Canary chairman Roger Munby today all but opened the door to any potential foreign investor riding to City's financial rescue – provided they took a leaf out of Randy Lerner's rule book at Aston Villa and not out of Mike Ashley's scrap-book at Newcastle.
Much has long been made of the desire of Norwich's principal shareholders Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones to sell to a 'local'. Someone who 'got' all things Norfolk and Norwich in the same way that the son of the one-time rector of Harleston did.
That one of their most treasured Norwich City possessions was the club's unique sense of community; of family. Something that they would be loathe to give away lightly – if at all.
Which is why – for the better part of 14 months – the Turners, Andrew and Sharon, fitted the hand-over bill so well. Self-made people riding towards the top 300 on the Sunday Times Rich List, the Central Trust founders were also Taverham-based.
They would not have been in the mind-set of an 'absentee landlord' that they fear the likes of a Kent-based Peter Cullum would be.
But with the Turners now having gone – and left a ?1.5 million funding hole in their wake – there is a very real sense of 'Needs must..' when it came to analysing just who would make for a good Norwich City owner.
And with this morning's publication of the 2007-2008 accounts demonstrating again that the Norfolk club was hardly in any financial position to pick and choose as the Smiths pump another ?3 million wedge into the Carrow Road coffers to keep the club afloat, so the prospect of a foreign investor arriving on the doorstep wasn't painted as darkly as it has been.
They are, after all, all the rage in the Premiership with the News Of The World adding a South African consortium to the league of nations muscling their way into the top flight of English football – the Boks connection being the latest suitors for Ashley's ?250 million stake in Newcastle United after he and his Cockney crew failed so miserably to connect with the 'Geordie Nation' on Tyneside.
There, said Munby, was the challenge for any prospective foreign owner – to 'connect' with the Norwich City community in a way that he had seen Lerner do with Martin O'Neill and the Villa Park faithful.
“I think when it comes to fresh ownership of football clubs generally [when it comes to ownership] there has to be representation by people who live and work in our environment; in our community.
“But that doesn't have to be the case for the investor himself; for the source of the money themselves,” said Munby, offering one way out of the local 'impasse'. That the money could come from outside the county line – provided that there was representation on the board from within it. Directors who lived and worked locally; who had that 'feel' for Norfolk and could guide an outside owner's hand as a result.
“They [the owners] have to be alive to the idea that the heart, the soul, the origin and I think the future of successful football clubs continues to lie in the community.”
Lerner's relationship with Villa was a model for the future; one that could yet be replicated on a smaller-scale in Norfolk. That the Cleveland Browns NFL owner 'gets' what community is all about. Witness Villa's decision this season to forego a multi-million pound shirt sponsorship deal in favour of running with the name of a local children's hospice, Acorns. Peas from the same pod, Lerner and Ashley…
“I happen to think that the owner of Aston Villa, Randy Lerner, feels this most intensely – he's someone who has that [sense of community],” said Munby.
“That's not to exclude others; but he owns in a benevolent and understanding way – and he allows the local management to project and to act in the way that they see fit. Without knowing their people too well, he would appear to represent an archetypal approach – a benevolent owner who understands the need for local people to run the local business.”
And all in a manner that Doug 'Deadly' Ellis never quite made his own. Hence the crowds come flocking back to Villa Park; their club feels 'right'.
“What is interesting is that Aston Villa, for example, are playing in front of their biggest home crowds for 60 years.”
Whereas at Newcastle…
“I'm not exactly sure what's gone on at Newcastle United, but yu've got to attribute some of this chaos to a lack of appreciation of exactly what makes the heart beat – of the central nervous system of Newcastle United fans.
“Having lived there myself – having seen Malcolm McDonald's debut and later Kevin Keegan's playing debut – I have a strong feeling for what Glenn [Roeder] meant when he said recently on Radio Five Live that it was a tragedy for those supporters.”
The fact that City sell-out nigh-on every week is another of the club's big attractions to potential foreign investors. Who wants to buy rows and rows of empty seats – as the Canaries will see for themselves at St Mary's tonight. Down the road and attendances – along with spirits – have been dwindling at Portman Road as Jim Magilton fails to work wonders with Marcus Evans' millions.
“I think the TV companies would argue that part of the 'product' that they project in the UK and abroad is dependant also on a full and vibrant stadium. You can't really show football successfully and pretend that its the national game and full of excitement and vibrancy if there's acres of empty seats as part of the television picture.”