ALEX NEIL SACKED: Brilliant start gave way to some painful lows for inexperienced Scot
PUBLISHED: 21:30 10 March 2017 | UPDATED: 17:05 16 March 2017
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As the eventful Alex Neil era comes to a sudden halt, DAVID FREEZER takes a look back on the Scot's dramatic two years of highs and lows during his time as Norwich City manager
Alex Neil’s time with Norwich City may have come to a sour end but it certainly hasn’t been a dull two years with the Scotsman in the hot-seat.
His exit came to an abrupt and ill-timed finish, coming on the eve of a Carrow Road league game and just hours after his latest press conference, but it had nothing on his sudden arrival.
Back in January 2015 the name ‘Alex Neil’ will have been the most-researched profile in Norfolk when he surprisingly arrived from Hamilton Academical, still just 33 years of age.
That didn’t stop the former Barnsley midfielder having an immediate impact and picking up the pieces after the City board’s poor decision to elevate Neil Adams from his role as U18s coach.
His ruthless streak was immediately apparent, when he watched from the stands as his new players took on Bournemouth at Dean Court, with Mike Phelan and Gary Holt in the dug-out...until Jonny Howson was sent off in the 64th minute.
Then the former tough-tackling midfielder could not resist and went pitch-side to lift the Canaries to an impressive 2-1 win over the Cherries – clearly putting Phelan’s nose out of joint in the process.
Ten days later the decorated former Manchester United assistant left the club and Neil pressed on with trying to get City’s promotion bid back on track – and was soon being hailed as a miracle worker.
Eight wins in his first 10 matches, capped by a 2-0 home win over Ipswich, saw Neil make a flying start to life in Norfolk that would take him all the way to Wembley.
The relentless drive towards the automatic promotion spots fell just short but a play-off place was comfortably secured and set up a tantalising play-off semi-final against Ipswich.
That victory over two legs and the glorious day which followed at Wembley will remain Neil’s legacy, amazing days that every Norwich City supporter will remain eternally grateful for.
The swashbuckling style which brought an incredible 17 wins in 25 games – scoring 55 goals in the process – culminated in Middlesbrough being put to the sword in a manner so efficient it could have been engineered by Mercedes.
It was a first visit to Wembley in 30 years for the Canaries and sealed an immediate return to the Premier League, with finances still strong and an experienced squad to build on.
However, Neil’s inexperience was soon being severely tested in the world richest and most competitive league.
Eight points from the opening six games pointed towards survival being achieved but, with player-of-the-season Bradley Johnson sold to Derby on deadline day for £7million, the wheels started to come off.
An atrocious 6-2 loss at Newcastle in the midst of a run of just one win in 10 games saw the rot set in and doubts begin to emerge among fans.
A first victory at Old Trafford in 26 years was followed by two home wins to make for a happy festive period, leaving City six points clear of the bottom three at the start of 2016.
That healthy position was thrown away in style though, with a run of nine defeats in 11 matches paving the way for relegation, despite around £25m being spent in January on the likes of Steven Naismith, Timm Klose and Ivo Pinto.
What has followed this season has been unacceptable of a squad with so much ability and experience, as promotion chances have withered and Neil has come in for intense criticism.
Nine points adrift of the play-offs has proved the tipping point and the majority of City fans have got their wish for a managerial change, as the Scot’s inexperience became all too clear.
RECENT CITY MANAGERS
January 9, 2015 to March 10, 2017 (two years, two months and two days)
P108 W45 D23 L40 (41.6 win percentage)
May 22, 2014 – January 5, 2015
P32 W11 D8 L13 (34.4pc wins)
June 07, 2012 – April 6, 2014
P82 W24 D23 L35 (29.3pc)
August 18, 2009 – June 2, 2012
P142 W70 D35 L37 (49.3pc)
January 21, 2009 – August 14, 2009
P21 W6 D5 L10 (28.6pc)
October 30 2007 – January 14, 2009
P65 W20 D15 L30 (30.7pc)