Things could not have gone much better for Alex Neil upon inheriting the managerial reins at Norwich City.
Appointed in January on the back of Neil Adams’ departure, the Scot has hit the ground running at Carrow Road.
His efforts have now been recognised with the Sky Bet Championship Manager of the Month award for February, with a faultless run delivering five victories – which were swiftly followed by a derby victory over East Anglian rivals Ipswich Town.
The Canaries saw their wings clipped in midweek while suffering a shock defeat to struggling Wigan Athletic, but Neil concedes that he has to be happy with how things have gone following his arrival from Hamilton Academical.
He told HITC Sport: “I think it’s gone reasonably well. The fact that we put six wins together at this level is a good achievement. However, there is a lot of work to be done. I’m pleased in what we’ve done in a short space of time and if we can continue that, we should be okay.
“You can’t play well every game. It’s one of those where we have made a good start and started to build, but there are 11 games left and we need to make sure that we try to win as many as we can between now and the end of the season. If we perform like we did in February, we should be fine.
“I’ve inherited a really good group of players that are hungry for success and want to do as well as they can. If we can keep our focus, there is no reason why we shouldn’t have a good end to the season.
“I felt that I had maybe taken Hamilton as far as I could. I felt that, going forward, Norwich had huge potential. The stadium, the quality of the squad, the fan base as well, there is scope to go and try to build something really special. There was an opportunity there that I couldn’t refuse.
“When I came in we were seventh and I said that my aim was to finish above that. If we do that, we will be in the play-offs. If we really have a great run and do exceptionally well, you never know. That’s still the aim. We’ve started really well and now we have to continue that and make sure we go on another winning run.”
At 33 years of age, Neil is the latest in a long line of highly-rated young bosses to impress in the English second tier.
He appears to have made a seamless transition from playing field to dugout and, having only recently hung up his boots, has vital experience of modern football that should stand him in good stead.
On what is required to get out of the Championship, the former Barnsley midfielder said: “You have to be able to mix your game up. You come across so many different teams in terms of the way they play, you have to be able to play when it’s on and mix it up and be physical when you play against certain teams. You have to have a good variety of players and players that can adapt to different games. Longevity as well, because you play a lot of games in a short space of time. I think we have played six now in two weeks, which is a lot of games.”
Norwich are fortunate to boast a squad deep enough to handle the demands of a promotion push, with Neil hoping to bounce a club brimming with Premier League experience back into the big time at the first time of asking.
He added: “We have got players that have been there and done it before. Having been there doesn’t necessarily mean you will do it again. I always say that it doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the past, it’s about what you do now. We have to make sure that we keep our standards as high as we can and go on to have a good end to the season.”
Few would bet against Neil given the success he has enjoyed so far.
He was fortunate to inherit a post at a club that were still very much in the promotion picture when their former boss fell on his sword, but there was work to be done and to have returned the feel-good factor to the Norwich ranks in such a short space of time must be applauded.
Alex Neil was speaking on behalf of Sky Bet, the Title Sponsor of The Football League. This season, a £250,000 Sky Bet Transfer Fund will go to a Football League club to spend on players in the 2015 summer transfer window. Fans who bet with Sky Bet generate Transfer Fund Tokens and go into a random draw to win a £5,000 prize – and the £250,000 Sky Bet Transfer Fund for their Football League club.
To sign up, go to www.skybet.com/transferfundand select the Football League team you support.