Alex Neil is under scrutiny at Norwich City
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City boss Alex Neil knows he is under scrutiny just as much as his players over the Championship run-in.
Neil's plan to press Steven Whittaker into emergency service against Brentford backfired, leaving the Scottish international to become a convenient scapegoat after his testing shift in central midfield. Whittkaer is likely to defer to a fit-again Alex Tettey at St Andrew's on Saturday.
Neil's age may have been a constant side issue when he arrived from Hamilton but the 33-year-old is already hardened to the vagaries of football management.
'If it was easy everyone would do it. You just need to deal with each challenge,' he said. 'Gary (O'Neil) was going to play and then he breaks his toe the day before and it makes it more difficult for a really important match. The last thing I wanted to do was play Steven there. It was needs must at the time. I didn't think any of the younger lads were ready. That was my decision and I take full responsibility for that. I thought the lad went in and did his best.'
Whittaker's re-deployment underlined Neil is still getting to know his troops as he looks to guide Norwich firmly into the promotion mix against a backdrop of midfield injuries and Jonny Howson's suspension.
Seb Bassong's 60-minute midweek run out with the development squad was beneficial for his manager as much as the central defender.
'Of course he is in my thoughts,' said Neil. 'He was in my thoughts last week, which is why we put him on the bench and that was just from watching him in training sessions. Now I have seen him in a game, albeit at under-21 level, I can learn a bit more. To be honest, every player has come into my thoughts because I didn't think we played well last week.'
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Neil was critical of his squad's lack of hunger against the Bees and the City chief knows in-form Birmingham will expose any vulnerability.
'They were struggling at the start of the season but Gary (Rowett) has done very well recently. The form has been excellent of late so we know it will be a difficult task,' said Neil. 'Over the last six or seven games they would be sitting third in the league so their form is good and they are strong at home but we are more than capable of going there and getting a result.'