‘The people down here are lovely’ – Neil admits it felt strange returning to Norwich as an opposition manager

Preston North End manager Alex Neil carries a smile on his return to Carrow Road, to face his former

Preston North End manager Alex Neil carries a smile on his return to Carrow Road, to face his former club Norwich City. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Alex Neil admits it was a strange experience returning to Carrow Road as an opposition manager, for the first time since his two-year Norwich City reign was brought to an end.

Members of the Geoffrey Watling City Stand clearly enjoyed seeing Alex Neil back at Carrow Road, as

Members of the Geoffrey Watling City Stand clearly enjoyed seeing Alex Neil back at Carrow Road, as he managed his current side Preston North End against Norwich City. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

The Scottish boss who led the Canaries back to the Premier League with a remarkable upturn in form in 2015, via a glorious day at Wembley, was the focus of very little negative attention on Saturday.

His plans may have come apart to the extent that top-flight relegation was followed by a mid-table Championship campaign and being sacked in March – but Neil knows that is the nature of his job.

“I think it’s always strange, it’s the first time I’ve ever had to go back somewhere that I’ve left, maybe not in the best of circumstances obviously,” the former Hamilton chief said after his Preston side earned a 1-1 draw.

“But everybody understands it for what it is, the bottom line if you’re a manager is if you don’t win as many games as your club expects you to win, then your position is under threat. I never had anything negative to say about that, it just is what it is.”

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The 36-year-old wasn’t the target of the boo boys – but didn’t think he would be either.

“I didn’t really expect stick to be honest, I had a good time here in the main,” Neil continued.

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“Obviously we had difficult spells as well, as you always do, however I enjoyed my time here, I worked as hard as I could to try and do good things for the club.

“And to be fair, the people down here are lovely and a lot of people appreciated that, so I’m really grateful of that.”

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The former Canaries boss was given a reminder of his time in Norfolk though, when the trickery of Wes Hoolahan saw Darnell Fisher give away an unnecessary free-kick, from which James Maddison curled home City’s brilliant goal.

“Obviously I’ve worked with Wes for quite a time and that’s what the wee man does, he’s got great feet, he sucks you in to try and get past you,” he added.

“Whether it was a foul or not I’m not quite sure, he’s got such quick feet that it’s quite difficult for the referees to tell.

“But from that point onwards that’s just a bit of individual quality which puts the ball in the top corner but I think collectively as a team we were great.”

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