ALEX’S SMART MOVE

Nor­wich boss Alex Neil on throw­ing him­self into the Car­row Road job

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE - By Jenny Drum­mond

FEW Nor­wich fans would have had Alex Neil at the top of their man­age­rial wish-list in Jan­uary, and the of­fer of a one-year rolling con­tract could be per­ceived as a scant show of faith from board mem­bers too.

Iso­lated from his fam­ily back home in Scot­land – with FaceTime the main way he gets to see them – the 33-year-old has thrown him­self into his work, win­ning ev­ery­one over at Car­row Road af­ter sur­pris­ingly beat­ing much-talked about can­di­dates Mike Phelan, Tim Sher­wood and Karl Robin­son to the job as Neil Adams’ suc­ces­sor.

The Ca­naries have soared up the Cham­pi­onship ta­ble since his ap­point­ment, tak­ing 33 points from his first 15 games in charge go­ing into the Easter week­end.

But the for­mer Hamil­ton Aca­dem­i­cal player-boss be­lieves he still has plenty to prove, de­spite cat­a­pult­ing the Nor­folk club into a four-way scrap for au­to­matic pro­mo­tion back to the Pre­mier League with Bournemouth, Mid­dles­brough and Wat­ford.

Trep­i­da­tion

The boy from Bell­shill – also the birth­place of Sir Matt Busby – is not about to rest on his lau­rels.

“I felt I had some­thing to prove,” said Neil, who last week helped launch the na­tion­wide Aviva Com­mu­nity Fund, nom­i­nat­ing the Beat­son Can­cer Char­ity to ben­e­fit af­ter they helped care for his fa­ther-in-law be­fore his death last year.

“I think you’ve al­ways got some­thing to prove re­gard­less of where you go, how high­pro­file you are, what age you are.

“If you don’t con­tinue to learn and get bet­ter and prove points day in, day out, game in, game out, then even­tu­ally you might find your­self out of a job.

“I’ll al­ways have a point to prove and have had since I came down here. I’m grad­u­ally do­ing that.

“Ini­tially, the play­ers were look­ing at this young guy com­ing down from Scot­land and you’ve got to go in and set your stall out. But they have adapted and re­sponded ex­tremely well, and I have got a fan­tas­tic re­la­tion­ship with the full squad. The fans have also changed their opin­ion.

“I think there was some trep­i­da­tion about some­one so young com­ing down, but the own­ers and sup­port mech­a­nisms I have at the club have helped me to do my job as well as I can.”

In or­der to pur­sue his op­por­tu­nity with Nor­wich, Neil has had to leave ev­ery­thing he knows be­hind him in Glas­gow.

But, far from feel­ing iso­lated, English foot­ball’s sec­ond-youngest manager – he is three months older than Mans­field boss Adam Mur­ray, pic­tured be­low – says no home-life dis­trac­tions have aided his fine start in Nor­folk.

“It’s dif­fi­cult that I don’t get to see my fam­ily very of­ten, but FaceTime is re­ally use­ful and we do that quite a lot,” he says.

“But in an­other sense it means I’m solely fo­cus­ing on the job, I don’t re­ally do much else. I’m work­ing, go home and try and re­lax for a few hours, then I go to sleep and I’m back in for the next day. So it’s al­lowed me to fo­cus on a re­ally in­tense pe­riod to try and make sure I max­imise get­ting the most out of my­self and every­body else. “When I came here Nor­wich were sev­enth, just out­side of the play-offs and the chances of au­to­matic pro­mo­tion at that stage were look­ing slim.

“But be­cause of the hard work we have done we find our­selves in a sit­u­a­tion where au­to­matic pro­mo­tion is a re­al­is­tic goal for us.

“So if we could ac­tu­ally achieve that, it would be a real turn of events and every­body would be de­lighted.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images/Pin­na­cle

NEIL-LY THERE: Alex Neil has got Nor­wich on the verge of pro­mo­tion to the topflight, some­thing he achieved in Scot­land last sea­son with Hamil­ton, inset

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