News that the Canaries are now free of external debt was merely confirmation of something Alan Bowkett alluded to 12 months ago, but was still music to the ears of all associated with the club.
To see the club dragged up from its very lowly bootstraps in the summer of 2009 to become debt-free in the summer of 2013 has simply been the stuff of dreams; City’s fairy godmother arriving in the collective form of Bowkett and David McNally in the wake of that awful and unforgettable afternoon at the Valley.
And it’s been done the hard way. No mysterious benefactors; no oligarchs; no Middle Eastern royal families.
Instead Bowkett and McNally have played the roles of chairman and chief executive to perfection, the former by steering the club through the most troubled of waters by – amongst other things – talking extremely nicely to those lovely people at AXA and the Bank of Scotland.
If the chairman’s role came anything close to being that of good cop, McNally quickly morphed into the opposite; his bad cop routine first coming to the fore in the sacking of Bryan Gunn and the ensuing ruthless pursuit of Paul Lambert. But it was when his attention turned to the club’s books the real hard work began.
As our own Mick Dennis so eloquently put it when extolling the virtues of our chief executive extraordinaire… ‘he made every penny work harder’. He did just that as part of his forensic review of the club’s finances and – while not being privy to what went in behind the scenes – it goes without saying there has been more than a little pain along the way.
There had to be. Basket cases like those put before him in June 2009 require more than a few tweaks. No room for a Mr Nice Guy.
But while there had to be some pain – not to mention a few casualties – en route, we now find ourselves the envy of many – if not most.
Of course the whole thing could have been very different but for one or two good slices of fortune, but that thing about making your own luck… that’s exactly what Bowkett and McNally have done.
Interestingly, while there remains a relatively small level of internal debt, the chairman stated it is the club’s intention that these loans – owed to Delia and Michael, and Michael Foulger – will be repaid during the next financial year, leaving the club free of even a modicum of debt.
Whether this is a case of clearing the decks for future planned changes at board level or simply a case of the chairman wanting to ‘house keep’ remains to be seen, but one assumes at some point in the future the three individuals in question will be looking to resume their role as bona fide Norwich City fanatics minus the stresses and strains that accompany a place on the board.
And who could blame them. None of us would begrudge them that; their places in Canary history already assured.
But regardless of the make-up of any future boardroom, the big question is where do we go from here… or even, how far can we go from here?
Backwards clearly isn’t an option with both CEO and chairman making clear their desire for ‘continued improvement’. From that top line mission statement even the non-mathematicians amongst us can deduce that with consecutive Premier League finishes of 12th and 11th the boys at the top are demanding top ten this time round.
For now the club has put on hold plans to redevelop the City Stand, with Bowkett – as alluded to by Mr Waghorn yesterday – content to revel for a while in the fact the banks are no longer knocking at the door asking “when?”.
Those of us who have ever been beholden to our bank manager know exactly how good that feels and few could deny the club a season or two minus the financial squeeze of another mortgage.
Two seasons ago – when the board were making no secret of their ultimately futile search for external funding – the chairman cited that in order for the club to operate successfully in the Premier League it would require either a 35000 capacity stadium or additional major investment. Given their declaration that short-term we will making ‘making do’ with a capacity of a little over 27000 one wonders if, in order to propel the club forward – dare I say, to the next level – said ‘major investment’ is still being considered.
Of course, the financial landscape of the Premier League has changed massively over the last 24 months, with this season’s TV deal dwarfing anything that has gone before. So while this may indeed render Bowkett’s comments obsolete – his current desire for the club to operate as a ‘mutual’ made clear at Wednesday’s briefing – one questions whether to steal a march on others outside the top six there remains a need to continue our search ‘outside the box’.
Time will tell, but there’s no doubting that a board comprising Bowkett, McNally and five of the staunchest City supporters imaginable will only ever do what they consider the best for the football club. Others have become attractive to oversees investors because their straits were dire – Hull and Cardiff to name but two – but thankfully that’s a grubby little club Norwich City is no longer part of.
With Cullum-gate thankfully consigned to history, City’s off-field destiny is now completely in their own hands; the books, for the first time in a generation, in the rudest of health.
The road may have been thrilling and bumpy in equal proportions, but one gets the feeling the first part of the journey has just drawn to an a close.
So… with that done and dusted it’s time to again fasten our seatbelts and prepare for part two. This could be good…
David Bowen says
Good read as usual Gary, Delia and the board made afew errors along the way, but appointing David McNally was an absolute masterstroke! All previous bad decisions are forgiven!
Russell S. says
As you said – it has been done “the hard way” but ultimately the right way i.e. not resorting to ropey Russians, shaky Sheiks, yelling Yanks or Indian chicken merchants.
Our model for the future has to be Bayern Munich -particularly apt with the 20th anniversary of ‘that night’ just round the corner. They’ve actively promoted home-grown talent to the first squad, involved great ex-players in the running and promotion to keep a ‘family’ feel to the club and not sold their soul to big foreign investment or television. Not a bad formula I would suggest as they now rule both domestic and European club football.
Trac-Soot Joe says
Who would run a football club!?
Fans are not customers, but self appointed experts judging only with perfect hindsight. How many of them run their own affairs half as well as the worst run clubs? How many take on a tenth of the responsibility of a club manager, director, or Chairman? Not many, but that’s beside the point.
The drive to vanquish runs strong in Man’s blood and football is proxy for the tribal contest of war, but despite ‘civilisation’ the passion to conquer remains as strong as ever. Loss is not tolerated lest it means extinction. If the leader’s rein is weak, he must be replaced. There is no forgiveness.
Who would run a football club!?
Pub quizzer says
#3 – blimey! Darwin would be proud of your home-spun ‘philosophy’ (or is cobbled together from Gladiator/Star Wars) – adapt or perish in a nutshell?
“The drive to vanquish…” – that should be drummed into kids from an early age – preferably stuck on every lunchbox to guarantee success!
Being run as a mutual is great, is this unique among football clubs? I am sure this must appeal to all kinds of top players. It would put city’s transfer targets on our side, wouldn’t it? Maybe Toivonen for example is aware any money saved on fees helps his new clubs cause.
I agree with most sentiments here, but can anyone tell me exactly what Stephen Fry does to help the Canaries ? He certainly doesn’t contribute financially. He seems to only appear at London games (or at those against the glamour clubs) and in my opinion he gets more out of being a Norwich City director than the club gets out of him. I know he is a celebrity and apparently a fan, but there are other celebrity fans (Simon Thomas & Jake Humphreys spring to mind) who could make a far more effective contribution to the Canary cause.
Trac-Soot Joe says
Players are hired guns. Their interest is only in how high their star can climb before they are thrown aside and forgotten. They do not believe in any cause other than their own, for who will tend to them on the rubbish heap of later years?
I would run a football club! If I did I’d want to run it like #ncfc. A team should be a team, and I think #ncfc, is the closest to that in the PL. Certainly these guys seem to be playing with their friends…look at recruitment: Friends from Leeds, friends from Holland, Scotish friends, friends from Birmingham/Tottenham. A mutual lends itself to this and a good work ethic. The cinics know we all live and die alone and have self interests. But when these guys retire I recon they might actually hang out and remember the glory days. They might even ponder how they built a great success from the Canaries as the watch us beat Barcalona in the Champions league final. Dreams, yes but some players like things that are well run, wholesome, like a Delia pie. Wolfswinkle seemed to. We maybe need to pass to him more…or else hope Messi likes pies.
Celeb spotter says
Gordon(6)- with you on the questionable affiliation of S. Fry Esq. Don’t even know who Simon Thomas is but you seemed to have overlooked our beloved shadow chancellor with the appropriate surname who pledges allegiance to the yellow and green.