Jonny Howson is the jewel in the crown for Norwich City boss Alex Neil
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Jonny Howson is a gem, insists Norwich City chief Alex Neil.
The Canaries' midfielder put sentiment firmly to one side in the pursuit of Premier League promotion with a clinical second-half finish against old club Leeds setting the Canaries on their way to a vital 2-0 Championship win.
Howson was sent-off in Neil's first match in charge, in a victory at title rivals Bournemouth, but the 26-year-old has since become a key figure during City's top flight quest under the canny Scot.
'He is a fantastic player, Jonny,' said Neil. 'He is so calm in front of goal and with Bradley (Johnson) not playing it was important some of the others chipped in. Jonny has great quality, and good energy. He is a model professional when you watch him and how he carries himself.
'He trains 100pc in terms of his attitude and application every day and he is an absolute joy to work with. The one thing I will say about him is he is flexible, in the sense he can play down the left or the right and he scored his goal from that side.'
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Howson opted for a subdued celebration against the club which gave him his first big break after notching his eighth of the season in a priceless Elland Road league victory.
'I can't be any more pleased for him coming back to his old stomping ground,' said Neil. 'I know Leeds means a lot to him but ultimately he was professional and did his job.'
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Howson and Johnson have grabbed their share of headlines in recent times, and Neil insists his players deserve all the plaudits for dragging the Canaries back into the Championship promotion hunt. The Scot has been shortlisted for the manager-of-the-month prize over the past two months during a spell which has seen him win 12 of his first 19 matches in charge.
'I think the record since I came in is all credit to the players. The run they have been on is unbelievable,' he said. 'It is difficult to replicate. You need everybody to step up to the plate in crucial moments and big games, whether it is making a save or creating and taking a chance. I want lads to put their bodies on the line and you see John Ruddy's late save (at Leeds) before we score, so it's a joint effort.'