Former Mansfield Town star Alex Neil leads Norwich City into the Premier League

Norwich City manager Alex Neil (right) acknowledges the fan. Nick Potts/PA Wire.
Norwich City manager Alex Neil (right) acknowledges the fan. Nick Potts/PA Wire.
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Former Mansfield Town star Alex Neil was the toast of Norfolk last night after he led Norwich City back to the promised land of the Premier League.

Two goals in three first half minutes saw the Canaries beat Middlesbrough 2-0 at Wembley to seal play-off final glory and a reported £130m prize.

Cameron Jeromeb beat Dimi Konstantopoulos from close range after 11 minutes to put City ahead, and three minutes later a neat passing move ended in Nathan Redmond rifling the ball across Konstantopoulos into the bottom corner.

It was a second successive promotion for the talented Neil after he led Hamilton Academicals to the Scottish Premiership last season.

The 33-year-old was approached to revive Norwich’s flagging promotion dream in January and took them on a superb run of 17 wins in 25 games to finish third and make the play-offs.

Now starts the biggest challenge of his career as he tries to keep the Canaries in the top flight.

2004 Stags  v Lincoln Alex Neil Later Manager of Norwich City

2004 Stags v Lincoln Alex Neil Later Manager of Norwich City

“I know how big the task is. It will be huge,” he said.

“We will be one of the smallest clubs in the league, but a lot of clubs that size manage to go up and do well at a high level.

“We can give a good account of ourselves, do well and make sure we compete.

“I will need to learn fast, I’m fully aware of that. I think my biggest challenge is going to be managing expectations.

“I have had back-to-back promotions so I think people will expect us to do really well in the Premier League, but that is extremely difficult.”

Former Barnsley man Neil had one season with Mansfield back in 2004/05, but the central midfielder made quite an impact, playing 42 games, scoring twice, and ending up with Player of the Year trophies from Chad Readers, the Stags Supporters’ Association and fanzine Follow the Yellow Brick Road.

However, Carlton Palmer came in as the new Mansfield manager and surprised fans and player alike as he initially told Neil he wasn’t in his plans.

A change of mind by Palmer failed to stop Neil then heading home to Scotland where he spent the next 10 years at Hamilton as player, player/manager and then manager, and his star has continued to rise ever since.