From Hamilton to Norwich to Preston North End - Alex Neil's journey as a manager

PNE boss Alex Neil with Norwich counterpart Daniel Farke
PNE boss Alex Neil with Norwich counterpart Daniel Farke

Alex Neil has managed three clubs in his career and two of them - Preston North End and Norwich City - meet at Deepdale tonight.

The Scotsman has been in post 19 months at North End, his appointment coming three-and-a-half months after parting company with the Canaries.

Alex Neil after winning thye Championship play-off final with Norwich in May 2015

Alex Neil after winning thye Championship play-off final with Norwich in May 2015

It was an eventful couple of years at Carrow Road for Neil, plucked from Scottish football at Hamilton Academical and thrown into the cut and thrust of the Championship.

Four months after taking over at Norwich, he led them into the Premier League via the play-off final at Wembley - they beat Middlesbrough the day after PNE had won 4-0 against Swindon in the League One final.

The East Anglia club lasted just the one season in the top flight and with a promotion straight back looking unlikely, Neil was sacked in March 2017.

Neil was a left field appointment by Norwich, something he is happy to admit.

Alex Neil in his time as Hamilton Academical player/manager

Alex Neil in his time as Hamilton Academical player/manager

"Norwich's approach was out of the blue, 100%," said Neil speaking at Springfields in the build-up to tonight's game.

"When I first spoke to David McNally who was Norwich's chief executive, I had to convince him.

"They had an interest in me first and foremost but it was an interest in that they were quite curious in how I would come in and go about it,

"By no means at that stage did I think it was my job.

"I had everything to prove and nothing to fall back on, apart from I had Hamilton a short while and had got up into the Scottish Premiership.

"When you come from that sort of level, you had to have the self belief.

"I had to have a self belief that I could take a group of players, most of who had played in the Premier League for most of their careers, take over in a season which wasn't going well and turn it around.

"Numerous managers have been given that task at other clubs and haven't managed to take them back up.

"It is very difficult to do, that achievement for myself and the Norwich players was momentous."

This evening's game at Deepdale is the fourth time Neil has faced Norwich since his departure.

Last season's meetings ended 1-1 and 0-0 respectively, with the Canaries beating North End 2-0 at Carrow Road in August.

Neil said: "I have nothing but gratitude for the opportunity they gave me, I was a complete unknown.

"There were some special moments there and obviously some not so special moments in the latter stages.

"The one thing which is guaranteed as a football manager is that at some stage you will leave.

"It will either be on an upward trajectory when you are going to a potentially bigger club or you leave on a downward trajectory because you haven't reached expectations."