‘He was a fiery Scotsman,’ Alex Neil’s ex-Barnsley pals on the Norwich City boss
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Alex Neil's old Barnsley pals admit they never saw him as management material ahead of the Norwich City chief's first Oakwell reunion.
Neil will aim to plot his old club's downfall, and continue the Canaries' Championship revival, on Saturday after ending a run of five straight league defeats with an emphatic 5-0 romp against Brentford.
The City boss made 132 appearances for the Reds during a four-year stint, when Dave Bassett brought him south from Airdrie as a teenage midfielder in 2000.
Neil quickly forged a reputation as a combative presence in the heart of the Barnsley engine room but former Chelsea and Reds' defender Darren Barnard recalls he was an unassuming figure away from the action.
'He was a fiery Scotsman, especially on the pitch. He did the dirty work which made pretty boys like me look good,' he said. 'Off the pitch, he was very quiet and kept himself to himself. If I had to pick someone from that dressing at the time who I thought would become a Premier League manager, it wouldn't necessarily have been Alex. But he has done fantastically well with Norwich.'
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Ex-Crystal Palace, Watford and Barnsley striker Bruce Dyer shared the same dressing room with Neil for three years. Dyer, speaking to the Barnsley Chronicle, revealed a chance recent meeting with the Norwich boss offered a chance to reminisce.
'I didn't see him as a manager and I told him that when I bumped into him at a game a couple of weeks ago,' he said. 'I joked with him that I never thought he would be a manager and we had a laugh about it.
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'But, now I think about it, he was very hard-working, determined, mentally strong and thick-skinned which is what you need as a manager. He was a winner, as he is now as a manager.
'He was young player when he was at Barnsley, just finding his way in the game. He was always a nice lad and a funny guy. He knew I was a Christian and he used to come into the dressing room when I was praying and say, 'Dyer, send one up to the big man for me.' But he always respected my faith and we respected each others as players and as people.'