What a 50 days it’s been!
Nobody knew much about Hamilton Academical’s young manager before he took up the reins at Carrow Road but just eight games later we are a lot more knowledgeable about Alex Neil.
Clubs often experience a new manager “bounce” when a new boss takes over but I’m confident that having seen the way Neil conducts himself, both away from match day and on it, that he has a plan in place that will ultimately result in him being successful.
Before Blackburn, his record in the first seven games were exactly the same as Neil Adams’ – P7 W5 D1 L1 GD +10 – yet the performances have been anything but. To win in the North West on Tuesday was phenomenal and vital.
The one game City have lost so far in his tenure was one in which the squad was hit by injuries and suspensions. The team was so light on the ground that Bradley Johnson was the only recognised central midfielder available to start the game. As good a season Johno has had, even he can’t do the job of two men.
The best performance of his tenure so has been – in my humble opinion – Wolves at home. It was a complete performance and one in which I believe City controlled the entire match.
We were all delighted with the second-half at Watford but the first was very tight and scrappy. Norwich were fortunate to get the penalty although, having been at the match, it’s fair to say that the officials did neither team any favours, particularly the linesman in the first-half. One of the more memorable and ridiculous decisions was the offside flag he gave Lewis Grabban, despite the in-form striker being behind the defender as the ball was played.
Oh, and there was the blatant grapple/rugby tackle on Cameron Jerome in the box. And the free kick he awarded the Hornets after a blatant dive. I could go on…
The man in the Watford tracksuit constantly barking at the linesman in the first-half certainly has a lot to answer for.
But that’s enough about awful officiating.
I’m sure we all get hunches about new managers at Norwich City and I’m quite pleased to be able to say that my initial feelings about the last four managers have been spot on.
I had the same feelings about Alex Neil when he was being touted as Neil Adams replacement that I did with Paul Lambert.
I never understood those who said Lambert or Neil were “unambitious” appointments. What could be more ambitious than going for a bright young manager whose previous club didn’t them want to leave? Although the reaction from Accies fans was a lot more positive than Colchester United’s faithful.
How far can Alex Neil take us? Well only time will tell on that one but so far the signs are good.
In the lead-up to Blackburn the quotes from City’s number one and his manager were about how the next game is always the most important.
Has there been a more important East Anglian Derby in recent history?
The gap between the two fierce rivals when City appointed Neil on January 8th was a rather daunting ten points, so for us to now be just a point off Mick McCarthy’s side is just remarkable.
Ipswich have had a terrific season by their standards and even though their recent form has been a tad patchy they will of course be up for the fight on Sunday.
As the game gets closer my confidence tends to erode. I’m confident that the team will win but this is a derby and anything can happen.
Although with Alex Neil we’re starting to learn what his Norwich City side can do.