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Sunday 25 February 2018

Alex Neil "looking likely" to stay at Norwich despite relegation

Alex Neil is set to stay with Norwich in the Championship
Alex Neil is set to stay with Norwich in the Championship

Alex Neil's future seems certain to be at Norwich.

The Canaries ended their season with a disappointing 3-0 defeat by Everton at Goodison Park four days after their relegation from the Barclays Premier League was sealed.

There has been speculation about whether Neil would stay on as manager but he confirmed that now "looks likely".

The 34-year-old said: " There's been brief discussions. I'll have more discussions tomorrow but it looks likely at the moment that I'll be here for next season."

Norwich did all they could to hang on in midweek by beating Watford 4-2 but Sunderland's 3-0 victory over Everton meant an immediate return to the Championship.

The Toffees had won only five Premier League games at Goodison Park all season, which contributed significantly to Roberto Martinez's sacking on Thursday.

But they always looked like making it six once James McCarthy scored the opener in the 19th minute. Leighton Baines added a second from the penalty spot just before half-time and three minutes after the break Kevin Mirallas tapped in the third.

Neil described the penalty, given for a foul by Robbie Brady on Romelu Lukaku, as "extremely soft" and felt there was no excuse for his players not to be fully motivated.

He said: "If they've got any sort of professional pride then it shouldn't be tough. Certainly for the 2,000 fans that have travelled up, the least they deserved was for every player to give their all.

"If everybody wants to call themselves a professional football player, the first part's the essential part - professional. I think regardless of what game you're playing, you should be up for it 100 per cent."

Under-21 boss David Unsworth took charge of Everton in partnership with former Toffees manager Joe Royle.

Unsworth, who won the FA Cup playing under Royle for Everton in 1995, described being given the opportunity as the proudest moment of his life.

It turned out to be a near perfect afternoon for the 42-year-old, who was thrilled goalkeeper Tim Howard could sign off his decade at Goodison Park with a victory and a clean sheet.

"I was delighted the team could put that performance in, delighted they got the win, I was even more delighted we got a clean sheet for Tim," said the former defender.

"If there was a script and I could have written it last night, it would have been exactly what's happened today. From minute one to the last minute I thought we were fantastic and I was a very proud man stood on the line today."

Unsworth put his faith in a number of his under-21 players, with Kieran Dowell and Tom Davies making their first starts and Jonjoe Kenny coming off the bench for his debut.

Unsworth said: "I thought the young lads were terrific. I thought Matty Pennington started the game really well, unfortunately had to come off with a hamstring and it was a case of 'no problem'. Jonjoe Kenny's been playing there all season.

"He's been under-21 captain, I had no hesitation putting him in and he was outstanding as well. Kieran Dowell showed flashes of genius, showed the quality he's been showing all season with the under-21s, and as for Tom Davies, I thought his performance was probably man of the match. For me he was everything we want in an Everton central midfielder."

Unsworth expects whoever the new manager is to utilise the young talent at his disposal.

He said: "That will be the skill of the manager: can he blend top established players with a new generation of unbelievable talent.

"It doesn't matter how old you are, if you watch that performance, you know that Kieran, Tom, Jonjoe and Matty are here to stay and basically you build a team around that."

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