“To do it all in front if the fans…. Just look at them. It’s just been an incredible season for me – and now this,” he added.
Wembley and 39,000 of your kith and kin make sure that it will be a one-off occasion like no other for a generation of Norwich City supporters. For whom a trip to Wembley is a dream come true. Far more so than it will be for, say, an Arsenal supporter making another return visit for yet another FA Cup final appearance.
His substitutions invariably appear well-reasoned and timely; equally, they tend more towards the positive than the negative. This is a man and a manager that would rather be hung for a sheep than for a lamb – an attitude that will win him many a fan amongst the Canary faithful.
“So it was a case of ‘Calm down! The game is going to slow down, open up and that’s where our quality players will make a difference – and that’s ultimately what proved to be the case.”
“I just thought that Jonny’s penetrating runs could be bit of a highlight for us in the game – and it was when he got his goal. It worked up until that point.”
It is an occasion made for a fierce combatant of Neil’s ilk. In him Norfolk will place their trust – in itself an extraordinary compliment to a man few had ever heard of four, short months ago.
Now the 33-year-old has an opportunity to carve himself out a lasting place in derby folklore.
Should the video replays confirm that he had, indeed, thrown a sneaky punch in the midst of a tangle with a Millers’ defender, he would be well advised to stick a cushion down his trousers on Monday morning as Neil prepares to deal with matters ‘interally’.
A three-match ban for Grabban might just be the least of Neil’s concerns as his best-laid plans for a £150 million ticket to the Premiership promised land threatened to unravel in front of him in unbelievable fashion over the course of two, crucial contests.
Why the kid is there putting pen to paper on a ‘long term’ contract. Aged 15? The interest was sparked by the story of Patrick Bamford. As in the 19-goal England Under-21 striker short-listed as the SkyBet Championship Player of the Season who rocked up in Norfolk on Friday night with Middlesbrough.
“It’s painful just now,” he admitted to BBC Radio Norfolk. “You never want to lose any game but particularly not one of the magnitude of that.”
“How much did they really want to get to where we all want to go? And credit to them as a group – they responded. And then some.”
“We went for it – and it paid off. And I would always do that rather than err on the side of caution. If you’re going to be aggressive and be bold, then a lot of the time you will get your rewards.”
“When he went up, I didn’t think he would actually be able to score because of the lack of pace on the ball but he generates so much power and the direction on it was fantastic.”
“Sometimes you have to mix it up and win ugly. Do whatever it takes really to get the three points. And in terms of the effort and the determination of the players, I thought we deserved to win the game. I thought we were the better side.”
“Over the course of these next seven games there’s going to e ups and downs – I can guarantee you that. Us and other teams. But, hopefully, if we can have more ups than downs then I think the top two is certainly achievable.”
“At this stage in the season, it’s about wins. And we didn’t do that. And from that point of view I’m extremely disappointed.”
“If we continue to play like we did today in the next nine games we’ll be completely fine,” he said. “Its one win [from the top]. It’s a one game swing. But we’ll look at this game on its own merits and the chances that we had, we had more than enough to win it.”
“With the group we have got and how we are playing just now there is no reason why we can’t put a real strong run-in between now and the end of the season. It’s going to make for a real exciting run-in.”
“He [Grabban] was fine after the derby. Then he came in the following day and he was struggling and said he couldn’t walk on it; then he came in the next day and it was even worse. So we got it scanned and unfortunately – for him and for us – it showed we need to get it looked at…
“As a group, we’re doing well – we’ve put ourselves into contention,” said Neil this afternoon, as goals either side of the break from the unstoppable Bradley Johnson and the tireless Lewis Grabban confirmed Norwich’s premier status locally.