NEW Norwich City manager Alex Neil has been ordered to reach the play-offs by his new boss – but insists he can rise to the challenge.
The 33-year-old, the second youngest manager in the League after Mansfield’s Adam Murray, has joined the Canaries from SPL outfit Hamilton Academicals.
He replaces Neil Adams, who quit with Norwich sitting seventh in the Championship, three points adrift of Brentford.
Chief executive David McNally is demanding a play-off berth come May, but after leading Accies to promotion from the Scottish Championship in his first full season and leaving them third in the top flight, Neil isn’t fazed.
“I’m under no illusion that if we finish seventh or lower it will be a huge disappointment,” said the former Barnsley and Mansfield midfielder. “I’m well aware of the challenge I’m taking on.
“But there’s always pressure in any job. When I took over at Hamilton, I was only 31 and I was still playing. We were second or third bottom of the league.
“You’ve always got a little bit of trepidation, thinking ‘Am I ready?’ But I did exceptionally well there and that’s why I’m confident I can do the same here. I think it’s a very similar situation.”
Renowned for his spiky temperament and competitive edge, Neil began his career at Airdrie before joining Barnsley as a 19-year-old in 2000.
He spent the next four years at Oakwell, racking up close to 150 appearances before a singleseason at Mansfield which saw Neil assume the captaincy and win fans’ player of the year.
Neil returned north of the border in 2005 to join Hamilton, where he spent the remainder of his career, winning promotion to the Scottish top flight as a player in 2008 then again as player-manager in 2014.
He has demanded full control of all football matters at Carrow Road and Billy Reid – his mentor and manager at Hamilton – says he will have no trouble winning over his new players.
“I don’t think his age should worry anybody,” said Reid, now manager of Swedish side Ostersunds. “He was my captain for eight years. He was Mansfield’s captain before that.
“He’s always known the game as a player so it’s no surprise he knows the game as a manager at all. He’s a fantastic coach, a fantastic person and I’m sure the players under him will respect him.”