that pic , cheapo stackable plastic chairs and Jobcentre grade polypropylene carpet . Bit like how the bars in the Sprowston Beehive and the Yeoman used to look . I love the Room title on the door " Tactic Zone " , pretentious or what ?

    Report this comment

    Bring on Foggo

    Friday, January 16, 2015

  • Tonights the night then cutty. Wipe the mascara off before 3pm tomorrow. Best bib and tucker for new Alex ........... and home before 12

    Report this comment

    nevermindthedanger

    Friday, January 16, 2015

  • Timbo, only on a Friday night.

    Report this comment

    cutty

    Friday, January 16, 2015

  • Can you imagine the Country Vicar giving this interview? Me neither! PS: Cutty- That's strange...I'd heard that in certain pubs in Norwich you were well known for high heels....x

    Report this comment

    Timbo

    Friday, January 16, 2015

  • He's our Mad Brewer - he'll post when he wants.

    Report this comment

    el dingo

    Friday, January 16, 2015

  • El tel, Cameron Jerome for captain? He`s a striker, but so was Holt. I like the cut of Cameron`s jib; he looks like a man on a mission.

    Report this comment

    Mad Brewer

    Friday, January 16, 2015

  • I've been saying for a year or more now that we needed motivation ( apart from their wages). Well they've got it now in AN. He really does sound like he knows what he wants and won't be fazed by our " superstars". £pm tomorrow can't come soon enough. The starting 11 will be interesting too.

    Report this comment

    Bogaz John

    Friday, January 16, 2015

  • p.s. and a Tony Curtis wig, I can still grow the sideburns.

    Report this comment

    cutty

    Friday, January 16, 2015

  • Hey Timbo, you should take a leaf out of AN's book! I'm still waiting for a reply on my request to be a Twiglet. I know all the 50's and 60's hits, and I rather fancy one of them Elvis or Abba suits. But I wouldn't be any good with high heels, my balance a'nt what it use to be, it's the tablets.

    Report this comment

    cutty

    Friday, January 16, 2015

  • Totally agree with the precious posts and look forward to seeing no more cases of 'favourites' being in the starting 11 every week, even when they're not playing well. Exciting times ahead!!!!

    Report this comment

    Mr Ed

    Friday, January 16, 2015

  • Well said Alex this is what has been needed for a long while get rid of the so called prima donnas.A good strong captain is also needed

    Report this comment

    El tel

    Friday, January 16, 2015

  • That's as honest as you'll get. I guess Paddy and his pals must be pleased to have something worth writing about. Good reading. Now for Cardiff. Can't wait, which hasn't been my reaction for some time. You'll get a huge welcome from the Barclay Alex.

    Report this comment

    el dingo

    Friday, January 16, 2015

  • AN has talked the talk and now we look forward to him walking the walk

    Report this comment

    Hurdy Gurdy Man

    Friday, January 16, 2015

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