Despite my quibbles with Rob Butler, it’s probably good that I don’t host Canary Call.
For one thing, it’s not as easy as it looks. You only appreciate the skills involved if you have a go at something similar yourself.
Secondly, though, I wouldn’t show the forbearance that Rob does with his callers. Undoubtedly he’s right – if I were doing his job, I’d probably put off most would-be callers. Not quite the idea for a phone-in, I know.
For fun, though, let’s just for a moment imagine we’ve locked Rob in a cupboard (from where we’ll hear occasional muffled shouts of “great point”, “great call”) and I’ve taken over the show. It might go something like this:
Caller: “I haven’t seen them for a few years, but I’ll tell you what the problem is…”
SL: “I don’t think so. Next”
Caller: “It’s obvious – we have to play two up front!”
SL: “And what else?”
Caller: “Two proper wingers, for a start. Wes should play in the middle with Maddison and a ball-winner”
SL: “And a back four with Trybull and Tettey in front of them?”
Caller: “Of course!”
SL: “I think that makes 14. Next”
Caller: “Where’s all the money gone? Why do they never tell us?”
SL: “Have you read the Accounts?”
Caller: “No, I don’t bother with that stuff”
SL: “Apparently not. Next”
Caller: “Jerome’s useless. Why don’t they play those young strikers, Aybrams and Fonkoo?”
SL: “Have you seen them play?”
Caller: “No. But they’d bring confidence – that’s what we need”
SL: “What do you think of Josh Murphy?”
Caller: “He’s always making mistakes. But me and my mates put him straight last week – we gave him a right rollicking”
SL: “I see. Next”
Caller: “Why do we let Delia keep taking money out of the club?”
SL: “Well – if you gave a bank a lot of your money 15 years ago and they now gave you back the same amount, never having given you any interest, what would you think?”
Caller: “I’d think they’d had a lot of money from me”
SL: “I agree. Next”
Caller: “Kyle Lafferty scored again in Scotland today – why did we never give him a proper chance?”
SL: [sigh] “Well, folks, I think that’s all we have time for today”
If you think I’m making up these callers’ points, I can promise you: either on Canary Call or in the stands, I’ve heard the gist of all these and more.
I am guilty, though, of being selective. Rob gets calls from fans who follow the team faithfully, sometimes travelling further than I do, and they make points they’re perfectly entitled to.
There’s one issue in particular that, as long as the opinions aren’t blatantly daft or factually wrong, seems to me a fair one for debate: the future direction and ownership of the club we love.
In a frightening number of cases, much-vaunted foreign investment has brought little but misery to clubs and their fans. From Birmingham to Forest, Blackburn to QPR and well beyond, fans have been let down dreadfully.
But then there’s Southampton and – fresh in our minds – Wolves. City’s financial position is in stark contrast to that of Wolves. If they don’t go up this season, they’ll probably spend a bunch more; if we don’t go up, we’ll have to sell one of our key assets.
It has to be said: even in that case, Steve Stone and Stuart Webber are genuinely convinced that our ownership model is viable and will allow them to give Daniel Farke a competitive squad on which to work his skills. They are fully committed to getting Norwich into the Premier League – which would fix the finances at a stroke – and firmly believe it can happen with our present set-up.
An injection of money, though, would clearly make it easier.
For what it’s worth, I’m glad our owners are picky about who they’d sell the club to. I want to feel proud of my club, both on and off the field, and there’s much about the current Norwich City that I cherish.
The change I’d personally like to see is a tweak rather than a U-turn. The directors repeated last week that they’re open to outside investment, but aren’t actively seeking it. While I support them not sending out a message of desperation, I wonder if the message could be a little more inviting.
There may or may not be an investor out there who’d meet our owners’ criteria (which I suspect are pretty close to mine). If there isn’t, I’m comfortable with our present model. If there is, though, I’d like us to sound a touch more proactive and welcoming.
This one is a fair and proper subject for debate. For the rest – it’s all yours, Rob.
You’re a better man than I am.