Norwich City need to put in a performance to silence the doubters – Alex Neil
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
The international break has allowed Norwich City to work on their defensive issues on the training ground at Colney – and now Alex Neil wants to prove that his players are committed to getting their promotion push back on track.
Three consecutive defeats have seen City slip to fifth in the table and piled the pressure on Neil.
Joint majority shareholders Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones spoke about their hope for Neil to remain with the club for a long time ahead of the 3-2 loss to Leeds, and chief executive Jez Moxey echoed a similar sentiment in the aftermath of that painful defeat.
That loss saw the usual conspiracy theories and accusation of a lack of heart levelled at the current Canaries crop but the Scot insists his squad are united in their pursuit of getting back to winning ways at QPR today.
'It's quite interesting, when you're at Colney, the lads get on really well, they train extremely hard and there is no issues,' Neil said. 'Then I'm told about what everyone's been discussing and it's quite alien to us, but that's football.
'Listen, the lads are in a good place, what we need now is a good performance and they know that, we need a good result, it really is as simple as that.'
Previous managerial regimes have been accused of creating a 'Costa del Colney' atmosphere at the club's training ground, which has left fans feeling that some players are disconnected from supporters' frustrations.
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Neil insists his squad are not hiding from the fact that they must improve their form quickly though.
'I wouldn't regard it as a bubble. I think what happens is people don't just look at football, it's 'they don't get on with each other' and it's this and that,' he continued. 'The point I'm making is it's rumours that are being relayed to us. I'm not being blind to the fact that we haven't played well, because that goes without saying, we're fully aware of that.
'The point I'm making is all the other rubbish that gets talked about, which is just fabrication from whoever makes it up really.
'We want to concentrate on football, we want to focus on football and we want to make sure we play well.'
The next step in putting an end to such discussions is to win and Neil insists plenty of defensive work has been put in during the two-week break – with only Rotherham (38) and Nottingham Forest (30) having conceded more than City (27).
'We've got to understand that we don't just defend as a back four, we've got to defend as a team,' Neil said.
'It's no real surprise that our intensity in the first half of games has been very good, if you look at the games, most of the time we're leading or drawing at half-time, very few times have we been losing, and I think that our intensity in the second half has dropped because in some of the games we're too comfortable. That might be a mentality thing, which is harder to change, and then we've found it difficult to pick that pace back up in the second half.
'We've done it on certain occasions but certainly over this three-game period, we've not managed to do that. So I think it's about keeping concentration levels for the full 90 minutes and also making sure that second-half performance is as good as the first.'
The City boss insists that issue is not related to fitness though, adding: 'There's absolutely no correlation to the fitness at all, because I've had it studied to the point of where you can't study it any more. Our output in the second half is the same or even more at times than it is in the first half.
'So it's how we go about it in terms of concentration levels and working smart rather than working hard and we've done a lot of work on that in the last week in terms of how we move about the pitch as a unit and how we go about getting the ball back and retaining the ball.'