Alex Neil's Past, Present and Future

Each opposition manager used to sling out the line  "Whoever finishes above Norwich will go up" Not so now, the pressure is building, so, the whole The Little Yellow Bird Project Team have their say on our once much loved manager. Or is he still loved? So, will Alex Neil be here for Christmas? 

AN and AN.

Zoë Whitford  

"The last few weeks are not a deal-breaker, but at the very least, we need to stem the tide of defeats, and fast."

To paraphrase erstwhile leader of men David Cameron, I agree with Delia. Up to a point. When she told Henry Winter of The Times that she hoped every manager she appointed would stay at Norwich for 10 years, I thought, ‘well yeah, obviously, duh.’ We can argue ‘til the cows come home about how football has moved on, how the world has moved on and how people have the attention spans of a GIF these days. But surely, SURELY, longevity and laying the foundations for success and ultimate reward are the main aims in appointing someone to manage a club? 

Things aren’t going well at the moment. Lazy, clumsy mistakes in otherwise dominant performances seem to have crumbled away, leaving in their place an inability to assert ourselves on a game, and yet more unorganised and shambolic defending. The players are not guilt-free here - all of them experienced enough not to let managerial choices get in the way of them trying hard, running as fast as they can, and passing it to another chap in a yellow shirt.

However, as the figurehead of the team and of the coaching staff, Alex Neil must take responsibility for admitting to weaknesses but also for making damn well sure he gets them sorted out. Promotion, with the effects of TV money kicking in after this season, is still an absolute priority, with the very real prospect next year of the same teams getting promoted and relegated forevermore, like a second-tier version of Groundhog Day. The last few weeks are not a deal-breaker, but at the very least, we need to stem the tide of defeats, and fast. 

I have the utmost respect for Alex Neil and not just because of Wembley, but because of his character, and his strength in the face of being a young, unknown manager plucked from nowhere into the limelight. I do not want to see him fail, indeed, I’m not sure I’ve ever wanted a Norwich manager to succeed so much. But he must not let his pigheadedness get in the way of remembering what it took to gain the respect of his players, and how it felt when they were playing his way, and winning. 

Will Alex Neil be here at Christmas? YES
 

Richard Jeffery

"As we left, I said to my friends “Wow, you’d want to play for him.” He had a real presence about him, for such a young man, a steel and belief that was invigorating and contagious."

I went to a ‘Meet the Manager Breakfast’, very early on into Alex Neil’s reign. We’d lost at home to Brentford the previous week and drawn away at Birmingham that weekend.

It was the usual sterile club affair. A nice breakfast, during which you’d scribble down a question for the manager, which was passed to Adrian Forbes who then selected some to ask him. It was all fairly cosy and friendly stuff and Forbesy called proceedings to a close on time. 

As he was doing so, one of the attendees piped up wanting to know why his question hadn't been asked. The guy was quite belligerent, it was obvious his wasn’t of the cosy variety.
Forbesy was fobbing the guy off, when Alex Neil said loudly and clearly, “No, let him ask it, I’ll take it.”

The guy then took Neil to task about his selection against Brentford and then only an away draw at Birmingham. He was pretty disparaging, and it led to a few shouts of ‘shut up’, and a boo or two from the room.
What happened next was impressive. Alex Neil, responded to the guy's questions. Very calmly, very cooly, and without breaking eye contact with him. He destroyed the guy’s point, not in a nasty way, but in the way of someone who has total and utter conviction in what they are doing and how they go about it. 

As we left, I said to my friends “Wow, you’d want to play for him.” He had a real presence about him, for such a young man, a steel and belief that was invigorating and contagious.

What can we change? I’d get the old Alex Neil back.

That confident and certain individual described above has vanished. The certainty and sense of purpose has fallen away.
Our problems can be surmised as:

•    We’ve stopped scoring as freely.
•    We can’t defend.
•    We never change up our formation. 
•    We don’t seem able to change things during a game.
•    We fade badly in the second half
•    The only team we’ve beaten from the top half of the table are Bristol City.
•    Transfers have been puzzling.

Spiky, spunky, bold and ballsy Alex would say, ‘Let’s sort problem number one out, and the rest take care of themselves.’ Yet it feels like a significant section of fans seem to have turned. The atmosphere has darkened, it feels a little like the end days of Hoots. Past experience says he can't come back from here. But, I still hope the breakfast Alex can reassert himself.

We have two seasons to get promoted, in reality, before the parachute payments stop and next season will be tougher. We have no time to lose.

So. In, for now, but he needs to change things quick smart for me. January is looming, if we need to change it needs to be in good time for that.

Will Alex Neil be here at Christmas? YES

Jon Rogers

"Of course football changes. It’s a constant bubbling mess where the slightest mishap make the wheels come off quicker than a bicycle put together by your Dad on Christmas day"

I just watched back the Wembley win footage with Chris Goreham’s commentary on really loud. I do this if I’m ever feeling under the weather, bit down or need a raging hard on. Today is because I am full of very heavy cold. After Jerome’s goal sneaked in the front post, there is magnificent footage of Alex Neil running away double-fist pumping like he is shaking two bottles of ketchup, telling the world that he has just made the best bacon sandwich ever.

As the primal scream comes out of his little face, he runs to the bench and sinks his head into Frankie McAvoy’s bosom, as his big assistant’s arms wrap around him.

We loved Alex then. Adored him. Drunk in every honest word he said, forgave every honest mistake he made and adored every wonderful honest moment he and his staff gave to us that year. 

Currently, a healthy percentage can’t wait until he is out of the club.

Of course football changes. It’s a constant bubbling mess where the slightest mishap make the wheels come off quicker than a bicycle put together by your Dad on Christmas day.  All bad periods of form are made up of unavoidable elements such as injuries, luck, bad refereeing decisions mixed with bad choices in transfers, personnel and tactics.

Now I’ve learnt my lesson from each of the last three Norwich managers. Each one, at time of sacking, I wanted to stay. I campaigned for just a little longer than others, just to see if they could change their every decreasing spiral.  Each time, my opinion has landed like an elephant in a swimming pool.  I have a natural position of positive realism. Not too high, not too low. Always wanting to see the best in people.

The only change I would want currently – is by the fans during match day. If every single fan sang and supported one hundred percent throughout the entire game, cheering each corner, each break away, each 50/50 won, each throw in, each time a pigeon flies about the Jarrold/Galway/South - then if Alex fails, and finally does have to go, we can at least say we did our very best – because I know Alex Neil is doing his.

I just don’t think it will be enough.

Will Alex Neil be here at Christmas? NO

Clare Thomas

"Confidence is another massive factor. Just as the momentum of winning carries you forward, the panic that sets in after the opposition score is becoming our foe."

Before we go on I want to warn you. I'm not in the Neil out camp. Look away now if you wish….

I'm a believer in giving people a chance when things go wrong.  It's the first real test in Neil’s career.  I think he's done enough to earn time to get us out of this slump. This was the man that came in and swept us up the Championship into the PL in a blaze of glory. It was a monumental effort. This was the man that masterminded one of our finest hours; victory at Wembley. A game in which, on the biggest stage, we played possibly the best, most professional football we've ever seen from our team. 

Things didn't always go to plan in the Premier League, and by his own admission, Neil was naïve at times. But in reality our squad just wasn't up to the test. Debating the ins and outs of our transfer policy is a whole other debate, but it’s harsh to lay the blame solely at Alex Neil's feet. Yet when you look back at last season, there were few games we did not compete in. The vast majority of our defeats were by a solitary goal. We gave Leicester their toughest game of the season, we won at Old Trafford, we drew at Anfield. So to say Neil is tactically inept is harsh, and I don't believe he has suddenly become so. 

Three and a half weeks ago we were top of the league. We’d won seven out of eight. Ok we had minor gripes, but things were generally ok. The fall from grace has been spectacular and swift. But is it entirely Neil’s fault? Injuries to Howson and Pinto are partly to blame. Confidence is another massive factor. Just as the momentum of winning carries you forward, the panic that sets in after the opposition score is becoming our foe. The players get paid huge amounts to go on the pitch and play football. And if they aren't doing the basics then the blame should also be levelled at them. They are professionals. They need to step up to the plate and show some responsibility.

The one problem for Neil is that it's easier to change the manager than the whole team. I just don't think that is the answer right now. Just as Neil wasn't placed in the Hall of Fame for getting promoted in five months, he shouldn't be placed in the unemployment queue for losing three games in three weeks. He deserves a chance. 

Will Alex Neil be here at Christmas? YES

Seb Ward

"The dreaded Manager of the Month curse has indeed taken another victim. But something tells me this one will be terminal."

'Back to the Future II’ predicted 2016, and we’re now living in that dystopian world frame by frame. The Cubs have won the World Series, a mad blonde billionaire controls America and the incoming future looks bleak, just as the movie predicted. For Norwich, it’s as if we’ve had our very own Biff Tannen go back in time and change the course of history. It’s as if our good start has been erased or undone. We’re no longer on the road we once were, and where it’s going we do not know. Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads! Oh but we do: Jordan Rhodes would be greatly appreciated right now. 

Like all half-decent dystopian films, the story begins with Norwich being on a 4-game losing streak. There’s poverty all around; possession is rare, points are expensive and there’s no Galway Roast coffee to be seen. In this new world, Norwich don’t know how to score goals. They don’t know how to stop conceding them either. And Timm Klose has no knowledge of what a clean sheet is. 

Alex Neil has no Delorean, only a dated Dorrans. He has no McFly, only a misfiring McGovern. He has no time machine, only a bloody big rotating screen.  

The situation is real and it’s deteriorating. He no longer commands the respect we were once so willing to give him. He’s regimented in his formation, flexible in personnel, and unconvincing in the application of any of it. He’s struggling to inspire, to organise and to impact a game when the combination of all three is really needed. Fundamental failures in the transfer market, which now sees millions of pounds languish on the bench and in the reserves, only exposes his position further.

It may be a blip; a mere moment; a period we’ll put behind us and move on. The dreaded Manager of the Month curse has indeed taken another victim. But something tells me this one will be terminal. The inability to find any form of settled defence in two years is the damning detail. Ironically, then, he’s running out of time. 

Will Alex Neil be here at Christmas? NO.

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Follow the gang on Twitter.  One looks at half naked bodies all day, one goes to bed at 3am every day, one is married to the 24th most important person in Yorkshire cricket and one ...is called Richard.

Seb - @seb_ward

Clare - @clarebearthomas

Richard - @twitchut

Zoë -  @zvfm2