Steely Alex Neil continues to excel at Norwich City

Andy Dillon by Andy Dillon / 29 September 2015, 10:34

Alex NeilThe Sun's Andy Dillion (@andydillon70) applauds the immense impact Alex Neil has had at Norwich City, and how it highlights why its sometimes worth giving a young British manager a chance to shine in the dugout.

ALEX NEIL was upstaged by a pigeon last weekend at West Ham.

The stricken bird looked lost in the centre circle and had to be rescued by quick-thinking and big-hearted midfielder Jonny Howson.

Howson's dramatic pet rescue act took the headlines alongside a last-gasp second equaliser for The Hammers scored by Cheikhou Kouyate.

It was barely noted that City's fledgling boss Neil had pulled yet another gutsy performance out of his team on the road.

The squad does not boast any superstars and that stretches from top to bottom.

Neil has only been a manager in England since January. Before that he was playing and coaching in the Scottish Premiership for Hamilton Academicals.

Yet since he took over in the new year Norwich have lost just once away from home - a 3-0 defeat at Southampton on August 30.

That is still just only one defeat away in 18 games for a relative unknown to come down to England and take a huge gamble on himself.

Yet he showed the strength of character to get his players through to the Play Off Final last season and win at Wembley just five months into the job.

At a time when only 40 per cent of managers in The Premier League are British, Neil is a shining example of what is possible if a club is prepared to take a punt.

The Football League has introduced a rule this season that at least one wannabe coach from an ethnic minority must be on the shortlist for every managerial vacancy.

Soon it will be required in The Premier League but with regard to our own home grown coaches as more and more clubs plump for foreigners.

Holland, Chile, Portugal, France, Italy, Argentina; the list goes on in the top flight and that is why plain-talking Scotsmen like Neil are an essential requirement to keep the flag flying in our national sport.

He is currently working under the radar because Norwich are not in the relegation zone or punching way above their weight like last week's opponents West Ham, who have a Croatian in charge.

But you can rest assured that Jose Mourinho, Louis van Gaal, Manuel Pellegrini, Arsene Wenger and Mauricio Pochettino would jump at the chance to have an away record like Neil's.

It is vital that this 34-year-old is given the time and reasonable resources to do his job as he seems to be part of a dying breed, like Howson's pigeon friend last weekend.

Howson's SOS understandably captured hearts and the imagination as he stopped play to cradle the frightened animal and carry it safely on the right side of the touchline.

The Canary saved a pigeon and birds of a feather stick together as they say and that is why Neil is such a valuable commodity.

With Northern Ireland's Brendan Rodgers living with the constant threat of the sack at Liverpool right now the British manager needs to be protected as much as our birds.

Neil's steely glare underlines that he can be tough on players not much younger than himself.

Bournemouth's Eddie Howe opts for the smoother style with his film star looks and charming manner.

Tony Pulis at West Brom is as hard as they come, Tim Sherwood at Aston Villa is still finding his feet.

Garry Monk has proved himself, Steve McClaren has a lot of work to do despite years of experience. Alan Pardew at Crystal Palace is already being tipped as a future England manager.

But in the age of climate change the football landscape is also changing very quickly and The Premier League needs to look after its native species - starting with giving some credit to Alex Neil.


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