We all trot out the figures so glibly, don't we? Frank Lampard's new deal pays him ?6.7 million a year. Dimitar Berbatov cost ?30.75 million. Manchester City's new owners might spend a billion.
The sums are so huge that they are beyond comprehension. So we don't really think about them at all.
When Neil Doncaster disclosed that Delia Smith and Michael Wynn-Jones have put another ?2 million of their own money into Norwich City, I suspect very few fans considered what that really means.
It's time to do so.
If Delia and Michael had invested that ?2 million in a bog-standard high street bank or building society at seven per cent, the money would have earned them ?289,800 in interest in two years.
So you begin to get an idea how much it has really cost them to lend the club money repeatedly over the last dozen years.
You have to factor in, as well, how much they could have earned if they'd not spent so much time and effort working at and for the club. It was at the absolute zenith of Delia's earning potential that she stopped writing and filming to concentrate on changing the fabric, ethos and finances of the football club.
The third and final book in her “How to Cook” series came out in 2001, just as the burgeoning TV channels were developing their hunger for lifestyle programmes. She was bombarded with offers, but decided she needed to concentrate on the football club.
Incidentally, that was also when David Sheepshanks started paying himself a salary as Ipswich chairman. It was ?388,000 that year. In contrast, despite helping Carrow Road cash in on her “brand”, neither Delia nor her husband has ever taken a penny from the Norfolk club.
Nobody has ever given a bigger proportion of their savings, yet still, after all this time and all that money, there are deluded ingrates among the fans who are suspicious about the motives of Delia and Michael – or think they could have done or given more.
For the most part, Delia and Michael shrug off the misinformed and spiteful tosh talked about them in pubs and on message boards. They refuse to let the vicious falsehoods wound them or deflect their determination to do the right thing for the club and its supporters.
But those of us who are lucky enough and proud to think of Smith and Jones as our friends are hurt to our core by some of the unthinking nonsense ? and perturbed that the local papers are so loathe to give the existing regime any credit yet are so uncritical of Peter Cullum.
For instance, why have the Norwich papers still not asked Cullum the simple questions that need straight answers?
Would he have demanded his initial ?5 million back if Norwich had been relegated? If so, then City would have been plunged into administration.
Second question: if his ?20 million had all been spent on acquiring players (let's just play along with his propaganda for the moment, like the local papers…) how would he have financed their salaries? I'd estimate that a ?20 million team would cost between ?10 million and ?15 million a year in wages.
Too many people ignore wages in calculations about how much a club has spent. For instance, City's many loan deals this summer will add significantly to the wage bill. I understand that Ryan Bertrand is costing about ?1 million more than he did last season, for example.
Anyway, back to Cullum, and back to the game of pretending that his ?20 million could be spent on players.
Since footballers grow old and their value depreciates, how much was he prepared to spend on the next set of reinforcements that would be needed?
You see, once you do stop to consider the figures, instead of talking blithely about all those millions, the less Cullum's alleged offer stacks up.
But we can see now how the Cullum storm blew up in the summer. Delia, Michael and the board had rejected his overtures the previous October. (For a clue about why, see Question One above…) Then, at the Norfolk show, when Delia helped launch the new kit, she was asked about the need for outside investment.
She knew by then that she and Michael were stumping up ?2 million and expected the same amount from Andrew and Sharon Turner. So she said, on camera, that City were all right, thank you. She added that she couldn't give details because it would alert other clubs and push up the price of players we might want to buy.
The EDP thought she was talking about a new investor, phoned Cullum to see if it was him and he recounted a selective version of events of more than six months earlier.
As Norwich began to make their summer signings, Glenn Roeder talked about significant backing from the board.
At that point, I emailed “The Man in the Stand”, highlighted Roeder's comment and explained that it meant Delia, Michael, Sharon and Andrew were putting in money. Again the Norwich papers appeared, to me, content to ignore information that showed the current regime in a favourable light. Instead “The Man” wrote another pro-Cullum column last month.
I make no pretence at being neutral in all this. I support Smith and Jones.
So, maybe, it's me. But isn't it about time the local newspapers admitted, explained or stopped their anti-Smith and Jones bias?
Here is a story about Norwich and money which has a happy ending.
I chair the Football Foundation's community fund assessment panel and we recently had an application from City for money for their Ability Counts scheme. I declared an interest, but the panel unanimously endorsed the recommendation of the Foundation's regional manager to help fund the scheme.
The regional manager, Radha Balani, enthused about it. She said: “I was knocked out by Darren Lovell, who heads the disability programme and the whole Norwich community scheme is a model for the rest of the country.”
Time and time again I hear praise like that. City's commitment to the people of Norwich and Norfolk makes me proud of my club.
NOT everything is perfect. The pedant in me winced at an e-mail about the latest range of babywear. There is a romper suit with the slogan: “daddies little Canaries fan”. A kid wearing that will be showing his or her daddy's little grammatical howlers.
The pilgrimage to the collection of sheds on the edge of Plymouth that is Home Park takes on special significance again.
In September 2006, City played pretty well for 15 minutes. Then a centre hit the Doc's shin and shanked into the Norwich goal. Confidence ebbed away like the tide and City were lucky to escape with a 3-1 drubbing.
The Dennis family was there, with friends who live in Cornwall but grew up in Norwich and support City. We went for a Chinese meal after the match at a restaurant with a spectacular view of the Hoe. As the house white went down, I tried to be philosophical about the trip. My second son snorted: “It's a (expletive deleted) long way to come for a Chow Mein and to see City play like that.”
Unbeknown to us, Delia and Michael had talked to fans outside the ground and, sharing their pain, issued what amounted to an ultimatum to Nigel Worthington. The manager's reign ended at the next game.
By the time last season's Home Park odyssey arrived, Peter Grant had come and gone. In my view, Glenn Roeder conceded the Plymouth game by selecting a team full of players he wanted to be rid of.
The 3-0 defeat was a price worth paying for demonstrating to the board that Julien Brellier, Simon Lappin, David Strihavka, Michael Spillane, Ian Murray, Chris Brown and Chris Martin needed replacing.
This season, Home Park should see the debut of Antoine Sibierski. I normally try to avoid clich?s like the plague (ho, ho) but the shaven-headed Frenchman is, I have to admit, the last piece in the jig-saw puzzle. We'll see the picture Roeder wants to create, with a big chap to give focal point to all that lovely passing.
Sibierski is a very decent footballer and more than good enough to make an impact in our division. So I'd like to correct a mistake I made in an earlier column on this site.
I said we would not know City's prospects for the season until Christmas. I was wrong. We'll know on 13 September at Home Park.
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