GSV Dugout; The Amiable Acclivity of Alex Neil

AlexNeil(A Tracksuit gaffer)
A Track-Suit Manager | Alex Neil @ Hamilton Academical
A Star On The Rise | Alex Neil @ Norwich City


A great gaffer is a leader who inspires athletes to perform at their optimal levels and allow them to receive the due plaudits for their impressive performances and achievements while also providing a shield from criticism and ridicule during the less joyful times; football, like many sports, is a beautiful game with its own set of unwritten laws, and any gaffer worth his salt knows that great performances are often credited to the players , while poor showings can often lead to the hot seat feeling more uncomfortable than usual. At GSV, we take our self allotted duty to help balance the imbalances in our sport dreadfully seriously, and we earnestly hope that this GSV Dugout feature helps to shine a light on those that plan the great shocks, thrilling comebacks, goose bump causing thrashings and clinical smash & grab results that leave us confabulating for eons to differing degrees. Brucan!

Alex Neil


Full Name: Alexander Francis Neil

DoB: June 9th, 1981 (34)

PoB: Bellshill, North Lanarkshire; Scotland

Playing Role: Midfielder

Playing Experience: Aidrieonians (99-2000), Barnsley (2000-04), Mansfield Town (04-05), Hamilton Academical (05-15) (389 Games; 14 Goals)

Previous Coaching Experience: Hamilton Academical U/19 Manager

Managerial Roles: Hamilton Academical {Interim Player-Manager} (April 2013 – May 2013); Hamilton Academical (April 2013 – January 2015); Norwich City (January 2015 – Present)

Preferred Formation: 4-2-3-1 (Counter)

Managerial Record:

Club Spell Games Won Drawn Lost Win %
Hamilton Academical {Interim Player-Manager} April 3rd, 2013 – May 31st, 2013 7 5 1 1 71.4
Hamilton Academical May 25th, 2013 – January 9th, 2015 70 38 14 18 54.3
Norwich City January 9th, 2015 – Present 40 22 8 10 55.0
Total 117 65 23 29 55.6


The Grand Stand View

There is a long held belief in football, that the traits and characteristics of a former footballer-turned-gaffer, will often be evident in their teams play on the field; one cannot help but believe that that old adage rings true in Alex Neil’s Canaries side.

Norwich City are not a club synonymous with swashbuckling flowing football and technically adept players that get the crowd off their feet with every anticipated wave of attack, yet one wouldn’t expect them to be as solid and competitive as they have been during Alex Neil’s tenure at the club. A former industrious and often tenacious midfielder by trade, Alex Neil was very much the archetypical British central midfield general, equally adept at sitting deep, playing in the hole or going box-to-box, Neil was gifted with a good passing range and excellent work rate to boot; sounds like a footballer who would fit in like a glove at Carrow Road, eh?

Alex Neil exhibited his vast knowledge of the game in his later years as a footballer with Hamilton Academical; the clubs then gaffer, Billy Reid, used his talisman at the base of a midfield trio that included future Premier League stars James McCarthy and James McArthur. Neil used his experience and on-field management ability to help nurture the two youngsters as “The James’s” honed their craft and begun to show signs of developing into gifted stars for the future.

That first taste of helping to develop talent was quickly washed down with a hand at management when injury struck for the midfielder; gaffer Billy Reid tasked him with guiding the u/17 side while waiting on his recovery to be complete, the managerial bug had bitten the Scottish man and there was no going back. Appointed Interim Player-Manager in April of 2013, after the resignation of Billy Reid, Alex Neil only needed 7 games to prove his mantle as a gaffer and earn his spot in the dug-out on a full-term basis.

Hamilton Academical earned promotion back into the Scottish Premiership in Neil’s 1st full season at the helm, as he showed glimpses of his resilience and nerve to grind out a result in the Play-Offs, a resolve that he would later show again in his new job across the border. Hamilton Academical enjoyed a brilliant start to the 2014-15 campaign, and their great form was rewarded with a 1st win at Celtic Park in 76 years; Neil’s stock as a gaffer had risen considerably and a few Championship clubs were reported to have been sniffing about assessing his availability and credentials.

Norwich City showed the brevity & foresight to come calling in January of 2015 and Neil quickly bought into the City project as he respected the ambitions of the club and the fervent support of its fan base. Alex Neil became Norwich City manager on January 9th of 2015, and thus became the 2nd youngest manager in all of British football at the time; The Canaries had indeed made a statement in his appointment, and the man at the centre of it all remain unflustered as he went about doing his job.

Neil showed his class in his managerial debut as boss of The Canaries with a 2-1 win over, then Championship leaders & eventual winners, AFC Bournemouth and their impressive young gaffer Eddie Howe. That enticing battle of philosophy’s was the catalyst for an impressive run that saw City win 17 games out of 25 played; Neil took over with the club in 7th position and under-pressure to secure a play-off spot, their impressive run saw them finish 3rd, just behind Watford and a shot at immediate promotion, and looking like a good bet for promotion via the Play-Offs.

That steel and resolve in May was evident yet again as City dealt with rivals Ipswich Town, 4-2, in a two-legged semi-final and saved their most impressive performance for last when they rose to the occasion and beat pre-season promotion favourites Middlesbrough, 2-0, in the final to win a return back into the top flight. Many thought that The Canaries stood little chance at survival in the Premiership, their inexperienced gaffer, a shoe-string budget and a club lacking genuine star quality were all cited as possible reasons for why City would be lucky to steer clear of the red-zone all season. Yet, with a 3rd of the season gone, Norwich have shown that they have enough within their ranks to put together sequences of positive results and pull off an upset by surviving at the 1st time of asking.

There is no denying the need for investment in January, if the club are to ensure survival, 3 or 4 additions will be pivotal for the gaffer; if the club can keep picking up points and refusing to get blown away by their opposition, they will be buying from a position of strength, with an eye on ensuring that they cash in on the increased TV rights deal that kicks in next season. Alex Neil, the youngest manager in the Premier League, has already shown us that he is a good man-manager with sound tactical knowledge and the resolve to dig in and keep bettering himself and his charges, now the onus is on him to show his recruitment ability and delve into the market for the type of player that will better his already competitive and industrious side. The fans at Carrow Road have warmed to a young manager with genuine passion and an infectious degree of self-belief, I for one cannot help but feel as if this marriage is a partnership destined for greater heights, and Bob’s your 1991 Scottish Challenge Cup Fir Park ticket stub hoarding Uncle.


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