Norwich City fans must be patient when the going gets tough, says Neil Warnock

Delia Smith, flanked by mother Etty and husband Michael Wynn Jones.

Delia Smith, flanked by mother Etty and husband Michael Wynn Jones. - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Veteran manager Neil Warnock has backed Alex Neil to steer the Canaries clear of relegation this season – but warned that the City boss and fans will need to be patient when the going gets tough.

Speaking during a visit to the area for a sportsman's dinner, Warnock, who managed 13 clubs at every level during a colourful career, said he had been impressed by what he had seen from the Scot.

He also revealed his 'soft spot' for the Canaries, due in a large part to majority shareholder Delia Smith and her mother Etty.

'I've been watching the Premier League quite closely and I've been impressed with Alex Neil, he's a good manager,' he said. 'I don't see Norwich having a big problem in the league. They took a gamble appointing Alex, but sometimes you have to not always go for the bigger names. I'm pleased it is working for them as they are a great club.

'The problem he'll have this year is that there will be a stage where he'll go five or six games without a win, as that is what happens to the lesser clubs, who get the lesser decisions.

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'His biggest test will be how he deals with that and to make sure he and the team don't get too down. From what I've seen, he's a positive guy, so I'm sure he won't do that.

'I wasn't surprised they went up as even at the start of the season when they were struggling I thought they had the best squad in the league.

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'I think the quality and spirit of the squad means they don't need to spend loads to stay up. Goalscoring is probably going to be their biggest issue, but they'll be fine.'

The 66-year-old, who last managed Crystal Palace in the 2014/15 Premier League before being replaced by Alan Pardew, urged City fans to emulate those of his former team.

He explained: 'The fans play a massive part and they will need to be patient. Crystal Palace have shown that; the fans there are worth a point a game and I think it can be like that at Norwich. They just need to try not to panic and remember where they have come from.'

Warnock was speaking at Friday night's Walsham le Willows FC Sportsman's Dinner.

In an hour-long Q&A, he revealed to the 250 guests how both Norfolk and Suffolk nearly became his home, having been interviewed for the Norwich job before Bruce Rioch was appointed and that he was also in contention to take over at Ipswich, before the club chose Roy Keane.

He said: 'I spoke to the chief executive and was going to come down and meet Marcus Evans, but then I got a phone call to say the club had decided to go in a different direction.

'That was when they appointed Roy Keane. These things happen in football, you don't get too downhearted about them. I was interviewed by Norwich as well but that didn't happen either.'

He had agreed to attend the dinner following a recommendation from fellow radio pundit, and former Ipswich striker, Alan Brazil.

He added: 'I always like to try and support grassroots football. I'd always take my players to Cornwall to play teams like Walsham and they'd chat to the fans and sign autographs. It was a really important thing to do.

'I don't do that many dinners but I spoke to Alan and he said I should go down to Suffolk as I'd like it – so here I am.'

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