Gary O’Neil on last summer’s preparations and the size of Alex Neil’s Norwich City task last season
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Gary O'Neil believes Alex Neil did the best job he could at Norwich City this season, despite the biggest lack of summer top-flight recruitment he has seen.
Only three of City's starters in their top-flight swansong at Everton on Sunday did not feature in the club's Championship promotion charge the previews season.
That should play a part in how fans view Neil's performance over a campaign that ended with City's record-equalling fourth Premier League relegation.
'He will have learned a lot from this year – everyone would have,' said O'Neil. 'It was a tough job. He came in and did fantastically well to get us promoted. He took over a team that was 10th in the Championship. The club didn't add bundles of players in the summer. I think every other club I've been at that's been promoted added more. Even a few weeks ago, even on Sunday, the team wasn't too dissimilar to the one that came up.
'So he hasn't spent bundles and bundles of money, and if we have we've been a bit unlucky losing Timm (Klose) and players like that. So it was a tough job for him and we didn't quite do enough as a group, which is disappointing. You put a lot in and when you fail to meet your target, it does hurt.
'I would imagine it's tough as a manager to deal with relegation before the end of the season, because you still have things you need to do. But you get honesty from him. You know what's expected and you could see he is not letting anything go slack. He's given everything this season to keep the club in the Premier League. I think we fell short in certain areas, but effort and application would definitely not be among them.'
O'Neil's future remains unconfirmed with his initial two-year deal at Carrow Road due to expire at the end of June. But the midfielder has no worries over the prospect of taking on the rigours of a full, attritional 46-game Championship campaign.
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'Yeah I'd be hungry for that,' added O'Neil, who turned 33 today. 'Whatever league I'm in will make no difference to my approach to the games and the season.
'There might be certain players here who came in expecting us to stay up or only came in to join a Premier League club, but they are signed to Norwich and if Norwich want to keep them here, it will be down to them to give everything they can to get Norwich back up – as we managed last time.
'But I don't mind that challenge. No problem by me. I've done three games this week, against top teams, so three a week next season will be no problem either.'
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