Two goals to the good after only 15 minutes of the Play-Off Final; it’s fair to say Norwich City enjoyed a dream start in what is billed as the most valuable game in world football.And manager Alex Neil believes his players rose to the occasion in the Sky Bet Championship showpiece after gaining the initiative from the start.
Cameron Jerome coolly scored the Canaries’ opener after dispossessing Middlesbrough’s Daniel Ayala, before Nathan Redmond fired home after receiving an incisive in-field pass from Steven Whittaker.
Much has been made of the strength and depth of Norwich’s squad and Neil, who will now become the youngest and only Scottish manager in the Premier League, believes his stars were on form at Wembley.
He said: “I feel the squad we’ve got - which I get reminded of on a regular basis - is as strong as anyone’s, certainly in these types of games when it’s a one-game.
"I’ve got a lot of players that have played in big matches and I thought the big players rose to the occasion and made a different for us, and ultimately got us to our goal.
“We know how important the first goal is, and I think my line-up showed that. We wanted to start on the front foot and go really offensive and we managed to get that first goal.
“We backed that up with a second and from then on I was confident we were going to see the game out.”
Neil arrived at Carrow Road from Hamilton Academical in early January when Norwich were seventh, three points adrift of Brentford in sixth. But, 17 wins from his 25 games in charge to date, and the Canaries are Premier League once more after Play-Off glory.
The Wembley triumph comes 12 months after Neil guided the Accies to the Scottish Premiership via the Play-Offs but, rather than bask in his back-to-back successes, the 33-year-old is fully focused on the future - the top-flight task he has at Carrow Road.
“I don’t really look back or get overawed,” Neil added.
“A lot of people have made a lot out of the past year - people keep telling me I was at Arbroath in front of 700 fans at the start of this season.
“It doesn’t concern me, though. The one thing I’ve got is set goals. Whether that’s getting promoted with Hamilton or getting promoted with Norwich - I am really determined to achieve those goals.
“I’m not silly. I know how big the task is [in the Premier League]. It’s going to be a huge task for us.
“The gulf between the Championship and the Premier League is vast. I think you can see that from the teams that came back down.
“However, there’s teams that manage to go up and do well so I’m hopeful that with the squad I’ve got - and hopefully we can add a few - that we’ll give a good account of ourselves.”
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