Norwich City have today announced their decision to part ways with Alex Neil.
Alex Neil has today departed Norwich City, despite the 35-year-old completing press duties ahead of Saturday’s clash against Blackburn. The timing of his departure has surprised a few including myself, given that Norwich face Blackburn tomorrow. Although the decision itself has arguably been a long time coming.
A sad end to what was a promising tale
If you had told me six months ago that this was going to be the sad way in which a promising tale ends, I wouldn’t have believed you. Neil’s side were sitting second in October, but since then went on an extremely barren run of 26 points from 21 games which has inevitably seen the Canaries slide down the table.
Looking at the bigger picture Alex Neil will, of course, be remembered for the superb playoff final against Middlesbrough. Which was in my eyes one of the best performances I had witnessed by a Norwich City team during my supporting lifetime. The way he set his team up and ensured they were ready for the occasion from the get go was remarkable. That’s something I feel his Norwich City teams have really missed this season as they are yet to beat any of the current top six in the Championship.
The two trips to Newcastle over the past two seasons have had a huge impact on Neil’s reign as City boss. Rewinding to the 2015 6-2 loss, Neil set out with a plan to attack Newcastle and continue his philosophy which had seen his team promoted in the 2014/15 season. However, things didn’t go to plan and altered his tactics and approach to suit the game. Ultimately it didn’t work and on reflection that seemed like a sizable dent in the season.
The most recent trip to St James Park had seen Alex Neil’s side come within minutes of sealing a huge victory and sending out a statement of intent to the rest of the league. Iconically the Canaries somehow managed to chuck away their lead in the 95th minute before finally conceding a winner in the 96th-minute. Going from moments away from claiming all three points to ending up empty handed only a few moments later.
These sorts of results could make or break a season and give an indication of the success of a team. As a successful team will dig deep and look to bounce back. It may take a few games but this type of response indicates that a team is willing to give everything they can to the cause. Unfortunately, City have struggled throughout the season to bounce back from unfavourable results and that’s why I think the board have now looked get a fresh face in.
The Sheffield Wednesday result should have been the nail in the coffin in terms of the club’s ambitions for reaching the playoffs this season. But there has been a fair argument for this action to have come sooner rather than later. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but for me, there were a few pivotal results that extended his time at the helm.
1.Norwich 5-0 Brentford (3rd December)
On paper many would argue this should have been a routine victory, however, given Norwich’s poor run of form, losing all five of their previous five games going into the fixture it’s understandable why the board chose to stick with Neil after this emphatic result.
2. Norwich 1-0 Aston Villa (13th December)
Following Norwich’s 5-0 win over Brentford, the Canaries then lost 2-1 away to Barnsley with many feeling that the Aston Villa game would be a clear indication as to whether fortunes had started to change for City. Having watched the game, the performance was promising and the result was satisfactory. Youssouf Mulumbu being just one of many a stand out performers.
3. Norwich 3-0 Derby (2nd January)
I felt this was a huge game in extending Neil’s time at the club as Derby had gone into the game in fine form compared to the Norfolk side. I had the pleasure of watching QPR vs Derby a few weeks prior to that game and one thing I noted as a neutral was how possession orientated they were, at times overcomplicating things by losing possession in their defensive third of the pitch. Arguably I could have seen them on an off day but I genuinely thought Norwich could beat them going into the game and on reflection I feel that this game played a pivotal part in extending his time at the club.
Where did it all go wrong?
Results are the most obvious key performance indicator for a club to evaluate any manager on as what happens on the pitch has a huge influence to the direction and structure of a club off it. That being said results are arguably quite a volatile performance indicator, in the sense that 1-0 loss may not reflect a dominating but unfortunate performance. Although in the case of Alex Neil’s sacking it seems that a number of results have not gone his way and consequently has seen him sacked.
Although there are other indicators that clubs will evaluate on that is away from the 90 mins on the pitch. These are often overlooked such as the day to day operation of a club, financial health and youth development to name a few. Although things may not have been going to plan on the pitch Neil must have been doing well in other areas to have given the board sufficient faith to support him.
His words lost their weight and meaning
As a supporter of the club, I often listened to BBC Radio Norfolk’s Canary Call show which to anyone outside of Norfolk is basically a call show for Norwich fans to talk specifically about the club after a match. Definitely worth a listen if you have never heard of the show before. But like most sports broadcasts, they included post-match interviews with the manager (Alex Neil) and a (Norwich) player. I have listened to the majority of his post-interviews and the thing for me is that his words this season lost their punch. What I mean by that is that during those first few months which saw him achieve promotion every word he said sounded as if he meant it and if he said they’d work on defending you would know they would work on defending, with evidence being a more solid performance following his comments.
Someone will snap up this young, talented, hungry manager
For all of this season’s struggles, Alex Neil for me still remains a young, talented, hungry manager who with the right club and backing could go a long way. The sad thing is that it won’t be with Norwich City. However, no person is greater than the club and if things just aren’t working out you sometimes have to cut your losses. I don’t know where his next destination will be but I’m sure whether it will be he will make a positive impact.
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