Brentford revenge mission is the least of Alex Neil’s troubles at Norwich City
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Alex Neil has more to worry about than a Brentford backlash in a New Year's Eve Championship trip to Griffin Park.
Norwich City's 5-0 romp at Carrow Road earlier this month was one of the rare shafts of light in a desperate downturn.
Neil's job status now appears far more important to the vast majority of disgruntled City fans than team selections and tactical approach, but the Scot remains convinced he is not damaged goods.
'Resignation is an alien concept to me because I think you have given up at that stage and I could never see myself giving up,' he said. 'I would expect the same from my players.
'That is the worst thing you can do in sport. Of course this period is seriously testing me but if you look at some of the games in isolation, we lost a man at QPR in the first minute and I didn't think we deserved to lose at Reading. It was 1-1, we had two really good goal-scoring opportunities and then the most bizarre thing I have ever seen in a game happens, where we give a penalty away, they chip it against the bar and manage to head in the rebound.
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'I lose one of my most influential midfielders to a cruciate ligament injury in strange circumstances and the other most influential midfielder I have for handling on the line. It was a comedy of errors.
'Even on this run there are games we could have won. Huddersfield we had more clear-cut chances, regardless of how much ball they had in the first half. We had a great opportunity at Derby, when Steven Naismith goes through, and then lose to a deflected goal. I am not giving you a hard luck story, it is fine margins.'
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Alex Pritchard inspired City to that emphatic home win against the Bees and Neil will have to make two midfield changes with Graham Dorrans and Jonny Howson both unavailable for the return.
'You look at shape, personnel, everything you can try and affect as a manager,' he said. 'There are so many factors – whether it is form, maybe burnout for some who play consecutive games, maybe confidence if players are not performing to their maximum. You start to question everything and what is the best selection all across the pitch. It all revolves around results. Sometimes you are damned if you do or you don't.
'The manner we won at home probably makes this game a hiding to nothing because if we don't win 6-0 it will be seen as we have under-performed. It is a game we need to win. When you are playing a side again in close proximity the second game is normally completely different. If you have been heavily beaten then you are going to be doubly determined to put it right. They changed the formation before they played us, went back to a different one, and now reverted to the same one ever since which suggests that is what we will face.'
Neil has been heavily criticised by sections of Norwich's support after presiding over a run of eight defeats in 10 league games, but the under-pressure boss insists the men he sends into battle must also shoulder a portion of the blame.
'I can't control Jonny hand balling it and getting sent-off. I can't control a player losing a man at a set play or Paul McShane running up and taking off Graham Dorrans' knee,' he said. 'There are a lot of 'controllables' in football but when players cross the white line it is the decisions they make that decide whether they are top players or not.
'Contrary to suggestions in the local media I don't bury my head in the sand. I know it is unacceptable. I can assure you I feel that more than anyone else because I am a winner. I want to win games. I am frustrated and unhappy at this run but I will continue to work hard.
'The only thing that will change what the supporters think is if we go on a good run. That is the only thing. Anything else doesn't make any difference.'