Headaches ahead for Norwich City boss Alex Neil – and I bet he will be delighted

These diehard fans were in good spirits at Goodison and will be delighted that manager Alex Neil wil

These diehard fans were in good spirits at Goodison and will be delighted that manager Alex Neil will face selection dilemmas. - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Two weeks is certainly a long time in football.

The last time I penned this column, we were still recovering from that awful reversal at Birmingham, there was widespread disquiet after the transfer window and even ridiculous mumblings about a protest against the owners.

I sense the hand-painted 'Delia and Michael out' banners will have been rolled up and put at the back of the shed.

A fortnight ago I said that the next two games could shape City's future.

As it turned out the wins over Cardiff and Wigan – albeit valuable and hard earned – were not totally convincing and some questions remained.


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It has been the excellent victories at the City Ground and Goodison Park which have really seen the gear click in to place in Alex Neil's Canary bandwagon.

Let's not kid ourselves that every problem has been overcome, that the Canaries will freewheel to promotion and we can get coaches booked for another trip down Wembley Way.

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We have a long, long way to go.

However, the comeback at Forest after the double whammy of a penalty miss and going behind showed there is genuine fight, team spirit and mental strength in the squad – three attributes some of us had questioned.

To then travel to the club second in the Premier League (where we rarely do well) and knock them out of the cup, caps a defining few days.

It's not the Toffees' top priority and Ronald Koeman made seven changes. Well, Neil swapped 10 players and openly said before the game that promotion is more important.

The hectic schedule has no sign of slowing up and City have another huge 10 days ahead with the visit of Burton and then excursions to Newcastle and Wolves.

Neil will certainly now have plenty of headaches over selection – and as fans we are delighted about that (and I sense so will he be).

Jacob and Josh Murphy are certainly both knocking on the door to start together, Steven Naismith sent out a reminder that he can't be forgotten, Graham Dorrans will push Alex Tettey hard for a place, Nelson Oliveria made a promising start at Everton and the likes of John Ruddy, Ryan Bennett and Seb Bassong will also be eager to get back. OTBC.

Dorrans showing class to finally win me over

I must admit I haven't been a big Graham Dorrans fan since he moved to City from West Brom.

I've seen the stats that he was an established starter for the Baggies with a decent goal ratio for a midfielder, was in the 2009/10 Championship team of the year and has 12 Scotland caps. Despite the evidence, he hasn't fully won me over.

Up to now, my preferred starting line-up in the centre of the park would include Alex Tettey, Jonny Howson, Wes Hoolahan, Steven Naismith, Robbie Brady and Alex Pritchard before Dorrans.

Maybe the Championship is his level, perhaps it's because he wants to prove himself against the strength of City's other midfielers or it could be that he is responding to Alex Neil's challenge. But the number four is beginning to look like a really valuable member of the squad.

His quality is not in doubt. It's combining that with the grit which is essential in the Championship that is making him stand out.

Oh, and pinging in a winner from outside the box at Nottingham Forest certainly does his cause no harm. Dorrans was very good against Cardiff, adequate against Wigan and was deservedly man of the match at the City Ground.

I sense we may have even more to come from him and I'm delighted to be proved wrong.

HEROES OF THE WEEK: I can see why the Irish are looking for Emerald Isle links to the Murphys. Jacob and Josh were challenged to prove themselves this season and they are doing that in bucketloads. I'm sure I'm not alone in wanting to see them in the team together.

VILLAIN OF THE WEEK: It's been a while since Jose Mourinho has been my villain – but his constant whinging this week – especially after the Watford game – secures the award. I wish he'd just accept defeats rather than blaming everyone else.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK: Whether it be a penalty shoot-out win against Bolton (1995) or a triumph over Luton (1985), it has been a long time since Norwich beat a team from a higher league in the cup. So the 2-0 victory at Everton tasted very, very good – and let's keep the run going.

FUNNIEST MOMENT OF THE WEEK: The joke's on me after our Monday night six-a-side team got a good thrashing by the All Stars, featuring my fellow City supporting mates Steve 'Plunky' Plunkett and Gary 'Beetley Canary' Hinchliffe. We'll be back boys!

PREDICTION OF THE WEEK: I'm sure I'll be corrected if my maths are wrong, but my calculation is that Wes Hoolahan has scored 18 penalties since joining Norwich and now missed six. Time to change the spot-kick taker? I sense not.

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