Trip to Wembley to Ease Norwich Nerves
18 May 2015, 07:15
Norwich manager Alex Neil has never been to Wembley, but hopes a midweek trip to the national stadium will help ease any match-day nerves around his squad when they tackle Middlesbrough for a place in the Barclays Premier League on Bank Holiday Monday.
The Canaries beat local rivals Ipswich, who had a man sent off, 3-1 at Carrow Road on Sunday in the second leg of the Sky Bet Championship play-off semi-final to keep the Norfolk club on course for a swift return to the top flight.
Like Scotsman Neil, who took over in January, many of the Norwich first team have not been through the whole Wembley experience, one which on May 25 will bring a £120million promotion jackpot to the winner.
With so much at stake, Neil intends to be meticulous in his preparations, which will factor in getting the players familiar with the change of working environment.
"I think the fact there will be down time this week, taking them away for a couple of days and getting their minds on other things will be important,'' said Neil.
"We will go to London, walk round Wembley, familiarise ourselves with the surroundings. I am not sure how many have played before - maybe one or two, but it is special.
"It will be special for them and for me, but only if you win.''
Norwich captain Russell Martin played for Scotland against England at Wembley in August 2013, and believes the trip can only help sharpen focus come kick off.
"The lads will see around there the first time and check out the dressing-room and get a feel for the place, so they are going to be accustomed to it,'' the defender said.
"Then when you are there for the game, they will be no being a tourist about it, it will be about being focused and getting the job done.''
Neil has presided over a remarkable run of 16 wins from his 24 games in charge since moving down from Hamilton.
Presiding over another successful promotion campaign as he had done north of the border would be some achievement for the 33-year-old, who jetted back to Scotland after the semi-final first leg to attending coaching courses.
To do that, however, Neil must guide his team past Boro, who completed a 1-0 smash-and-grab raid at Carrow Road in April which arguably cost Norwich the chance of automatic promotion.
Boro boss Aitor Karanka worked under Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid, and Neil accepts Norwich will have to out-think as well as out-play their promotion rivals.
"His teams are extremely well organised, knows what he is doing, they fight for each other and they are a good side. It is a challenge for me, but for the players as well,'' Neil said.
Asked whether he would be planning to call someone like Mourinho for advice, Neil added: "I will probably just give my Mum a phone. Tactically I am pretty clear on what I want to do, and it seems to be working so far.
"We have analysis guys who I spent a lot of time with, and they are fantastic.
"They will go into real detail about how Middlesbrough will function, what their processes of play are, and how we can stop that and capitalise on their weaknesses.
"Ultimately, though, you can do as much of that as you want, but the players have to perform as well.''