I am sure I am not the only one to have Googled ‘Alex Neil’ over the last ten days to try and discover just a little bit more about the new man at the City helm.
He was born in Bellshill, Glasgow – something that is cited regularly in terms of a veritable production line of great Scottish managers, all of whom have ‘Bellshill born’ stamped large on their CVs.
Thus Alex Neil was born in the same area of Glasgow as Sir Matt Busby, David Moyes, Paul Lambert, Ally McCoist… And every other baby boy that city produces given that Bellshill’s place in football’s Hall of Fame owes more to it being the site of the city’s principal maternity hospital than anything magical in the water.
So, on that basis, the 33-year-old is nothing special. Everyone is born there.
Therefore viewed from south of the border, David McNally’s move in the wake of Neil Adams’ exit looked for all the world like an act of reckless folly. This was definitely not – at first glance – the experienced hand many were demanding after Adams’ own managerial apprenticeship fell short of what was required. Apparently.
But I suspect, north of the border, the move seemed neither ludicrous nor far-fetched. Rather the natural next step for a ‘natural born manager’, to quote a glowing and revealing profile of the man in the Scottish SportsMail as the Accies – backed by their less than legions of fans – rose to third in the Scottish Premiership with Neil at their helm. On and off the pitch.
As telling as the man’s quotes are – his ambition, his readiness to tell it how it is to players, to speak his mind, his confidence in front of a dressing room – the more revealing aspect to ‘Alex Neil: The Man’ comes via the pictures.
The man clearly has a hair-dryer in his locker.
You wouldn’t want to be on the wrong end of a verbal lashing, not when it would appear he had that certain physical presence to match. He looks rock hard, in short. And I wouldn’t mess.
Which is the kind of language and look that even today’s ridiculously pampered and protected professional players might just ‘get’.
Alex Neil looks like a man with a rocket in his armoury. And, equally, someone not afraid to deploy it. Where it hurts.
Which, actually, to my mind makes him look and sound like just what the doctor might have ordered.
Given that the Canaries were home and hosed within the first 45 minutes of yesterday’s canter against Cardiff, there was little or no need to deploy such weaponry at the interval.
Come the end of the contest as Cardiff hauled themselves back into the fray and a ‘warm’ welcome might well have awaited all concerned. And rightly so.
Seeing out a contest simply is not what Norwich do.
Though at least they managed to keep Cardiff at bay yesterday; albeit with one almighty stumble in the middle of the second-half. So, they did do a job. Just.
Likewise we could, of course, simply be in the ‘honeymoon period’ when players go out of their way to impress the new man. For at least 45 minutes, anyway.
When some might have deemed their lives are too short to take a rollicking off the ex-Accies chief and they up their game by the 5% it only ever needs to stand out amidst the Championship crowd.
Performing feats of Southampton’s ilk might take rather more. Because clearly there is 101 things more to management that being able to bark and bite.
Knowing your way around the transfer market is one; ditto knowing how to play the agent fraternity. And then there is the tactical nous of moving from this system to that; out-foxing one’s opponent with a tweak there, a substitution here.
But Neil is not someone afraid to throw the kids in early – which is one, big reason Saints are where they are. And why Master McGrandles might have some fun before this season is out. He might just have found himself the ideal midfield mentor and motivator.
Which, of course, will be something that will only unfold over time – however impressive Neil’s current 100% record might be. One swallow, not a summer.
Three halves, not four.
But if I was a betting man, I would have Norwich going up this season.
The more I read, the more I see, the more I sense that A Neil might be a young man in something of a hurry.
If nothing else, the rest of this season looks set to be lively.
Hang on tight.