Norwich City boss Alex Neil urges his Canaries to handle the pressure against Birmingham City
PUBLISHED: 07:30 27 August 2016 | UPDATED: 11:55 27 August 2016
©Focus Images Limited www.focus-images.co.uk +447814 482222
Alex Neil has first-hand knowledge of how difficult a task Norwich City face on Saturday at St Andrews.
Birmingham may have picked up just one point from two home Championship games, but the Blues were the only team to stop Neil’s side scoring on the road in a triumphant promotion march in 2014/15.
The Scot is also a fan of Birmingham boss Gary Rowett, who is getting the most out of limited resources in the West Midlands.
“He is a good manager and a lovely chap to speak to,” he said. “I think he has done a really good job there since he went in. He has stabilised the club and given any money he could push them on even more. They will be what they always are. They will be hard to beat, well-organised, and the lad Clayton Donaldson does a really good job for them at the top end of the pitch. He is a good, honest number nine who takes the ball in and gets them a goal when they need them. They will be hard opposition.
“I’m not surprised the home results have not quite been as good so far. They are more of a counter-attacking team and away from home it is much easier to set up that way. At home the onus is on you. We know their strengths but it is more about what we focus on, and I would like to think my good players are going to hurt them more.”
Neil knows the value of a positive result ahead of the first international shutdown of the new season.
“A win is crucial. If we do that, three wins and two draws is a really good start going forward,” he said. “It allows us to get the international break out of the way, re-focus and then crack on and pick up some more victories.
“It is a different type of pressure. In the Premier League you are trying to rise to the occasion as the underdog, whereas now we like to think we are favourites in a lot of games so you need to perform.”
Norwich’s squad depth will again be tested at St Andrews with the five senior absentees from last weekend’s derby draw at Ipswich joined by Ivo Pinto (hamstring). The up side, as demonstrated so emphatically in the EFL Cup cruise against Coventry City, is the chance to fast-track fresh talent, with Ben Godfrey’s thumping late strike sealing a cup rout over the Sky Blues to set up a trip to Premier League Everton.
Neil, however, is wary of exposing the likes of Godfrey too early in their development.
“I see him as either a centre back or a right back, that is where he is going to be best at, but at this stage it is just about playing,” he said. “We’ve played him mainly as a centre back but when you are blooding youngsters in the first team what you tend to find is the right back slot is not a bad place, just to get your bearings and then generally good ones bump themselves into becoming centre backs. Sergi (Canos) is another getting better each game. I do demand a lot of them and without doubt they grabbed their chance the other night. I thought the experienced lads were great. They gave us the platform for the young boys to go and do their stuff. I thought they cruised the game.”