“Norwich City can confirm manager Alex Neil’s contract has been terminated with immediate effect,” a club statement read.
“The board has taken the tough but unanimous decision, believing it is in the best interests of the club for a new manager to be in place through a crucial summer transfer window and into next season.”
Norwich looked poised to at least qualify for the league’s promotion playoff several weeks back, but the Canaries have since gone winless in six of its last seven matches in the Championship. The club’s last win came nearly a month ago when Norwich knocked off Nottingham Forest, 5-1, at Carrow Road.
Neil, 35, had managed Norwich since 2015, winning 45 matches in charge of the club. Norwich assistant Alan Irvine will take over the club’s managerial duties in Neil’s absence, with Irvine’s last head coaching position coming in 2014 with West Bromwich Albion.
Irvine lasted under six months with the Baggies after winning five of his opening 22 matches at The Hawthorns.
The Canaries currently sit nine points behind sixth place Sheffield Wednesday, who holds the final spot for this season’s promotion playoff.
Promotion and relegation have unfortunately been a way of life around Norwich City, and we’re not just talking about the Premier League.
Since 2003-04, the Canaries have not spent more than four seasons at the same level. They’ve been relegated to the Championship thrice, to League One once, and promoted four times between the three flights.
Norwich went down after one year in the Premier League on Wednesday despite beating Watford 4-2 at Carrow Road, and they even spent more in January in an attempt to avoid the drop.
Norwich rose 14th on Jan. 2 with a home win over Southampton, as the Canaries were seemingly figuring out life in the Premier League. They lost every game for the rest of the January transfer window, three by blowout and one a 5-4 decision versus Liverpool. By the first week of February they were back in the drop zone, and didn’t rise any higher than 17 the rest of the way.
So what now? Well, who’s staying? Is Neil going to get the chance to lift the Canaries back into the top flight? He managed them for a half season, with 17 wins from 25 matches to rise into the Premier League. Then, this season.
Will Brady stay? There will be interest from around the Premier League, and Nathan Redmond could fetch a premium as an England U-21 star who has shown he can do a job in the top flight. Klose could fetch a pretty penny as a 6-foot-4 28-year-old center back, and what’s left beyond that?
Norwich’s directors face some key decisions this summer, and it’s going to be a battle for the Canaries to stay in the hunt for a Championship playoff spot with Newcastle and Aston Villa retooling to join ambitious Cardiff City, QPR and whoever remains from the playoff of Derby County, Hull City, Brighton, and Sheffield Wednesday. Fulham is going to reload, too.
Back in Premier League after a year in the Championship, the Canaries from Carrow Road showed last season they belong in England’s top flight. A scintillating finish to the regular season and rampant run through the playoffs proved just that, earning the East Anglian club their deserved place back among England’s elite.
The last time the Canaries were in the Premier League, the managerial duo of Chris Houghton and Neil Adams led the club to an 18th place finish.
Best possible XI:
— Ruddy —
— Whittaker — Martin — Bassong — Olsson —
— Redmond — Howson — Mulumbu — Johnson —
— Hoolahan —
— Jerome —
Transfers In: Robbie Brady ($11 million, Hull City), Graham Dorrans ($4.5 million, West Bromwich Albion), Youssouf Mulumbu (Free, West Bromwich Albion), Andre Wisdom (Loan, Liverpool)
Transfers Out: Luciano Becchio (Free), Javier Garrido (Free), Carlos Cuellar (Free), Mark Bunn (Free), Sam Kelly (Free)
Last season: Finished third in the Championship regular season, earned promotion to the Premier League through the promotion playoffs — After starting the 2014-15 season strong (top of the league on October 4), the Canaries faltered over their next 15 games and looked destined to miss out on the playoffs altogether, then they changed managers in January and went on to win 13 of their final 18 games, just missing out on automatic promotion by three points. Cameron Jerome, who was signed for just over $2 million before the start of the season, bagged 20 league goals to led the way, while Bradley Johnson (15), Gary Hooper (12) and Lewis Grabban (12) all reached double digits, as well.
Star player: Nathan Redmond — The 21-year-old contributed six goals and 13 assists in league play last season, which are numbers he’ll have to somehow replicate in the Premier League this season to continue to English national team-bound career trajectory. While the likes of Johnson, Howson, Jerome, Hooper and Wes Hoolahan (more than 250 appearances for the club) are all undoubtedly important to the Canaries’ hopes of staying up this season, Redmond is the one transcendent type of game-changing player within the squad.
Coach’s corner: Alex Neil took took over at Carrow Road on Jan. 9, days after Neil Adams was fired. Neil, who is just 34, led the Canaries to wins in 15 of their final 22 league games. Following the conclusion of his playing career at age 31, Neil managed his final playing club, Hamilton Academical, for two seasons and won the club promotion to Scotland’s top flight in his first full season in charge.
PST predicts: Considering the Canaries went down for just a season, the current roster is still largely a Premier League-quality squad from two seasons ago — only Leroy Fer, Robert Snodgrass and Anthony Pilkington were players of consequence to leave after the 2013-14 season. Neil still needs to do a bit more business to further strengthen the squad before the Sept. 1 transfer deadline, but it’s been a summer of smart signings thus far. The one thing lacking from the Norwich squad as it currently stands: a proven Premier League goalscorer — Jerome and Hooper have scored just 36 PL goals combined.
After the clubs exchanged cross bar strikes from City’s Bradley Johnson and Boro’s Jelle Vosson, Norwich got on the board.
Jerome victimized Daniel Ayala and then dribbled toward ‘Boro keeper Dimitrios Konstantopoulos at a tight angle before firing between the legs to make it 1-0 Canaries in the 12th minute.
And it was 2-0 within minutes, as the 15th saw Nathan Redmond bury a low, right-footed shot into the side netting.
Middlesbrough, of course, opened the second half with a desperate attacking idea that lasted the duration. That provided the opportunity for dangerous Norwich counters, but the Canaries took a while to find those chances as ‘Boro worked to narrow the deficit.
In the end, though, there was a class difference between the Canaries and ‘Boro. Norwich rarely seemed troubled by their promotion foes, and Alex Neil’s side are going up.