Alex Neil putting down roots on a solid set of Norwich City foundations
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
What a way to start your summer business – Michael Bailey looks at what Alex Neil's new Norwich City contract means for the club…
On a big day for Alex Neil, even he acknowledged the gamble both sides took at the start of the year – and that's fine, given he has also previously described his decision to join Norwich City as one of the best he's ever made.
You won't hear anyone in these parts complaining about it either.
The Canaries' glorious day at Wembley was 22 days ago on Tuesday's announcement of Neil's new deal. Most of us, I'm sure, would still be happily sat in our seats drinking in the 90 minutes that had just unfolded.
It booked a place in the Premier League, City's return to being nationally relevant and a summer of building rather than destruction.
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But ahead of all those, it built a reputation on top of solid foundations forged in Hamilton.
And that meant Tuesday's news was the most priceless piece of business City could secure at the start of their summer. Chief executive David McNally said as much, and he is a man – as history proves – that is happy to reward success with contracts: Paul Lambert is a good case in point.
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But this felt more necessary than any of those.
In acknowledging the gamble, Neil almost implies the testing of water that went on in January – even in terms of a football management job.
The Scot's sacrifice, as he openly admitted in his first City press conference, would be leaving his family in Scotland.
Neil conceded he wouldn't be looking at the club's structure, youth policy or inner workings following his arrival.
It was all solely about first-team matters, getting to know new players, a new division – and making it a success.
That gentle feeling of a gamble was accompanied by a sense of the risk. The feeling that if it wasn't going to work – and in football, anyone who guarantees success is lying – then ties could be easy cut.
Of course, that all feels a little stupid given the stunning way everything came together under Alex Neil's stewardship. Now the family will be moving down and the City boss will head into the unknown of English football's top flight as a proven Championship manager, and a man writing his own dream script as he goes along.
I can still remember a TalkSport interview upon Neil's arrival, where the presenter introduced him as 'Alex Rae' – something Neil curtly corrected. It was priceless listening. Suffice to say, no one will be making the same mistake next season.
So much has already been said about what Alex Neil has achieved at City and I'm sure as the man himself would agree, he still has so much still to learn heading into next season's top-flight mission.
But this is perhaps the time to mention one thing that does appear to mark him out from the previous Scot in City's hot seat. City chairman Alan Bowkett once described Paul Lambert as the most impatient man he'd ever met. The reality was Lambert's desired pace of change always looked set to outstrip City's.
With Alex Neil, the sense is different – a feeling of long-term building and the room for City's current boss and his current club to grow, impress and expand at a similar rate and to mutual benefit.
It's the kind of balance that would make any gamble worth taking, and ultimately pay off.
• Follow Michael Bailey on Twitter @michaeljbailey