Columnists verdict: Norwich City are on a downward spiral which Alex Neil can’t seem to stop
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
The Pink Un columnists have their say on Alex Neil's future after another morale-sapping defeat at Loftus Road
I have a great deal of sympathy for Alex Neil who has been let down repeatedly by some of his players and, crucially, by two massively disappointing summer transfer windows. I really wanted him to succeed but the turning point for me was the defeat against Leeds. Coming off a disgraceful disintegration at Brighton we had every right to expect a reassertion of pride but the fact that a virtually unchanged team sleepwalked to another defeat with no real sign of increased tenacity or desire suggested that the relationship between the manager and an apparently disunited dressing room was irreparable.
I'm not normally one to demand a manager's head the moment things start to look down. However, in hindsight, they've been looking down for some time. When City were picking up wins playing poorly, I originally thought it was a sign that when we started playing well, we'd be unstoppable. Instead, we've just stopped getting away with playing poorly. When I used to look at Alex Neil I'd see a hungry, young manager with fire in his belly. He now looks a shell of this – short of ideas and but an ember in his stomach. It's time for a change.
When I heard Alex Neil's interview after the loss at Loftus Road, I thought I was listening to a recording from his post match thoughts following one of the other recent defeats. He talked about having confidence to turn things round. He re-emphasised his belief that the players are good enough. He said he understood the anger of fans. I could go on..... When an under pressure manager sounds like a broken record, you know it is time for change. City are going nowhere at the moment and the board has to take decisive action to replace Neil – and do it quickly.
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It pains me to say it, but it's time for Alex to hand in his notice. I admire his passion, drive and enthusiasm. Those qualities, along with his fresh ideas, were the catalyst to our Wembley glory. My best day as a City supporter, of which I'm forever thankful for. It's inexcusable that we've lost our last five games though. Some players don't want it enough but there's a lot of talent in that dressing room. Cast your mind back to the appointment; it was after all, a throw of the dice by David McNally. I've backed Alex from day one, but I've run out of excuses now...
It would have probably been a very harsh person who, on Saturday at 3:05pm, didn't have a little bit of sympathy for Alex Neil. I don't think you can blame Neil for Martin Olsson's decision-making two minutes into the game. Then again, as some people would say, you make your own luck in football. Unfortunately there is no time in football and if the club wants to succeed, I can't see it happening with this current situation going on. Sadly the blame will always be at Neil's feet. We have got exactly the same situation as we had two years ago under Neil Adams, great start before a poor run. Players who were part of that team and who played in the Premier League may have to have questions put their way. I believe Alex Neil has the potential to be a great manager but I don't think it will be with us. Not sticking with his football principles, as he did when he arrived, may be his downfall.
Four consecutive league losses, the third worst defensive record in the Championship and automatic promotion disappearing by the day. I guess it's hard to fight Alex Neil's corner and in recent weeks he hasn't helped himself with the things he's said and his team selections. He's shown too much faith in certain players who've let him down badly and his remark the other week about 'not losing too much sleep' from the criticism he's been receiving of late was naive to say the least. Yes, Norwich City sit sixth in the league, however Neil has one of the most talented squads in the Championship which over the last few weeks he's not been able to motivate and if I'm totally honest the team at the minute doesn't look like turning the corner with him in charge, especially with his reluctance to change his formation and tactics.
There are few things worse than casting a vote which sees someone lose their job, no matter how worthy their statement of defence. But Alex Neil has little in the way of defence, personally or on the field of play. So it is a case of being cruel to be kind: sacrificing one man who may well have a vision for the future but who is struggling so badly with the present. And that is what counts: the longer City dawdle in the Championship, the further away the big money is. And big money runs the game in 2016. Time is up, I'm afraid, for Alex Neil.
Having been to every single Norwich game this season except for Newcastle (A) – I'm not mad – and Wigan (H), I broke down on the A47, it's been very interesting watching how fans react to what is happening on the pitch. In recent weeks it's been tough to watch and Brighton (A) as well as Leeds (H) there was raw anger and frustration, things changed however at QPR on the weekend. The fans reverted to an almost sarcastic atmosphere and nobody really expected us to win, making the defeat much easier to take. When you get into a position when an away trip to 17th place QPR is a daunting task you know you're in dire straits. Most Norwich fans will tell you that they love Alex Neil and are thankful for everything he's done but it's clear his time is up, there is no coming back from here. The problems lay deeper than Neil but, sadly, at this moment in time changing manager is the only achievable thing to do.
I took some time on Monday to re-watch Alex Neil's post-match interview following the home defeat to Brentford in January 2015 – and I can honestly say his demeanour and message is no different now to then. What has changed is everything around him: player performances, crowd support, the aura. Neil said at the end of last season he'd only stay if the players were still taking on board what he was saying. The reality is they're not. This isn't what we got in his first six months, and therefore it's time to try something else if promotion is the ambition this season.
Doing this job you spend plenty of hours in the company of Norwich City managers. It's a front row seat for the good times and the bad, a privilege and in the fallow periods an uncomfortable responsibility to try and hold them to account. To ask the questions supporters would ask if they could swap places with you. Alex Neil is a man of integrity, an honest man. A young manager not afraid to openly admit he has made mistakes since sweeping into Carrow Road as a virtual unknown. Neil took Norwich fans on an unforgettable ride in those breathless early days. Wembley 2015 is his enduring legacy but sentiment, with so much at stake financially, is in short supply. Neil operates in the most precarious of professions. He knows he is judged by results. He knows they are not good enough. He knows the price of failure.