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Have Norwich City finally found their Paul Lambert replacement in Alex Neil?

06:30 08 January 2015

Hamilton manager Alex Neil is booked during a Scottish Premiership match at Celtic Park, Glasgow. Picture: Steven O

Hamilton manager Alex Neil is booked during a Scottish Premiership match at Celtic Park, Glasgow. Picture: Steven O'Rourke/PA

PA Wire/Press Association Images

With Alex Neil set to become the new Norwich City manager David Freezer assesses whether the Canaries have finally found the man to turn around the club’s fortunes.

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Name: Alexander Francis Neil

Age: 33

Born: Bellshill, Scotland

Playing career: Midfielder for Airdrieonians, Barnsley, Mansfield and Hamilton

Managerial career: Player/manager at Hamilton since March 2013

Managerial record: P70 W37 D15 L18 (52.9pc win percentage)

Trivia: Led Hamilton to first win away at Celtic in 76 years with 1-0 win in October

When Norwich City chief executive David McNally began his succession planning, he will have been very aware that he needed to repeat his success of 2009.

The Canaries chief gained his reputation for being a ruthless operator in August of that year when he sacked Bryan Gunn after just two games in charge and hired Paul Lambert.

Since Lambert ditched City for Aston Villa, Chris Hughton and Neil Adams have both failed to reproduce the swashbuckling success which saw the club rise from League One to the Premier League.

Has McNally now found a man in a similar mould to Lambert in Hamilton Academical boss Alex Neil though?

At just 33 years of age and still registered as a player, it came as a shock when the Scottish Premiership club revealed that Neil was in talks with City yesterday.

But the news was so unexpected that it is clear that McNally must already have done his homework on the former Barnsley and Mansfield midfielder – otherwise the gamble would surely be too big.

And perhaps it is those similarities to Lambert that have persuaded McNally and the City board they have found a man who can get their promotion hopes back on track.

Speaking to the Daily Mail in September, Neil said: “I’m a very secure person. I have very few insecurities in terms of confidence, speaking to a group and putting my message across.

“I don’t mind demanding the most out of them or booting someone up the backside if I feel they aren’t pulling their weight.”

The certainty and ambition in those words suggest Neil is not a man who is going to be overawed by the pressure at Carrow Road.

He took over at Hamilton in March 2013 and then guided the Accies to second place in the Scottish Championship.

That meant missing out on automatic promotion but Neil then guided his side to a 2-1 aggregate win over Falkirk in the First Division play-off, before beating Hibs on penalties after two legs of a promotion play-off against the top-flight club.

That experience of play-off victory may just come in handy again if Neil does pick up the reins at Carrow Road.

The other big question yet to be answered is what will happen to Mike Phelan if Neil is appointed today?

If he remains as first-team coach, as expected, then perhaps Phelan will feel little has changed. The former Manchester United manager was brought in to work alongside an inexperienced manager.

Although Neil has more experience than the man he may replace, the guidance from a man of Phelan’s experience and knowledge would surely still be a huge asset for the Canaries as they try to reignite their promotion push.

As a tough-tackling midfielder who is already shining as a manager at a young age, Neil certainly seems to have plenty of bite to go with his bark. Is he tough enough to follow in Lambert’s footsteps? If so, then McNally could be about to repeat his trick of 2009.

20 comments

  • Everyone who keeps on about Alex Neil as a gamble, should think!! everything in life is a gamble, sometimes you get right sometimes you don't, if you all knew what whas going to happen tomorrow you'd be a prophet worth millions, so give your team & Neil your support.otbc

    Report this comment

    Basil Calaby

    Friday, January 9, 2015

  • Alex Neil I'm sure is his own man. By all means let him bring his own assistant but rid Carrow Road of the rest. He should not be forced into accommodating Grant Holt or Mike Phelan. They both came to Carrow Road to do a job with Neil Adams, but that failed, and they both know the score. We can't let a new manager trying to do a job with Phelan looking over his shoulder all the time reporting back to sir..I don't think either that Neil would want to be compared to Paul Lambert- who lets face it over the past eighteen months has become quite ordinary.

    Report this comment

    VictorM

    Thursday, January 8, 2015

  • Paul who? Forget him if he had done it for 10 years he would have had something to brag about. Lucky or skilful , we'll never know. It seems to me that we have a collection of reasonable players,not as yet a team. We need a manager who can form those with the necessary ability, determination ,and grit to be a canary into a team, and to DEMAND top performance and commitment at all times. Perhaps as important, the manager must be prepared to lose anyone who fails to show 100%commitment, immediately. My guess is we need a manager with the experience and confidence to manage, a thick skin ,and a hard streak,rather than ex footballing team buddy, with a need to be one of the lads.

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    Union Jack

    Thursday, January 8, 2015

  • B Inners: I understand it was 2 games in to McNally's reign, not Gunn's. The article is just poorly written, not researched. McNally came in during the summer and had the b@lls to act early and be decisive. Something he seems to have had kicked out of him since then. Let's hope this is him back to his best.

    Report this comment

    Crazy canary

    Thursday, January 8, 2015

  • Bravo Michael Merrill. Well said. The past is the past and the EDP is as bad as all the other medias. Blatant hype! Subtle hype! Hype! We don't need Paul Lambert mark II, we want a manager who is his own man, doing well for City. The press just don't have enough to write about. Shame on your EDP.

    Report this comment

    bigdunc4ever

    Thursday, January 8, 2015

  • Hopefully he'll be Alex Neil the first. Different times, different issues. Comparisons with past managers who have hardly progressed since leaving us don't mean a lot.

    Report this comment

    Pondlife

    Thursday, January 8, 2015

  • Unnecessary pressure on Alex Neil. Lets not forget Paul Lambert was a Champions League winner as a player, Alex Neil is not. I don't see where the comparisons are other than he's young, hungry and Scottish. For the record, I hope he gets the job and does great, but the comparisons need to stop now before he comes in, does well for a couple of years and gets poached by Villa.

    Report this comment

    Adorablespy

    Thursday, January 8, 2015

  • To be fair Gunn was sacked after 21 games in charge. He was sacked after 2 games in the 09-10 season. David Freezer, 100 times, I must do my research properly.

    Report this comment

    B Inners

    Thursday, January 8, 2015

  • Let us also see an end to this farcical charade of measuring ‘success’ in terms of promotion. Take the very top European football managers and put one in control of each the 24 championship teams and 21 would fail to gain promotion and 3 would even get relegated…..go figure.

    Report this comment

    Armchair fan

    Thursday, January 8, 2015

  • Oh no!!!! Is Paul Lambert really still getting mentioned by Archant!!!!!. Every week his name will get printed in the EDP... I really think it's a unhealthy obsession!. Now coming up to the 3rd manager since his departure and he's still getting mentioned - frankly embarrassing!. This is a completely pointless article, how could he be similar?... Oh, because he talks with a Scottish accent!.... Get a grip!

    Report this comment

    Michael Merrill

    Thursday, January 8, 2015

  • Crazy, I agree with much of what you say, but I don't think Adams can be accused of having little passion. If Neil is appointed then I think it is a big ask to ask him to change the playing style to a high pressing game, hunting in packs and get us promoted this season. That will take time. You only need to look at how it has taken Pochetino half a season to get the Spurs team to click with his tactics. I also believe that it will take him time to adapt to the different challenges of running a club like Norwich Vs one like Hamilton. If we appoint him, I will get behind him, but realistically I don't expect him to be successful this season. It has to be an appointment for the longer term and both fans and board will have to back him with time.

    Report this comment

    Preston Canary

    Thursday, January 8, 2015

  • NCFC would do well to adopt Hamilton’s policy of encouraging those of its staff and players who wish to move on to do so without archaic enforcement of ‘contract slavery’. Put an unrestricted baton in every employee’s knapsack and he will perform to his maximum capability. The result will be a healthy vibrant club with adequate replacements always available whenever anyone moves on. Let’s see an end to all this crud about “none of our best players are going to be allowed to leave during the next transfer window”

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    Armchair fan

    Thursday, January 8, 2015

  • This appointment fills me with a strange air of confidence. Such is the random nature of the name it seem impossible to be random - with Holt (from Falkirk) and McNally knowing the scottish league they'll have researched. Mick Dennis indicated on twitter yesterday he'd been on the list for a while. As Adams "agreed" to resign ("Please quit so it doesn't say sacked on your CV and you keep your cult status") we may have had to wait until january to pay a transfer fee for a player manager (?) - another midfielder!

    Report this comment

    cda1982

    Thursday, January 8, 2015

  • An interesting stat from the Accies is their strikeforce of 3 are all in the top 10 scorers in the SPL with 26 goals of a team total of 36 ........... I'm sure our forwards would be keen for a taster of AN's philosophy

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    nevermindthedanger

    Thursday, January 8, 2015

  • And I completely agree with Surrey, "The new Paul Lambert" label is not helpful to anyone or anything.

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    Swiss Canary

    Thursday, January 8, 2015

  • Some great points here already. It is a bit ironic that after much criticism of the directors and CEO for lack of imagination and ambition that this pops up and has everyone scrambling for Google. This could be the masterstoke of joining youthful desire to win with vast experience to transform the team into an irresistible force or it could all fall into heap of recrimination. It is certainly not going to be boring. Anything more is total speculation.

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    Swiss Canary

    Thursday, January 8, 2015

  • Any managerial appointment is a gamble - the problem with Adams was that most could see it was a foolish gamble at the time and there were better options available. This time however they may just have unearthed a gem - let's hope so and get behind the new man if it is to be Alex Neil. Passion is what us fans have being crying out for since PL left and this guy certainly appears to have that.

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    Crazy canary

    Thursday, January 8, 2015

  • Lets hope he does turn thing round, give him a chance

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    Derek McDonald

    Thursday, January 8, 2015

  • Dos he really need the added pressure of being labelled the new PL before even getting the job? Let him be his own man, for goodness sake, But he has no track record in managing overpaid prima donna's, and that was one of the problems NA had. He'll need time to bed in but if we are to get promotion this year, we do not have this time. I wish him well if appointed, and hope he can take a firm grip on things.

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    Surrey Canary

    Thursday, January 8, 2015

  • The word "gamble" appears again and rightly so. This board constantly takes chances on managers and like any gambler loses more than it wins. Only once did they hit the jackpot (twice if you count Worthy's promotion) and that was when McN was sent alone to the casino and brought back PL. So if this appointment is another lone venture it gives cause for hope. At least this season the new man has time. Immediate questions include does he want to bring his own back up staff, if so what about Phelan and Holt? Further on, if he succeeds how long will the board hold on to him? If he fails back to the casino.

    Report this comment

    Lincs Canary

    Thursday, January 8, 2015

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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