Two unrelated facts cheered me no end this week. There was no hot water in the ladies’ toilets at the Newcastle triumph and I learned that Paul Lambert locked his players in the dressing room for a rollicking after the Manchester City mauling.
Both the lack of warmth available for ablutions and the manager’s incandescence proved that the club we care about has never been in better hands.
Let’s deal with Lambert’s lock-in first.
None of us can have been truly crushed by the result at the Etihad.
At 2-0 down and with half-an hour remaining, he made positive changes, sending on Wes and Holty. It was a quixotic amendment by a man who never acknowledges that defeat is inevitable.
But, I am told, he was furious with the manner in which the rearranged team conceded three more goals. He doesn’t ever acknowledge that defeat is acceptable either.
His attitude is the antithesis of the “little Norwich” view – and his pugnacious determination was emphasised in an interview I conducted for the Daily Express.
Don’t look for the piece; the on-line version omitted a key part of the intro. But the main thrust of our discussion in Yellows was that his time in Germany as a player had given him a core belief that, no matter what the circumstances, he can and should go for a win.
He vowed: “We have to have the feeling as a club, that if someone is going to beat us they have to put us on our backsides to do it.”
I left the interview pumped and with enough material for a paperback.
So here are some of the bits which I had to omit from the piece in the Express.
“People say we need old heads but, see, if we had signed someone like, say Robbie Keane, he was on a free transfer but the wages would break the structure and also mean we could maybe only buy two more.
“We needed seven or eight for the Premier League. So instead of buying two or three that we couldn’t really afford, we went for lads we could.
“We’ve nearly always gone for lads that we know about. So, for the Championship season, I took Marc Tierney from Colchester. I managed him at Colchester, but I first saw him when I was at Wycombe and he played against us for Shrewsbury. I thought he was an absolute nutter but that he might be able to do something.
“(Anthony) Pilkington tore Wycombe apart for Stockport. So I kept an eye on him afterwards. That’s how it works.
“Then when they get here, with Ian (Culverhouse) and the other coaches, it is my job to get them to fit in and to believe.”
On what he wants to achieve at Norwich:
“I want to win things. If people ask me what is success, I say ‘winning’.
“We have given the city back its club, I think, and some pride.
“Norwich have come a long way in a short time, and if we stay in this league it will surpass anything we have done so far. That will be the magnitude of it. But I want to win something.
“People say staying up is success, and I can understand that and agree but I don’t want the players to think that is enough. I want to drive them on.
“Sir Alex Ferguson must have a bad back, from lifting trophies but he still wants more. So I want to be at that sharp end, where you can win things.”
I don’t know whether he was being Quixotic again, or whether he believes he will have to leave Norwich to be “at the sharp end.” For now, let’s stick with Quixotic.
And let’s move swiftly on to that cold water in the ladies’ loos in the Jarrold Stand.
I was informed about it by a reliable source with whom I sleep most nights.
She didn’t mind about not having hot water. I was delighted – because it means David McNally is still paring away at costs. And, as the recent accounts demonstrated, that parsimony is part of a double act with chairman Alan Bowkett which has secured our club.
The 2010 annual meeting revealed how close NCFC had been to the precipice, but I did not feel the peril was widely appreciated. A year on, I don’t think the extent of the turnaround achieved by Messrs Bowkett and McNally has been adequately depicted.
The latest accounts included many of the costs of promotion to the Premier League, but none of the benefits. The club had paid promotion bonuses and made signings, but had not received PL payments at the time the books were audited.
There were other exceptional costs shown as well – including one early repayment penalty on one of the big loans. But that repayment was part of a major restructuring of the debts.
Let me spell it out. At the end of our season in League One, Norwich were in breach of many of the loan agreements and the loans were therefore payable on demand. In other words, our club was surviving at the mercy of the banks.
In November 2010 Norwich renegotiated the agreements, took that early repayment hit, but re-established control.
And, with the banks no longer chasing immediate payments, it became possible to build up the club’s cash position (up from £1.8m to £4.2m in the latest accounts).
Norwich are not the happy-clappy employers they used to be. Nor are they so nice to do business with.
Non-football staff numbers have been cut by 10 per cent. People have been sacked, in other words.
The average time it takes Norwich to settle bills from suppliers has gone up substantially.
But that change of ethos means, that when you take out all the exceptional costs (promotion bonuses and so-on), our club moved from a significant operating loss to a profit of £1.7m.
OK, let’s boil it down to two even more basic facts.
Paul Lambert’s net spending to change a League One squad into one which finished second in the Championship was a mere £3 million.
But, even if we had finished third last season and not gone up, the great club in the Fine City would have still made a healthy operating profit in the leanest of economic environments.
On the ball, City? Yes, we are: on the pitch and in the boardroom.