City's principal shareholders Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones today revealed that they listened to two of their most trusted friends in football ahead of appointing David McNally as their new chief executive.
The 47-year-old former sales and marketing boss at Celtic who – until last December – was managing director at Premiership Fulham, was this morning unveiled as Neil Doncaster's successor.
He arrived at the helm of the League One-bound Canaries with a ringing endorsement from both Martin O'Neill and Roy Hogdson – both of whom insisted that the celebrity TV cook and her husband had got just the man to lead the Norfolk club back out of the wilderness, be it footballing or financial.
“We're feeling very relieved – and very excited,” said Delia, at today's Carrow Road unveiling.
The sense of drift at the Canaries since the exit of both Doncaster and club chairman Roger Munby had been almost palpable as the pair – alongside the last surviving director Michael Wynn Jones – found themselves in some distinctly stormy waters on the back of last season's relegation.
For while all three were clearly busy behiond-the-scenes sorting out such a key appointment, up-front and in the open it appeared as if nothing was happening as the summer drifted on.
Now there is a new hand on the daily tiller as the Canary board wipe the slate clean and begin again almost from scratch. New people, new philosophies and all less with far less money – the newly-arrived McNally will have his hands full.
“As soon as the Charlton match had finished, we sat down and that was the first thing we had to do – start again,” said Delia. “Go back to square one.
“And, obviously, the chief executive is the top priority. So we started talking to people; we had a lot of applications. So we've spent quite a lot of time on this.
“It might not seemed as if we did; it must have seemed as if everything's gone quiet and nothing's going to happen, but we were beavering away in the background the whole time. And now we've got our man so we're really, really happy.”
In the main Press conference Delia suggested that relegation was 'the best thing that could have happened' – in the sense that it enabled the club to start afresh; cleansed of all the baggage that prudence brought with ambition; of loan players and fleeting characters happy to be just passing through.
And whilst many might have preferred for said 'cleansing' process to have been done whilst still in the Championship, there is – at board level – a strong feeling of renewal. Whether that actually translates into footballing success is the gauntlet they have left at the feet of McNally and the club's still unproven manager, Bryan Gunn.
What were the qualities they looked for? “First they have to be a good administrator – in that they're running a company,” said Wynn Jones.
“Secondly, he's got to have a sound knowledge and experience of football – as it's a football club; thirdly, he has to have commercial drive because money is the root of all the problems in football.
“And, fourthly, he has to have sympathy to the approach of the club; the community; the family. And want to cherish that. Those were, basically, the four benchmarks that we applied.”
The word on the Press release was that McNally stood 'head and shoulders' above the rest of the candidates.
“He came very highly recommended by two of our old acquaintances – Martin O'Neill and Roy Hodgson. And, frankly, when they speak you take notice.”
Once they actually spoke to their No1 target, so a common bond and outlook was established.
“One thing that was quite clear pretty quickly was that we were on the same wavelength – we certainly felt that and after that there was no further discussions.”
The hope is that the supporters – still smarting over the drop to the third tier of English football and may still at a loss to decide what to do with their League One rebate – will start to rally back to the flag; to see this as a new start, a fresh era. Of substantive change being both promised and delivered.
“I hope they'll be happy too,” said Delia.
“Obviously they'll be waiting to see [what happens], but I hope it gives them a little boost because it is very difficult when nobody's hearing anything; when nobody knows what's going on.
“So I hope this will give them a little bit of a boost and that they'll feel 'We're on our way…'”
The challenge was to build a new team as much off the pitch as on it. This week's arrival of Matt Gill was one, small step in that direction; today's appointment should – in theory – be a big, big step in that direction. Certainly off the pitch; it is the one-time non-league footballer who will now set the day-to-day tone and temper of the football club.
In the meantime, the couple would be taking a week's holiday – free, briefly, from the pressures of delivering a new cook book and TV series as well as a new chief executive. As well, of course, of dealing with the bitter and poisoned aftermath of relegation.
“Because of the financial problems, I've been working extremely hard doing another book and a TV series. But when that's all over I hope to be here more and getting more involved here again.
“And if we sell enough books we might even have enough money for a striker. But to be relegated and to be doing a TV series all at the same time… we've been filming at home and the phone has had to be off, so it has been a hard thing to juggle.
“We're off on a week's holiday now and it couldn't have come at a better time.”