Hard graft required for Norwich City to sink Burton Albion, says Alex Neil

Alex Neil has told his Norwich City players to expect a scrap against Burton. Picture by Paul Cheste

Alex Neil has told his Norwich City players to expect a scrap against Burton. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Alex Neil knows all about fighting against the odds, which is why Norwich City will show Burton Albion plenty of respect at Carrow Road on Saturday.

Neil moulded a battle-hardened team at Hamilton Academical to compete against the biggest clubs in Scotland's top tier and the 35-year-old can detect familiar traits in the Brewers' rise under Nigel Clough.

'It is a fantastic story,' he said. 'What they have done is great in terms of building something up from the ground and managing to get themselves into the Championship. The way my team played (at Hamilton) was totally different, but I understand where the similarity might come from in terms of a smaller club coming up from a lower league and doing well. They are hard jobs because outside your club no-one expects you to do well but inside you certainly do. That is a similarity with Hamilton; we certainly expected to do well in my time there. We thought, 'Let's roll our sleeves up, because we want it more than anybody else'. I think they have got that mentality and it starts from the manager so he deserves a lot of credit.

'I have met Nigel on a few courses, he knows the game, he is down to earth and he has done well in his management career. Now he has taken a team with perhaps limited resources and performed extremely well. He deserves all the credit.'

Neil has drilled into his squad the importance of avoiding any complacency.

'That has been the whole topic of our discussions. Basically how big a game this for us because we know the next one (at Newcastle) will take care of itself,' he said. 'We have to make sure we go into that game in the best possible shape and Burton has to be our absolute focus. They have lost one in the last six so we know it is going to a tough game. They have certainly done well so far this season. They are a handful. I watched them against Derby and Sheffield Wednesday at home, two good teams, and they really applied themselves. They work ever so hard and if you don't match that it is going to be a tough day. They have a style that suits the players and they believe in what they are doing. It is not intricate but it is really, really effective.

'They play three at the back and two wing-backs and they are really aggressive on the flanks, have good pace, and Chris O'Grady up top who is a handful. The one thing we have done though is play against back threes on three separate occasions, Wigan, Coventry and Cardiff, and we have won all three so we know what to expect.'

Most Read

City target a fourth consecutive Championship win this afternoon and Neil believes his squad have got to grips with the unique demands of the second tier after perhaps a false dawn in an emphatic 4-1 opening day romp at Blackburn.

'I think we are on it at the moment,' he said. 'You can't take anything for granted and we didn't at Blackburn because it was the first game and we didn't know what to expect. It was a different level, we had dropped down and many times you see that hangover in relegated teams. Plus you are a scalp so if your lads are not hungry and determined it can be a long, hard season. The good thing we have done for me is to stabilise on the pitch and now we are starting to kick in to gear and hopefully Burton will be another example of that.'