Once again the Canaries had one of their very own to thank for strengthening Paul Lambert’s arm in the transfer market to the tune of an additional £2 million as the club’s long-serving deputy chairman Michael Foulger purchased 80,000 shares in the Norfolk club.
It took the Banham Poultry chief’s overall stake in the Carrow Road club to 15% – in turn, reducing the shareholding of the club’s principal shareholders – TV cook and writer Delia Smith and her husband Michael Wynn Jones – down from 61% to 53%.
The new funding came, however, with a catch.
That the money was to be ring-fenced for team strengthening – whether that be for the ‘emergency’ loan window that still operates in the nPower Football League this spring or in the summer when Lambert will head back into the full transfer market ahead of the 2011-2012 season.
It is a big, big gesture from the Norfolk-born businessman, who joined the Board alongside Delia and Wynn Jones in that troubled summer of 1996 when the Canaries flirted dangerously with administration in the wake of the exit of the former chairman, Robert Chase.
It certainly demonstrates ambitious intent – and will enable the Board to claim that they did everything in their power to arm Lambert with the right tools for the job.
Be that to secure a place in the play-offs – or better – with one, final ‘emergency’ loan signing or to re-equip this summer for whatever division awaits next autumn.
“I’m delighted to be able to invest in the Club in this way to help Paul Lambert and his team continue the excellent job they are doing for us,” Foulger told the club’s official website this evening.
“This money will all go to help Paul and his plans for the squad, whether that be when the emergency loan window re-opens next week or in the summer – or both.
“It’s an honour and a privilege to continue to serve the club as deputy chairman at this exciting time, and to be part of a revitalised Norwich City Board of Directors with a clear and progressive strategy aimed at putting our financial house in order and establishing this great club back in the top flight.”
It is not Foulger’s first public gesture funding-wise. In the summer of 2009 as League One football loomed, he offered to match pound for pound all the money not claimed by season ticket holders seeking a rebate following the club’s demotion.
Taken together, the unclaimed season ticket rebate and the Foulger half of the deal raised £718,608. That, in turn, gave then boss Bryan Gunn the lee-way to add Grant Holt to his squad. The rest is Canary history.
Today’s move was, likewise, warmly welcomed by the club’s principal shareholders as the financial burden of keeping the Canaries afloat and sailing in the right direction is shared more evenly with their deputy chairman.
“We are absolutely thrilled that Michael has invested £2 million in the club and acquired a very significant shareholding,” said the pair.
“Over the years Michael has been exceptionally generous to Norwich City, providing funds for player transfers and personally underwriting the rebate scheme when we were relegated.
“His commitment to the club has been life-long, and we look forward to continuing to work with him on the Board to help take NCFC to even greater heights.”
Taken together with the successful efforts of the club to re-negotiate their ‘mortgage’ arrangements with the banks and the sale of car park land behind the Jarrold Stand, the Canaries look to be going into the spring in relatively robust financial health.
Relative to the frightening excesses of a football industry that is in danger – certainly at the very top end of the game – of losing touch with the realities of life for many of its supporters.
For the manager, Foulger’s gesture is probably going to come into its own this summer as he builds again for whatever lies in wait next autumn.
He has, of course, the ability to cover for any dramatic injury loss, but on the basis of Lambert (a) not being the biggest fan of Premiership loans and (b) if it ain’t bust why try to fix it, Norwich’s dabble in the forthcoming ‘emergency’ loan market might be distinctly limited.
The one place, Lambert might look at is a second striker alongside Holt if Chrissy Martin and Simeon Jackson continue with their recent goal drought.
That said, if results resume in their normal vein following that rare away defeat at Burnley last weekend, then Lambert may well be tempted to go as he is till the end of the season and then see what the summer brings.