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New Norwich boss Alex Neil - determined, detailed and daunting - BBC Scotland article

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New Norwich City manager Alex Neil has learned from the successes and mistakes of his mentor.

He worked under Billy Reid at Hamilton Academical, and

advised Reid to move to Swansea City when the club wanted him to replace

Paulo Sousa five years ago, but Reid chose to stay. He is now an

assistant manager in Sweden''s second tier.

Neil is ambitious, and has always indicated a desire to

test himself at the highest level. So he was always likely to accept

the offer to succeed Neil Adams at Carrow Road. Reid was his friend, but

also the man who shaped his career.

Neil was a right-back when he pitched up at Hamilton

from Mansfield Town in 2005; Reid converted him into a holding

midfielder because of two significant qualities: his tenacity and his

ability to read the game.

Those traits have served Neil well. He only became

Hamilton player-manager in April 2013, when Reid stepped down. Since

then, he has guided the club to promotion - via the play-offs last

summer - and to an eye-catching campaign in the Premiership, which has

included topping the table in October.

For perspective, no side in the top division has a

lower wage budget. Hamilton regularly field a team in which half of the

players have come through the youth ranks, and he led the team to their

first win at Celtic Park since 1938.

Following that 1-0 win, Neil gathered all of the

players and club officials in the dressing room and urged them to make

the most of the moment, and to build on it. The display and result were

typical of Neil - not least because he was booked in the second half,

while still amongst the substitutes.

He has a steely edge, and can occasionally be overly

aggressive. That tends to generally be controlled, though, and the

spikiness will be required as he tries to impose his authority on the

Norwich squad. Many of the players will be around the same age as Neil -

who is 33 - and most will have played at a higher level and earned more

money from their careers.

In a world where wealth and kudos are commodities, Neil

must find a way to display leadership and motivation without

compromising his principles.

Alex Neil was mentored by former Hamilton boss Billy Reid (left)

Alex Neil worked closely with former Hamilton boss Billy Reid (left)

"He''s very calm and won''t be fazed," said the former

Rangers midfielder Derek Ferguson, who regularly reports on Hamilton

games for BBC Scotland and whose youngest son is a youth player at New

Douglas Park.

"I did my B coaching badge with him. He has an edge and that''s really important."

The victory over Celtic was also typical of Neil

because he was not prepared to limit his players or alter his tactical

approach. Reid would often make Hamilton more defensive when they played

bigger clubs, but Neil urges his players to have belief in their

abilities and to trust in their game plan.

The approach has worked, which is why Neil became

Norwich''s choice to replace Adams. Reid believes that his protégé will

succeed, remarking on him being "grounded" and that there is "no chance

he will be overawed by the challenge down there".

Reid has also spoken about his decisions being

challenged by Neil in the dressing room, but with his captain asking

questions "in the right way". Reid tasked him with personally overseeing

the development of James McCarthy and James McArthur, who broke through

at Hamilton as teenagers and now play for Everton and Crystal Palace


Neil will become the second youngest manager in the

Football League. Norwich even had to technically sign him as a player,

since his registration needed to be transferred to the FA from the

Scottish Football Association. As a manager, he is clear-sighted and


His Hamilton side played passing football, initiating

swift, incisive counter attacks that were built upon well-organised and

strategically shrewd tactics. Always in a 4-1-4-1 formation, with

forward-thinking players out wide.

Accies'' approach is so ordered and sound that

individuals can fit seamlessly into different positions because they all

know what is expected of them.

Neil, like all of the new generation of managers,

relies on comprehensive analysis of his own team''s performance and those

of opponents. The Norwich players will be used to that kind of

approach, but Neil does face challenges.

At Hamilton, he had coached the younger age group teams

before becoming manager, so had worked with many of the players

already. They were also well-versed in the club''s style, and most were

young, so open to technical coaching and instruction. The players at

Norwich will be more established in their ways. Even so, Neil is a

strong character.

Alex Neil passes on instructions to Hamilton''s top-scorer Tony Andreu after a goal

Alex Neil forged a strong bond with the players at Hamilton Academical

"I''m a very secure person," Neil has said. "I have very

few insecurities in terms of confidence, speaking to a group and

putting my message across.

"I don''t mind demanding the most out of them or booting

someone up the backside if I feel they aren''t pulling their weight. All

these sides to the job don''t really bother me. It''s something that

comes naturally."

Like Reid, he is able to inspire players. Neil has

spoken of his willingness to risk long-term injury to play for Reid, and

the guilt he felt whenever he wasn''t playing for the team, because he

felt he was personally letting Reid down. After the news broke that

Norwich and Hamilton had agreed compensation, many of the players

leaving New Douglas Park looked visibly shaken and upset.

It is a small, close-knit club and Neil made sure to

know the partners and families of his players. He will have to adapt to

the size and demands of Norwich, but he is good at sizing up challenges.

Following Reid might have daunted lesser characters,

but instead of trying to copy his predecessor, Neil altered Hamilton''s

approach, so that the players were more focused on their own playing

style, rather than countering the tactics of the opposition.

Neil also capably handled the challenges of combining

playing and management. He was often Hamilton''s best player, and

understood how to juggle the two roles. He once fined himself for

indiscipline on the field, by taking 24 players out for a three-course


Neil is a talented and capable manager. His

inexperience will test the limits of his potential, and the job at

Norwich is of a very different stature to Hamilton, but in his own mind

he is ready.

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"Always in a 4-1-4-1 formation, with forward-thinking players out wide.

Accies'' approach is so ordered and sound that individuals can fit seamlessly into different positions because they all know what is expected of them"

Nice article thanks - this couple of sentences encapsulates why we should get behind him

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Great read, thank you. Very excited about his arrival the more I read, mainly because he is so unknown and doesnt take any sh*tSounds like just what we need

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