Alexander Francis Neil, a Scottish professional football manager, and former midfielder was born on June 9, 1981. He is now the manager of Stoke City in the EFL Championship.
Before transferring to Barnsley, Neil started his professional career in 2000 at Airdrieonians, where he spent half a season in the Scottish Football League First Division. During his four years with Barnsley, he played in 142 games across all leagues. He later signed for Mansfield Town on a free transfer. He spent a season at Mansfield before joining Hamilton Academical, where he played in 246 games for a decade and earned a promotion to the Scottish Premier League in 2008.
In 2013, he was appointed player-manager of Hamilton, and in 2014, he led the team to promotion to the Scottish Premiership. He became the second-youngest manager in the Football League at the time when he was named manager of Norwich City in January 2015. The 2015 Football League Championship play-off Final was won by Neil, who then led Norwich to promotion to the Premier League.
The next year, Norwich was relegated, and in March 2017, Neil was sacked. On July 4, 2017, he was named Preston North End’s manager. He guided the group to seventh place in the 2017–18 Championship. Neil was appointed manager of Sunderland on February 11, 2022. They won the play-off final 2-0 and were promoted from League One to the Championship. Later that year, he moved away to manage Stoke City.
Read this article to know the in-depth details of his playing and managerial career.
Neil began his professional career at Dunfermline Athletic before joining Airdrieonians on a free transfer in the summer of 1999. Neil was born in Airdrie, North Lanarkshire. On January 3, 2000, in a 0-2 loss to Falkirk at home, he made his professional debut in the Scottish Football League First Division after replacing Steve McCormick in the 64th minute. In a 3-1 loss against St Mirren five days later, he scored in the eighth minute of his maiden start. His debut season ended with five goals from 16 appearances, four of which came in a row in April, including two in a 3-0 home victory over Greenock Morton in the eighth.
Neil’s recommendation to Barnsley during his first professional season came from his next-door neighbour Peter Hetherston, a close friend of the club’s manager Dave Bassett. On August 26, 2000, he made his Football League First Division debut for the Tykes, taking Lee Jones’ place for the final ten minutes of a 4-1 home victory over West Bromwich Albion. In his first year at Oakwell, he made 32 league games and was dismissed on April 28, 2001, after a 0-1 loss to Bolton Wanderers at home.
Neil shifted to Mansfield Town on a free transfer on July 20, 2004. He played for them in 41 games in League Two that year, and on November 23, in the first round of the FA Cup, he scored his first goal as a consolation in a 4-1 loss to Colchester United at Layer Road. On March 5, 2005, at Field Mill, he scored the Stags’ lone league goal to help them draw 1-1 with Shrewsbury Town.
After being informed by Mansfield manager Carlton Palmer on May 28 that he was no longer needed, Neil returned to the Scottish First Division on June 1 by signing a two-year contract with Hamilton Academical. He made his Accies debut on August 13 during their 0-1 loss to St. Johnstone to open the season. He headed in Brian Carrigan’s cross just before halftime to provide his new team with the sole goal against Ross County in the second round of the Scottish Challenge Cup seventeen days later. He scored his first league goal for them on October 22 during a 3-0 home victory over Brechin City in the first minute of the second half. Neil played in the whole 2005 Scottish Challenge Cup Final, which took place on November 6 at the Excelsior Stadium in Airdrie and ended in a 2-1 loss to St Mirren. With Neil’s penalty kick in the fourth-round rematch at Alloa Athletic, the Accies advanced to the quarterfinals of the Scottish Cup 3-0.
Neil, who had previously assisted in coaching the club’s minor teams, was appointed player-manager temporarily after manager Billy Reid left Hamilton in April 2013. On May 24, 2013, at the age of 31, he was appointed manager on a permanent basis. In his first full season, Neil guided the team to promotion back to the top division by winning the play-off round in May 2014. He received help from Frankie McAvoy. The 2014–15 Scottish Premiership was then off to a successful start for Hamilton, who defeated Celtic away for the first time in 76 years.
Hamilton gave Neil the go-ahead in January 2015 to contact Norwich City over their open management position. He was officially named their new manager on January 9 at the age of 33, making him the second-youngest manager in the Football League behind Mansfield’s Adam Murray. He led his club to a 2-1 victory at Championship leaders AFC Bournemouth in his debut game the next day. In the 2014–15 season, Norwich has 17 victories from 25 games played under Neil. They qualified for the playoffs after being third in the Championship and defeated Ipswich Town, their adversary in the East Anglian rivalry, 4-2 on aggregate over two games.
Preston North End
On July 4, 2017, Neil was chosen to replace Simon Grayson as manager of the Championship team Preston North End. Grayson had left the organization to become the new manager of Sunderland. By mutual agreement, Neil left Preston North End on March 21, 2021, when the team was 16th in the Championship standings.
On a rolling 12-month deal, Neil was hired as Sunderland’s new manager on February 11, 2022. After a four-year absence, Neil led Sunderland to promotion back to the Championship on May 21, 2022, after they defeated Wycombe Wanderers 2-0 at Wembley in the 2022 EFL League One Play-off Final in front of nearly 50,000 Sunderland supporters.
After Michael O’Neill was dismissed as manager of Stoke City on August 28, 2022, Neil was named the team’s new manager.