Alex Neil demands more from Gary Hooper after a first Norwich City hat-trick
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Alex Neil knew all about Gary Hooper's predatory instincts from his goalscoring exploits north of the border, but the former Hamilton boss is demanding even more after a maiden Norwich City hat-trick helped sink Blackpool.
Hooper was recalled by the Scot after sitting out most of the previous weekend's goalless Championship draw at Birmingham, and the former Celtic hitman was at his clinical best in a 4-0 romp over the Seasiders.
Nathan Redmond sealed the rout with a superb 25-yard free kick deep in stoppage time but Hooper left with the matchball and a challenge from his manager.
'The thing with Gary is to get the maximum out of him. We know the quality is there but we have to make sure the work rate and other parts of his game are up to the highest standard we can possibly drive it to,' said Neil. 'He got his rewards here. I am sure he would be disappointed (not to play at Birmingham) because he wants to be involved.
'I felt first and foremost we needed to fix the defence because we were conceding too many. You can't rely on strikers to score two and three to win every game. We did that at Birmingham and we spent the week building up trying to add that cutting edge and Gary certainly gave us that.
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'You could see with the second goal how we moved the ball really well. It was a great team goal, but we have good individuals. He has top quality and we have to get that out of him on a consistent basis.'
Neil was adamant Lewis Grabban's support role should not be overlooked, with Grabban's perseverance earning Hooper his spot kick chance after being clipped by Peter Clarke.
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City's appetite for work was duly noted by Neil after his criticism following the previous home defeat against Brentford.
'I thought he was excellent. He led the line, he was hungry, he chased everything and we defend from the front and it starts with Lewis and I thought he deserved a goal,' said Neil. 'The bottom line is all the players know what I expect from them is to give 100pc and do everything they possibly can to win the games. It is not a secret. That starts with giving as much effort as they did here so I am really pleased.
'It is easy to come out and say it in the press and what have you but when you are sitting in group meetings and letting them know if they don't do it they will know the reason why they are not playing. I got what I expected in this game and that is all credit to them and our quality came out in the end.'
Neil was able to introduce new signing Tony Andreu with City in cruise control in the final quarter.
'It will be different for him,' he said. 'It has been a big upheaval for him coming down here and I know myself exactly how he feels but as a player when you are on the pitch he has a lot of things to concentrate on, he is moving to a different country, albeit it is only down the road, and I just wanted to get him some of the action. He will take a wee bit of time to adapt to that as well.'
The City boss wants no let-up from his squad ahead of tomorrow's latest league trip to Charlton.
'We'll take confidence from this game but we go to Charlton and that will be another individual game on its own merit,' he said. 'We will certainly have to work as hard as we did, if not even harder, to make sure we get a result.'