When the cancer that would kill him was diagnosed, Sir Jack Walker decided to give a rare interview so that supporters of the football club he had financed lavishly would not worry.
He told the Lancashire Evening Post that he had set up a family trust. The task of the trust after his death would be to nurture all his businesses, including Blackburn Rovers.
His plan was that the club should become self-financing – or, in the jargon of businessmen, it should “wash its face”. Instead, the family trust washed their hands of Blackburn Rovers.
In November 2010, they flogged Rovers to the Venkateshwara Hatcheries Group — Venkys for short — an Indian pharmaceuticals and poultry conglomerate.
Before anyone could warn Rovers fans not to count their chickens, they’d been stuffed. Venkys quickly became the most derided of the many loathed foreign owners of English football clubs.
Of course there are clubs who have tasted success under foreign control — the two with whom Norwich were promoted in May 2015 for a start: Bournemouth and Watford.
But how do you determine you are selling to a Gino Pozzo (Watford) and not someone more akin to Massimo Cellino at Leeds? Or a Vincent Tan of Cardiff?
And what will happen at Bournemouth now that Russian businessman Maxim Demin has decided his pockets are not deep enough for the Premier League and has sold a wodge of his shares to an American private equity fund?
These are among the considerations that Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones have talked about to each other and to trusted friends and experts for the decade or so that they have been worrying what to do with Norwich City.
Yet if you read Henry Winter’s feature in The Times on Bonfire Day, you would believe they had not fretted at all.
Many newspapers were chasing Delia and Michael to “do a piece” to mark the 20th anniversary of their becoming City’s majority shareholders. The hack pack would not be put off the scent until they talked to someone, and Henry is a lovely guy, so …
But by publishing long transcriptions of their conversation, without seeking context or offering explanations, Henry created some misleading impressions. The most damaging was that Delia and Michael are glib about not countenancing selling the club to anyone from abroad and are cavalier about deciding instead to hand control to their nephew, Tom.
The truth is that for at least half the time they have owned Norwich shares they have tried to devise a succession plan.
At one time they were ready make way for another husband and wife team. Andrew and Sharon Turner are, like them, fans and relatively wealthy. But after a year on the Carrow Road board, the Turners walked away.
At another stage, Delia and Michael employed the well-connected deal-broker Keith Harris to try to find one or more people willing to “invest” in the club.
They watched, too, as their friend Steve Morgan ploughed cash into Wolverhampton Wanderers. Morgan bought Wolves from Sir Jack Hayward, who had tired of the club’s profligacy with his money, famously complaining: “I’m the golden tit.”
Morgan oversaw an expensive revamp of Molineux but none of his managers could get the football right for long enough and Morgan reported to Delia that he’d had fans screaming abuse in his face. Last July Morgan sold to Fosun International, a Chinese business group.
Aston Villa and Birmingham are now also owned by Chinese “investors”. There must be a joke about the Midlands and Chinese takeaways, but nobody knows how this latest round of acquisitions is a laughing matter — or, indeed, how the Chinese will react if they reach the Premier League and learn how little impact anything short of billions can achieve.
So, last season, as they both reached 75 and that 20th anniversary came into view, Michael and Delia decided that they could no longer wait to see if the perfect “investor” would materialise. Nor could they spend time and resources running checks on all the Chinese businesses said to be eyeing English football.
They pushed ahead with another idea that had been germinating for some time: to ask their nephew Tom whether he would be prepared to take on the task of “looking after” the club they care about.
That was not about nepotism. If it had been, they could have sold the club for, say, £40 million to any Tan, Wang or Wei and given Tom the money. Delia and Michael understand that what they are actually bestowing on Tom can be crushing burden of stress and angst. But they trust him.
And so do I.
I am not, whatever Rob Butler says on Radio Norfolk, bless him, a spokesman for the board of Norwich City. This piece has not been requested or placed.
But it is a defence of a man I like and admire: a shrewd young man who has held demanding jobs that require structured decision-making and has now set about learning as much as is possible about the business of football and, in particular, the business of Norwich City.
When the time comes for him to have the final say on what happens, I am certain he will always put Norwich City’s best long-term interests first. I don’t know — and I suspect he doesn’t either — what that will mean precisely.
But when Norwich won so handsomely on the season’s opening day at Ewood Park, and I saw Blackburn message boards clogged full of “Venkys out” despair, I thought to myself: “Thank goodness Delia and Michael took neither the easy way out nor the money.”