The decision from the Norwich City board to keep Alex Neil as manager of the Canaries may come as a surprise to many supporters, after widespread rumour that he was facing the sack before Christmas. As City’s play-off credentials falter, a large section of the Norwich faithful have expressed their distrust in Neil after what has been a painful year for supporters at Carrow Road. Although it should not be forgotten that Neil guided City to the Premier League in his first few months in charge, he also oversaw relegation straight back down to the Championship, and inconsistency so far this season has seen Norwich slip to outside the play-off places.
Back when Alex Neil became Norwich manager in January 2015, the club were lying just outside the play-off places following the sacking of Neil Adams. Following Neil’s appointment, he became the second youngest manager in the Football League at just 33. His impact was instant. Norwich lost just three games in his first five months in charge, guiding the club to 3rd in the table and legendary play-off success over bitter rivals Ipswich Town. He then completed a fairytale rise by seeing his Norwich side defeat Middlesbrough in City’s first ever trip to the new Wembley to secure Premier League status once more.
While 2015 also saw Neil guide City to a first win at Old Trafford since 1989, it was 2016 that proved his undoing. Norwich picked up just four wins in the second half of the season in a sequence that included a 10 game winless run from January to mid-March. The Canaries were relegated in 19th place, only finishing above a woeful Aston Villa.
With City the favourites to bounce back to the Premier League at the first time of asking, the season started well enough with Neil guiding Norwich to the summit of the Championship by mid-October. Soon after, however, Neil appears to have lost his midas touch. A late turnaround from 3-2 ahead to 4-3 behind at Newcastle sparked a run over five successive defeats including a humiliating 5-0 reverse at Brighton. Inconsistency away from home and lacklustre performances at Carrow Road have heaped the pressure on Neil.
After a series of highs and lows in what is an eventful time to be a Canaries supporter, Neil now finds himself in the same position that Norwich were in when he took over. However, unlike his predecessor Neil Adams, Neil has been given the vote of confidence by chairman Ed Balls to reignite his squad. At the age of 35, Neil still has the time to rediscover that initial magic which made his first half-season at Carrow Road such a success.