Half-Time Orange For Thought; Olivier Giroud, Overly Criticised & Grossly Underrated

Back In The days | Olivier Giroud @ Grenoble Foot 38
Olivier Giroud says Arsenal have the players and team spirit to be serious contenders next season.
A Genuine Top Gun | Olivier Giroud @ Arsenal


Dissected with the attention to detail of a legendary Masterchef 2nd season casting outcast , your good mate Uncle Bob serves up his weekly Half-Time Orange For Thought; a mental morsel for the sports fanatic with a healthy appetite for wholesome consumables. We at GSV have reluctantly declared ourselves accountable for any digestion difficulties that may or may not occur. Enjoy!

In the modern age of football, where stars are born overnight and legends are made in moments, late bloomers tend to get less respect and acknowledgement than those that came before them. There are different factors that lead to a footballer only rising to prominence at an age where many of their peers have long been playing professionally at an elite level since their late teens, yet one ought to credit the game’s late bloomers for the desire and drive they show to ensure that their talents do not go unnoticed at the elite level; from the Teko Modise’s to the Jamie Vardy’s of this world, we have seen many a good player enter the elite divisions a mature footballer with good levels of ability and an insatiable desire to develop further and prove their worthiness for the big time.

Olivier Giroud is not a man that was highly touted for greatness at a young age, the bustling yet technically gifted forward is one of those players that would have been lost in football obscurity if it were not for his determination to fulfil his potential as a man who can contribute positively to a good football team at the highest level. Arsène Wenger is known to admire good footballers that have been overlooked, undervalued or misused by their previous employers; it is his keen eye for raw talent that allows him to nurture talent effectively and create elite level performers out of players that some had deemed surplus to requirement or inferior to the elite level standards that premier level players are held to.

For all the flack Ollie and Wenger have caught over the years, one begins to see the merits behind signing and persisting with Giroud, even when everybody and their barber has been calling for a more able and higher grade replacement for the towering French forward; the man adds a dimension to the current Arsenal side that money cannot quantify, he is a competent link-up man that offers the team an attacking out ball while possessing the ability to hold the ball up and bring his more gifted midfielders into play more effectively. While the lad is guilty of the Karim Benzema syndrome, needing at least 5 chances to bag one goal, Giroud is always bound to score his fare share of goals thanks to the quality supply he tends to receive on a weekly basis, injury permitting that is…

If we went according to the news stories and the Twitter feeds, one would rank Olivier Giroud amongst the worst strikers to ever don the red & white of the Gooners; yet the man picks up some undue stick from all quarters and it has taken some time for him to prove that he is by far one of the better strikers to have played for Arsenal in the modern era and his recent landmark of 50 Premier League goals for the Gunners has done much to alleviate the misappropriated pressure placed upon him by fans and the media. Olivier Giroud is the 3rd fastest player to reach 50 Premier League goals for Arsenal, behind former club record goalscorer Ian Wright and the man that shattered his record, Thierry Henry. By that merit alone, Ollie deserves a fair degree of respect for what he has accomplished; considering the quality and ambition levels of the teams Wright & Titi played in, one wouldn’t be remiss to think that Giroud deserves to be mentioned alongside some of the most successful Gooner forwards of the modern era. Ian Wright reached the half-century mark in 87 games while Henry raced to his 50 in just 83 appearances, Olivier became only the 7th Arsenal player in history to score 50 Premier League goals when he bagged his 50th in his 113th league game for the club.

While I hold the belief that one cannot accurately compare players that played in different eras, due to the advancements in the game and the 20/20 nature of hindsight; yet Olivier’s record holds up against some of the best forwards to have ever lead the line in an Arsène Wenger side, Ollie is just above Dennis Bergkamp, who complimented his endless assists with 50 Premier League goals in 114 league games. The Chambéry born striker has also affirmed his credentials by beating out the man he was untimely bought to replace, his injury plagued predecessor Robin van Persie reached his Premier League half-century in a sporadic 142 games that also included shifts out wide in midfield at the start of his career. The only other current Arsenal player with a comparable record is Striker-In-Progress, Theo Walcott, a competent finisher who also recently notched his 50th Premier League goal in his 208th league appearance for the club he joined as a fresh-faced teenager.

Career Milestones

Ollie begun his professional career at French Ligue 2 side Grenoble Foot 38 after impressing in the youth ranks and showing some promise in the reserves, Giroud was gradually transitioned into the 1st team over a period of months. His breakthrough season as a young professional came while out on loan to FC Istres in the Championnat National, French 3rd Division, during the 07-08 season where a handy return of 14 goals saw FC Tours come knocking for a player who was deemed surplus to requirements at his parent club, after returning from his relatively successful loan spell.

FC Tours were an ambitious Ligue 2 side that allowed Ollie to continue his development and begin to show more consistent glimpses of his true potential; a promising 1st season was followed up by an outstanding second campaign as the striker netted 21 goals and ended the season as the division’s top goalscorer. Ollie’s great form had not gone unnoticed at the elite level as ambitious Ligue 1 side Montpellier calling in January of 2010, a deal was agreed with FC Tours and Giroud spent the remainder of the 09-2010 season on loan at FC Tours, as he stormed to the Golden Boot award, his FC Tours career ended with an overall record 36 goals in two seasons.

The move to Montpellier seemed like a match made in heaven; Olivier joined a football club with great potential and a roster of players that could challenge for silverware under the right guidance, the striker continued his great rise to prominence as he finished his debut campaign in the French top flight as Montpellier’s top marksman with 18 goals. The follow-up season was the stuff of dreams for both club and player, Montpellier stormed to the Ligue 1 title, the 1st in the clubs history, off the back of Giroud’s highly impressive performances upfront. Ollie again saw his return of 21 goals earn him a Golden Boot award and more significantly, he broke into the French national team setup at 25 with no previous national team pedigree to speak of. Making his Les Blues debut as a substitute against the United States of America in November of 2011, Giroud continued his emergence as an elite level forward by going on to score his 1st international goal against Germany in a 2-1 win for France on February 29th, 2012.

When Arsenal signed the French international on June 26th, 2012, many looked sceptically upon the deal for a man who didn’t have the reputation or pedigree they would have liked; along with Lukas Podolski, Giroud was signed as a long-term replacement for RvP, who was known to be departing for pastures anew. The scepticism surrounding his arrival unfortunately seems to have clouded any opinions certain quarters of the media would have regarding his suitability for Arsenal and the Premier League, the man has effectively fulfilled the duty he was bought for and his return of goals and his overall contribution to the team actually makes a mockery of his price tag in comparison to the other “more suitable” strikers in the game.

Comparable Numbers

Flopped Wenger Centre Forwards

Name Record
Christopher Wreh 3 Goals in 32 Games | 4 Years
Kaba Diawara 0 Goals in 15 Games | 1 Year
Jérémie Aliadiére 5 Goals, 1 Assist in 45 Games | 6 Years
Francis Jeffers 4 Goals in 22 Games | 3 Years
Nicklas Bendtner 47 Goals, 22 Assists in 171 Games | 9 Years
Marouane Chamakh 14 Goals, 10 Assists in 67 Games | 3 Years
Chu-Young Park 1 Goal in 7 Games | 3 Years


Successful Wenger Centre Forwards

Name Record
Ian Wright 108 Goals in 201 Games | 7 Years {2 Under Wenger}
Dennis Bergkamp 102 Goals, 28 Assists in 385 Games | 11 Years {10 Under Wenger}
Nicholas Anelka 25 Goals in 75 Games | 2 Years
Nwankwo Kanu 37 Goals, 7 Assists in 182 Games | 5 Years
Thierry Henry 226 Goals, 60 Assists in 368 Games | 8 Years
Robin van Persie 131 Goals, 57 Assists in 274 Games | 8 Years
Emmanuel Adebayor 62 Goals, 22 Assists in 142 Games | 3 Years
Olivier Giroud 72 Goals, 28 Assists in 158 Games | 3 Years



DoB: September 30th, 1986 (29)

PoB: Chambéry, Rhône-Alpes; France

Nationality: French

National Team Record: 45 Caps, 13 Goals, 6 Assists

Position/s: Deep-Lying Forward, Advanced Forward, Complete Forward, Target-Man

Height: 1. 92m

Preferred Foot: Left

Club: Arsenal FC

Club Jersey No: #12

Contract Expiry: June 30th, 2018

Market Value: £20m

Development Nests: Froges OC {92-99}, Grenoble Foot 28 {99-05}

Previous Clubs: Grenoble Foot 38 {08-08}, FC Istres (Loan) {07-08}, FC Tours {08-‘10}, Montpellier {’10-‘12}, FC Tours (Loan) {‘10}


Career Club Record


Club Spell Record
Grenoble Foot 38 July ’05 – September ‘08 2 Goals in 23 Games
FC Istres July ’07 – June ‘08 14 Goals in 34 Games
FC Tours September ’08 – July ‘10 36 Goals, 9 Assists in 67 Games
Montpellier July ’10 – July ‘12 39 Goals, 17 Assists in 85 Games
Arsenal July ’12 – 72 Goals, 28 Assists in 158 Games
Totals 163 Goals, 54 Assists in 367 Games


Record By Division


League Record
English Premier League 50 Goals, 17 Assists in 113 Games
Ligue 1 33 Goals, 17 Assists in 73 Games
Ligue 2 32 Goals, 9 Assists in 84 Games
Championnat National 14 Goals in 34 Games
Totals 123 Goals, 43 Assists in 304 Games



The Garish Gerard Deulofeu, A Coming of Age Story

A Wunderkind Destined For Greatness | Gerard Deulofeu
The Golden Player In A Golden Generation | Gerard Deulofeu

The football marvel nicknamed Geri by the Everton faithful was first introduced to many of us as “the next big thing out of La Masia”, when he inked a personal endorsement deal with Nike at the tender age of 14, Gerard Deulofeu seems to have been a promising talent on the peripheral of a breakthrough campaign forever and a day; many purists begun to wonder if he could indeed overcome the pitfalls that befell the last 14 year old football prodigy to have a Nike contract. Much like Freddy Adu before him, Geri went on to make his professional debut as a teenager, after showing great promise and technical dexterity in the youth ranks; Barcelona’s success-rate at nurturing young talent and the institutions holistic approach to youth development may have given Geri an advantage over many of his peers, yet his talent alone stood him head and shoulders above his age mates from day one.

A Catalonia born and bred wunderkind, Geri joined the Barcelona youth team structures in 2003 as a nine year old prodigy who had spent hours breaking vases in his mothers living room when he wasn’t on the village football pitch honing his ball skills; the progression of a player that stood out amongst fellow young starlets at La Masia was swift and remarkable, as scouts and journalists begun to rave about his outstanding potential and remarkable ability with the ball at his feet. Geri’s early gradation from youth cadet to professional came as little surprise to those who had been monitoring his impressive progress, making his Barcelona B debut as a 75th minute substitute on March 2nd, 2011; the then 16 year old protégé seemed destined for a great future in the Blaugrana colours. Promotion into Pep Guardiola’s star studded 1st team came later on in 2011 as he featured on the bench while continuing his acclimatisation into the first team setup; Geri continued to play regularly for the B side in the Segunda Division as he steadily added more dimension to his attacking game and regularly became a scorer or provider of goals and jaw-dropping YouTube videos.

Gerard excelled for the Barça B side and the Spanish youth teams during 2011 and 2012, when he cemented his undeniable status as one of the most gifted footballers in his blessed generation by being crowned as the Golden Player, an award handed to the player of the tournament, at the 2012 UEFA European u-19 Championship; Deulofeu’s great form and steady development was rewarded when he seemed to have his long-term Barcelona future cemented with a 5 year contract inked on May 15th, 2013. Barça seemed intent to fast track the development of a very precious talent when they agreed to loan him to Everton for the 2013/14 season on July 10th; the loan was seen as the perfect opportunity for the lad to play more competitive football in a team that shares a similar playing ideology to that taught to youngsters at La Masia. Showing glimpses of his great potential during his 25 games in the Everton blue, Geri seemed to thrive under the tutelage of a fellow Catalonian, Roberto Martinez, and his performances alerted all and sundry to the fact that he had more than enough ability to play at the elite level and develop into a genuine superstar, in time.

The loan spell appeared to have served its purpose for the player, and many expected him to return to Barça and play a significant role in the new Luis Enrique project. Included in the 1st team squad in May 2014, Gerard found himself packing his bags for another season-long loan spell on August 14th as Barça reached an agreement with Sevilla. The decision to loan out a talented young player to a league rival baffled many onlookers, and the player himself; the deal proved to be an unsuccessful one for all parties and it came as no surprise when Spanish newspaper Marca named him in their “Worst Team of the Season” during his stay with the Andalusians, Geri played 17 times and got a return of just one goal for his inconsistent form and irregular appearances, his only goal in the Spanish top flight thus far.

It was baffling to see how the stock of such a talented young footballer could fall in less than 12 months; Barcelona, under Enrique, seemed to have other players in mind to provide cover for their star studded attacking unit and Gerard now seemed surplus to requirements at a club he captained at youth level, a club he seemed destined to play for since his birth in the little village of Riudarenes. Deulofeu had his misery ended by a manager who still believed that he was indeed one of the most gifted young footballers on the planet, signing a 3 year deal with the Toffees for a relatively bargain fee of £4.2m in May of 2015. The deal itself remains a complex one, Barcelona hold buy-back clauses for the first two years of his contract, meaning that they can buy him back for an agreed £6.3m after the culmination of the current campaign or pay £8.3m to lure him back at the end of next season. Everton will also enjoy a significant share of any profit Barcelona would garner from buying him back with the intention of using their powerhouse status to sell him on for a larger asking price in the near future, the Toffees would also have first option on the player if Barcelona were to buy him back and look to sell him on as well. Such terms would have been deemed unfeasible by many ambitious clubs looking to add to their side, but all parties needed the deal to go through; Barça needed their protégé to move to a club where he could develop further, while Everton knew that they would be signing a young player who could add immense value to their galaxy of young stars, Geri needed to be at a club where he felt wanted and appreciated for his great gifts.

If one did not know any better, you would think that Gerard Deulofeu was a seasoned campaigner in danger of wasting his best years as a pro; although he seems to have been on the scene since before many had heard of a Neymar Jr., the 21 year old technician has only just entered the final phase of his developmental process and his overall game could reach FIFA Ballon d’Or contender level once he reaches his apex. Modern football and its advancements have combined to make it even harder for the truly special young talents to fully develop before being judged alongside finished articles; Geri may have been fortunate to get his permanent move to Everton after a failed loan stint with Sevilla, yet the lad deserves all the good favour and grace coming his way for the manner in which he departed from his childhood club.

The 2015-16 season has been a notable one for revivals and rebuilding for many clubs, players, managers and fans alike, the resurgence of one of the premier young talents in Europe has coincided with the return to form of many Everton starlets; the Fantastic Four young stars have been to credit for much of Everton’s resurgence, John Stones seems to grow in stature with every solid performance, while the attacking trio of Romelu Lukaku, Ross Barkley and Gerard Deulofeu has combined to amaze and enthral many onlookers with their determined and driven displays further up field. Geri has already gone about proving his worth to the club with 7 of Romelu Lukaku’s 13 strikes thus far coming from the man “The Animal” has amply nicknamed “The Supplier”. Flair players with great ability often need to feel loved and appreciated by those around them, it is that confidence which fuels their creativity & desire to perform at a high level consistently; Gerard has felt loved at Everton since his 1st stint at the club & his swift acclimatisation was aided by his desire to pay back the faith Everton have invested in him, twice. So far, so good for a lad that is fast becoming a terrace favourite with his electrifying runs and telling contribution on both ends of the field; 3 goals and 10 assists in all competitions already this season should have Barcelona faxing over an offer to Goodison Park sooner rather than later.

Gerard Deulofeu


Full Name: Gerard Deulofeu Lázaro

DoB: March 13th, 1994 (21)

PoB: Riudarenes, Girona; Catalonia, Spain

Other Nationality: Catalonian

Height: 1, 77m

Position: Winger, Advanced Playmaker, Inside Forward, Advanced Forward, Trequartista (Left/Right/Centre)

Preferred Foot: Right

Current Club: Everton FC

Club Jersey No: #19

Contract Expiry: June 30th, 2018

Youth Development Nests: Penya Esportiva Bons Aires, FC Barcelona

Former Clubs: FC Barcelona B (2011-2013), FC Barcelona (2011-2015), Everton (2013-2014; Loan), Sevilla (2014-2015; Loan)

Market Value: £4.3m

Career Club Record: 147 Games; 37 Goals; 30 Assists

Caps & Goals: Spain (1 Cap); Catalonia (1 Cap); Spain u/16 (4 Caps, 1 Goal); u/17 (21 Caps, 6 Goals); u/19 (19 Caps, 5 Goals); u20 (7 Caps, 3 Goals); u/21 (24 Caps, 13 Goals)

Honours: La Liga Winner (2012-13, Barcelona); UEFA Europa League Winner (2014-15, Sevilla); UEFA European u-19 Championship Winner (2011, 2012); UEFA European u-17 Championship Runner-Up (2010) & UEFA European u-19 Championship Golden Player (2012)

GSV Game Day Guide; English Premier League (December 5th)


Stoke City (12th) vs Manchester City (1st)

Venue: The Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent

Match Referee: Martin Atkinson

Time: 14h45

Form Guide (Last 6 Games)

Stoke City – W (Swansea City, 0 – 1); L (Watford, 0 – 2); D (Newcastle Utd, 0 – 0); W (Chelsea, 1 – 0); W (Southampton, 0 – 1); L (Sunderland, 2 – 0)

Man City – W (Bournemouth, 5 – 1); D (Man Utd, 0 – 0); W (Norwich City, 2 – 1); D (Aston Villa, 0 – 0); L (Liverpool, 1 – 4); W (Southampton, 3 – 1)

GSV Prediction: 1 – 2 (Man City)

Arsenal (4th) vs Sunderland (17th)

Venue: The Emirates Stadium, London

Match Referee: Robert Madley

Time: 17h00

Form Guide (Last 6 Games)

Arsenal – W (Watford, 0 – 3); W (Everton, 2 – 1); W (Swansea City, 0 – 3); D (Tottenham Hotspur, 1 – 1); L (West Bromwich Albion, 2 – 1); D (Norwich City, 1 – 1)

Sunderland – L (West Bromwich Albion, 1 – 0); W (Newcastle United, 3 – 0); L (Everton, 6 – 2); L (Southampton, 0 – 1); W (Crystal Palace, 0 – 1); W (Stoke City, 2 -0)

GSV Prediction: 3 – 1 (Arsenal)

Manchester United (3rd) vs West Ham United (8th)

Venue: Old Trafford, Greater Manchester

Match Official: Mark Clattenburg

Time: 17h00

Form Guide (Last 6 Games)

Man Utd – W (Everton, 0 – 3); D (Man City, 0 – 0); D (Crystal Palace, 0 – 0); W (West Bromwich Albion, 2 – 0); W (Watford, 2 – 1); D (Norwich City, 1 – 1)

WHU – W (Crystal Palace, 1 – 3); W (Chelsea, 2 – 1); L (Watford, 2 – 0); D (Everton, 1 – 1); L (Tottenham Hotspur, 4 – 1); D (West Bromwich Albion, 1 – 1)

GSV Prediction: 1 – 2 (West Ham United)

Southampton (16th) vs Aston Villa (20th)

Venue: St Mary’s, Southampton

Match Referee: Anthony Taylor

Time: 17h00

Form Guide (Last 6 Games)

Southampton – D (Leicester City, 2 – 2); D (Liverpool, 1 – 1); W (Bournemouth, 2 – 0); W (Sunderland, 0 – 1); L (Stoke City, 0 – 1); L (Man City, 3 – 1)

Aston Villa – L (Chelsea, 2 – 0); L (Swansea City, 1 – 2); L (Tottenham Hotspur, 3 – 1); D (Man City, 0 – 0); L (Everton, 4 – 0); L (Watford, 2 – 3)

GSV Prediction: 3 – 0 (Southampton)

Swansea City (15th) vs Leicester City (2nd)

Venue: The Liberty Stadium, Swansea

Match Referee: Michael Oliver

Time: 17h00

Form Guide (Last 6 Games)

Swansea City – L (Stoke City, 0 – 1); W (Aston Villa, 1 – 2); L (Arsenal, 0 – 3); L (Norwich City, 1 – 0); D (Bournemouth, 2 – 2); L (Liverpool, 1 – 0)

Leicester City – D (Southampton, 2 – 2); W (Crystal Palace, 1 – 0); W (West Bromwich Albion, 2 – 3); W (Watford, 2 – 1): W (Newcastle Utd, 0 – 3); D (Man Utd, 1 – 1)

GSV Prediction: 0 – 2 (Leicester City)

Watford (11th) vs Norwich City (16th)

Venue: Vicarage Road, Watford

Match Referee: Mike Dean

Time: 17h00

Form Guide (Last 6 Games)

Watford – L (Arsenal, 0 – 3); W (Stoke City, 0 – 2); W (West Ham Utd, 2 – 0); L (Leicester City, 2 – 1); L (Man Utd, 1 – 2); W (Aston Villa, 2 – 3)

Norwich – L (Newcastle, 6 – 2); L (West Bromwich Albion, 0 – 1); L (Man City, 2 – 1); W (Swansea, 1 -0); L (Chelsea, 1 – 0); D (Arsenal, 1 – 1)

GSV Prediction: 2 – 1 (Watford)

West Bromwich Albion (13th) vs Tottenham Hotspur (5th)

Venue: The Hawthorns, West Bromwich

Match Referee: Jon Moss

Time: 17h00

Form Guide (Last 6 Games)

WBA – W (Sunderland, 1 – 0); W (Norwich, 0 – 1); L (Leicester, 2 – 3); L (Man Utd, 2 – 0); W (Arsenal, 2 – 1); D (WHU, 1 – 1)

Spurs – D (Liverpool, 0 – 0); W (Bournemouth, 1 – 5); W (Aston Villa, 3 – 1); D (Arsenal, 1 – 1); W (WHU, 4 – 1); D (Chelsea, 0 – 0)

GSV Prediction: 2 – 2

Chelsea (14th) vs AFC Bournemouth (18th)

Venue: Stamford Bridge, London

Match Referee: Mike Jones

Time: 19h30

Form Guide (Last 6 Games)

Chelsea – W (Aston Villa, 2 – 0); L (WHU, 2 – 1); L (Liverpool, 1 – 3); L (Stoke, 1 – 0); W (Norwich, 1 – 0); D (Spurs, 0 – 0)

Bournemouth – L (Man City, 5 – 1); L (Spurs, 1 – 5); L (Southampton, 2 – 0); L (Newcastle Utd, 0 – 1); D (Swansea, 2 – 2); D (Everton, 3 – 3)

GSV Prediction: 1 – 1

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.