Alex Neil aims to keep on proving the doubters wrong at Norwich City
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Alex Neil is not bothered if Norwich City's Championship promotion success means he has finally proved the doubters wrong.
The Scot was a surprise appointment by the Canaries' top brass when he replaced Neil Adams in January after guiding unheralded Hamilton to the Scottish Premier League.
But Neil's profile is set to go sky high after leading Norwich back to the big time having taken over a club outside the play-off places when he first arrived at Carrow Road. The 33-year-old is poised to be the only Scottish manager in next season's Premier League, following an era dominated by the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson and David Moyes.
'That sort of thing does not bother me. People will always question someone they don't know who came from Hamilton,' he said. 'But I don't take myself that seriously with people maybe disagreeing with my methods. In football, everybody's open to criticism at the higher level you get to – you need to make sure you take it on the chin.
'People will continue this season, next season, and that will continue. If guys like (Lionel) Messi and (Cristiano) Ronaldo can get criticised, then anybody is open to it. I will just do as well as I can to make sure we are ready.'
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Neil has now won back-to-back promotions to embellish his impressive personal CV.
'I don't look back. People have made a lot of the last year, telling me I was at Arbroath in front of 700 fans at the start of the season, but it's not a huge concern to me,' he said. 'I set goals, like setting promotion, and I'm really determined to achieve those goals – whether it is Hamilton or Norwich. I don't get overawed by anyone or any place.
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'I'm just here to do as well as I can to make us as good as can be. It's been a long two seasons for me and the play-offs is another three weeks. I just want to enjoy this with the family and then go off on holiday.'
The City boss was convinced Norwich would set the record straight against the Teessiders after two Championship league defeats earlier this season.
'The goal was to gain promotion. We aimed for automatic and it was difficult for us to try and achieve that, but we got close,' he said. 'Then it was important that we remained focused. I felt the squad we had was as strong as anyone. Especially in one-off games like this, I thought the big players rose to the occasion and made the difference.
'One thing we were criticised for in the last game was a slow start, and rightly so. We knew how important the first goal was. If you look at their statistics this season there are not many occasions when they have not won after going in front and there has been only one occasion when they went a goal down and came back. My line-up showed that, I wanted us to be aggressive and offensive. We got that first goal and then when we followed it up with a second I was confident we would see it out.'
Neil showed how much it meant to him with his unique celebration after Cameron Jerome had rifled Norwich in front.
'It was an unusual celebration for me. I had the water bottle in my hand, and did not know what to do, whether to hug somebody, they were all so far away, so I just tossed it in the air,' he said. 'There was a lot of relief that we'd start so well and capitalised on it at that stage of the game.'