City chairman Roger Munby has suggested that Delia's Norfolk guard might be slipping as the Canaries urgently scour the land for new investors following yesterday's shock resignation of Andrew and Sharon Turner.
The Central Trust pair had 'local' on their side; that was always one of the biggest cards in their hand – that and their place on the Sunday Times Rich List.
The 'Taverham Two' have, however, decided not to pursue their long-held ambition of running the Carrow Road club in succession to Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones; their exit not only eaves a ?1.5 million shortfall in the club's budgeted income for this season, but also leaves at least two empty chairs around the boardroom table.
Munby yesterday confirmed that conversations were 'active'; interestingly, the rules of the game appeared to be changing – that being local and well-versed in the Norfolk way of thinking was not a bar to entry. Not when needs really must.
It was one of the charges that, privately, the couple would lay at Peter Cullum's door – that he would be an 'absentee landlord'; managing Norwich remotely from his Kent fastness; appointing some anonymous Towergate suits to run the club in much the same way that Ipswich Town's new owner Marcus Evans has his men on the board. He himself, however, is notable more by his absence than his regular interaction with the local community.
“For the right person, with the right intentions and the right personal ambitions – and the right amount of money – those seats are there; still warm and available,” said Munby, as he faced the Press to explain the club's 'What next…' strategy now that the Turners 14-month flirtation with the Canaries had come to an end.
It leaves the succession question hanging horribly in the air; it also leaves a ?1.5 million hole in the club's 2008-2009 finances.
Both issues could be addressed by one, single takeover swoop; or – more problematically – two or three new investors arriving with cash in hand.
As ever, however, that then raises huge issues regarding control; is anyone, realistically, going to pump the required sums into a Championship football club without enjoying the leverage on power that the Smiths current, 61.2% majority shareholding allows them.
And as soon as anyone demands a 30% or greater stake in the club, so under the laws of the land (City Code Rule 9 of this summer's Cullum fame) that demands a full takeover – and an offer to buy every share in the football club.
Two people arrive cheque in hand, are they willing to share power with a 50-50 split? No. In every reality, football clubs are the kind of toys that you don't like to share with others – not given the kind of money it costs to play with them in the first place. Besides, you suspect that the likes of a Cullum did not amass his estimated ?1.7 billion fortune by sharing his toys with anyone. That's not what the 'King Of Deals' does. Share. He wins.
The extraordinary events at Eastlands over the last 72 hours have proved that, globally, interest in te Premiership has never been greater; one tier down and the prospect of getting a slice of that action by buying a Championship club on the relative cheap – particularly one that comes with a full season ticket base and brand 'Delia' attached – will be of interest to big players in that corporate, City jungle.
“There is a huge difference between the almost guaranteed income that a huge Premiership club can command [and where we are],” said Munby, as Manchester overnight become one of, if not, the richest club in the world thanks to their new friends in the Middle East.
“But it does demonstrate that as investment potential moves its way down to the lower end of the Premiership and into the Championship that, yes, the market is ripe for attracting new investors.”
The interesting point was one of geography, do they have to have the kind of local ties that helped secure the Turners their original invite to the boardroom table?
No, was Munby's answer. The implication being that whilst the club might now relax their thinking on investment from outside the Norfolk fold, they were still determined to try and find someone who 'got' what the Canaries were all about.
“Not necessarily do they have to live here,” he said. “But I think they do necessarily have to understand, appreciate and subscribe to the 'Norfolk-ness' of this particular football club – it's origins, what sustains it and it's community reach today.
“Everything from Football In The Community to the ranks of well-meaning and hard-working volunteers who work their way through Canaries In The Community and lots of other programmes that makes sure that this thing happens,” said Munby, community-based initiatives that will, no doubt, be springing up all through Milton Keynes upon Andrew Cullen's arrival there later this autumn.
That's what's under threat – not only from the exit of the club's award-winning Sales & Marketing chief to a blank canvas and a clean slate at MK Dons, but also from any impending arrival of some corporate suits for whom FITC etc might be an unnecessary expense that detracts from their idea of a bottom line.
“An understanding – and a clear subscription – to those sort of ideas is important,” he said.
Finding that certain someone with both the kind of cash and kind of 'community soul' to preserve Delia's legacy and allow them to return to their season ticket seats in the City Stand with consciences clear is a challenge and a half. Particularly now the 'Taverham Two' have disappeared.
One timetable was, however, clear. The need to re-arm City boss Glenn Roeder cash-wise ahead of the January transfer window re-opening. Right now and he was ?1.5 million short.
“It has affected what Glenn's further plans might have been,” said Munby. “But we've worked closely together and he is totally supportive of the way that the football club is having to manage with the immediate hole in its resources.”