ALEX NEIL SACKED: Attention now switches to search for Norwich City’s next manager

Alan Irvine will be in charge when Norwich City take on Blackburn.

Alan Irvine will be in charge when Norwich City take on Blackburn. - Credit: JASON DAWSON/JASONPIX

The obvious question, perhaps the first question, after news of Alex Neil's exit came through at 6pm tonight was: so who takes over?

Roy Hodgson: 6-5 favourite. Picture: Tim Goode/PA Wire.

Roy Hodgson: 6-5 favourite. Picture: Tim Goode/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

The choice is not a great one – although there are some points of interest.

Gary Rowett: 7-4. Picture: PA

Gary Rowett: 7-4. Picture: PA - Credit: PA

Your list of candidates can be as long as you like, but here we have tried to keep it to what we believe would be genuine candidates – the bookmakers will, no doubt, have a lot more names to help you lose your money.

Mark Warburton: 6-1.

Mark Warburton: 6-1. - Credit: PA

If we start from within the club, then coach Alan Irvine, who will be charge against Blackburn today, stands out. He has been at City since July, following the departure of Gary Holt,

Irvine has bags of experience – he was assistant at Preston and Everton before taking the number one job at Preston in 2007. He also managed Sheffield Wednesday and West Bromwich Albion, the latter in the Premier League, before a stint as assistant at Blackburn.

He is the man in possession as it stands – and there might certainly be a temptation to keep him in the post until the end of the season with the Canaries now nine points adrift of the play-off zone with just 10 matches to play.

If you want real experience, though, and a link with the club, then look no further than Roy Hodgson.

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The former England manager is a friend of owners Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones – he was their guest at Carrow Road for the game against Leeds in November. Hodgson's previous jobs include managing Blackburn, Inter Milan, Fulham, Liverpool and West Brom as well as the national team – plus plenty of others.

Whether, at the age of 69, he wants the pressure of a club job is debatable – but don't be surprised if you hear he is assisting with the appointment process.

The one name that will perhaps be to the fore more than anyone else is that of Gary Rowett, sacked by Birmingham in December despite having steered them to the fringes of the Championship play-off zone.

Problem is, Rowett has a lot of suitors and hasn't been tempted by any yet. Is he waiting for the City job to come up? Or are there bigger fish?

And what about former Rangers boss Mark Warburton? He did a fine job with Brentford – arguably one of football's most forward-thinking managers, and is available without the requirement of a compensation payment after his recent exit for Ibrox. Warburton and Norwich sounds like a decent fit – but that doesn't necessarily mean it will happen of course.

Now, on to the Irish connection – Messrs Michael O'Neill and Martin O'Neill.

The latter first – an ex-City player (two spells) and manager. Said to be popular with his players, leaving the coaching work to others. He got a tune out of the Republic of Ireland at the Euros, could he do the same here? Would he want to? And if he did, would that mean former Ipswich manager Roy Keane coming too?

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill has done a fine job with Northern Ireland and his name was mentioned in despatches post-QPR. But a club management CV of Shamrock Rovers and Brechin City does lack a little in terms of experience.

Another possibility could be Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, who left QPR in November and is still waiting for another managerial opportunity.

He did a superb job at Burton and perhaps at Rangers it was simply a case of wrong club, wrong time. There is merit in Hasselbaink, but how damaged was he by his QPR exit?

Nigel Pearson anyone? Did a fantastic job with Leicester, teeing up Claudio Ranieri for the glory stuff, but couldn't do it at Derby. There's little doubt there is a good manager in there, but his attitude has made him difficult to like. Saying that, maybe Norwich need someone to come in and flash their iron fist.

Paul Heckingottom, who played a handful of games for the Canaries between 2002 and 2003, is another possibility. Since taking over at his home town club Barnsley last season he has guided the Tykes to the Championship via the play-offs and established them at a higher level. With a return to Carrow Road with Barnsley looming next weekend his unheralded side are just three points adrift of the Canaries.

Go down a league and Graham Alexander of promotion-chasing Scunthorpe, might also fit the bill. There is a long-term plan at Scunny and they are desperate for Alexander to be part of it but if a club like Norwich came calling there's every chance the man in charge would want to hear what they had to say.

Finally, if City fancy a boss with recent Premier League experience Alan Pardew is currently clicking his heels after being shown the door by Crystal Palace. He may not be everyone's cup of tea but has plenty of success on his CV at a high level, and there's a decent chance the Norwich job would appeal to him.

Just to give an idea of how the search might be shaping up here's a guide to odds on the next Norwich boss being offered in the aftermath of Alex Neil's sacking. But remember Neil wasn't even in the betting when Neil Adams' departure was announced a little over two years ago!

Odds: Roy Hodgson 6-5, Gary Rowett 7-4, Mark Warburton 6-1, Alan Irvine 8-1, Alan Pardew 12-1, Tim Sherwood 16-1, Nigel Pearson 18-1, Mike Phelan 20-1, Kenny Jackett 25-1, Martin Jol 25-1, Steve Cotterill 33-1, Ryan Giggs 33-1, Steven Gerrard 33-1.