Norwich City’s Premier League quest is a rollercoaster ride for Alex Neil
06:00 01 January 2016
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Alex Neil has labelled Norwich City’s Premier League return this season as a rollercoaster ride.
The Canaries reached the halfway mark with 20 points from 19 games but that barely tells the story of City’s highs and lows since Neil plotted an instant return from the Championship.
“The one thing about this league is there are so many ups and downs, particularly when you are one of the smaller teams. Your mentality changes from week to week,” he said. “You go to Manchester United and you won’t have much of the ball and you have to be resolute and compact. Then you play Aston Villa at home and everyone demands you get on the ball and play and dictate, but your mindset and that of your players really does fluctuate.
“You need to keep an even footing and for me, as a manager, it is about getting the team prepared for each game. We have faced a lot of the bigger teams away from home, real tough ones like Manchester City and Tottenham away and so naturally in the second half of this season a lot of them have to come here.
“I think in the majority of the games we have been competitive and if we maintain that you hope results will follow. Confidence has never been an issue for us. I think that comes from the performances as much as the results.”
Neil has made it clear in recent weeks he wants the likes of Seb Bassong, Gary O’Neil and captain Russell Martin to play a leadership role in the tough moments.
“It certainly helps when you have guys who have seen it, done it and not only that, you need players who can influence other players around them on the pitch. It all can’t come from the manager,” he said. “Even when I was playing you had to have leaders in the team so that when the going got tough, what generally happens is, they look to that guy for strength and they feed off him.
“The likes of Russell Martin, Gary O’Neil and Sebastian Bassong for us become even more important players in those type of situations. I’ve had a chat with them and let them know how important they are and what is required of them and to make sure they keep everybody else in check and on their toes and ready.”
Neil’s tactical decisions and selection calls have been heavily scrutinised in the Premier League with the Scot admitting he has got things wrong on occasion, but that comes with the territory for the top flight’s youngest boss.
“Arsene Wenger gets criticised if he loses a game, Louis van Gaal is getting plenty of criticism at the moment,” he said. “The good thing about football is everyone has an opinion and they all think they are right. The only difference with being a manager is you have to do it before the game, not with the benefit of hindsight. When you are down at the bottom it is not easy to do it but if you enjoy it then you are prepared to fight tooth and nail.”