When he was sacked by Norwich City in March 2017, Alex Neil discovered that managerial reputations can be tarnished even more rapidly than they are made.
Neil is still just 38 – a year younger than Rangers manager Steven Gerrard, who is still occasionally referred to as a ‘rookie boss’ – and is now firmly rebuilding his status as one of the best young coaching talents in Britain. His Preston North End side are currently second in the English Championship, enjoying the kind of form which suggests this grand old club could return to the top flight after an absence of almost 60 years.
It would be another feather in the cap of Neil who led Hamilton Accies into the Scottish Premiership in 2014, memorably even topping the table at one stage after a victory at Celtic Park, before claiming another promotion with Norwich in the play-off final at Wembley the following year.
Neil would also provide a boost to the overall standing of Scottish managers in English football where, not so long ago, Premier League dug-outs consistently featured those from north of the border. Of the current 91 clubs in England’s top four divisions, only nine are managed by Scots. Aside from Neil, the others are all in League One and League Two. It’s all a far cry from the halcyon days of as recently as 2011 when Sir Alex Ferguson was joined by no fewer than six compatriots in the top flight alone.