‘He deserves the best reception he can get’ – City skipper hopes old boss is welcomed back in style

Ivo Pinto takes instructions from Alex Neil last season, during his time in charge of Norwich City.

Ivo Pinto takes instructions from Alex Neil last season, during his time in charge of Norwich City. Neil returns to Carrow Road with his current side Preston North End on Saturday. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Former Norwich City manager Alex Neil deserves the best reception possible, when he returns to Carrow Road with his current club Preston on Saturday.

The Scot will make his first appearance at City since being sacked last spring, where more than two years at the club included Premier League football and a stunning Wembley promotion.

Despite City’s own stuttering season Pinto – signed by Neil during his time at Carrow Road – hopes and expects the former City boss’ achievements to be recognised by the fans that once chanted his name.

“I think I’m old fashioned in football,” smiled Pinto. “He gave everything to Norwich City. He took the club to the Premier League. So he deserves the best reception that he can get.

“People sometimes forget what you did because you have a bad run. He deserves the best, but only until the beginning of the match. After that, even if I have to tackle him I will tackle him!”

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It won’t only be Neil returning to City, of course. Frankie McAvoy and Dean Kiely are now both part of the coaching set-up at Deepdale, having joined Neil from Norwich.

“They are all very welcome to Carrow Road,” added Pinto. “They had a beautiful story at Norwich City. But as I said, after the beginning of the match it’s over and we want three points.”

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The City defender admitted his nose is “still a bit sore but getting better” after it was broken in the home defeat to Championship leaders Wolves on Halloween night.

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A quick and successful operation during the international break has left the full-back wearing a white protective face mask – something Pinto expects to need for another three weeks.

The look encouraged one Nottingham Forest fan in midweek to nickname Pinto after iconic Phantom of the Opera star, Michael Crawford.

That was about the peak of Tuesday night’s humour however, following a City Ground defeat that expected Norwich’s winless league run to five league matches – but it will take more than that to shake Pinto’s belief in the methods of head coach Daniel Farke.

“When we look back to after the Millwall game, things were going brilliantly,” he added. “Even with us not scoring lots of goals, we were playing well and we were having control of the games. We had a brilliant run.

“When the moment is not the best we can always speak about everything, but we just need to stick together and stick with Daniel’s ideas because we have already proved with his ideas, we can play good and win games, we can keep clean sheets that last season was so hard to do.

“I just think we need to stick with it. We have to keep working hard. It’s never easy and when you have six games without a win (in all competitions) it makes it even harder – but you can’t stop believing.

“We are the ones that at the first stage we have to believe, and I think we have everything to turn things around.”

• For the latest Norwich City news and opinion follow Michael Bailey on the following channels…

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