Guest blogs- Day two: In the spirit of balance and because MyFootballWriter is regularly accused of being a’ board apologist’, a haven for ‘happy clappers’ and a ‘mouthpiece of the club’, we offered the MFW floor to one of our biggest critics. He sometimes calls himself ‘Jeff’.
We’re still waiting for said gent to accept our offer but, in the meantime, the gauntlet has been picked up by Martin Penney, who – like Jeff – thinks things could/should be a good deal better at Carrow Road.
Let’s be totally honest, there isn’t a single City fan in the land that shouldn’t be grateful to Delia and Michael.
Okay, she had that unfortunate photograph with an 1p5wich scarf and the couple live the wrong side of the border, but that hardly bothers me. Because at that time, they almost literally brought the club back from the brink of darkness.
My only personal experience of meeting Delia was a strange one. Just before we went “Top of the League at Portman Road“, I vowed to have the Canary crest tattooed on my chest if we made it. I duly did. Ouch.
And then, one afternoon we bumped into her when she was on walkabout in the Upper Barclay bar and my mate’s precocious daughter promptly pulled my shirt up. Delia recoiled in mock horror. She pulled my shirt back down, signed it with marker pen, had a big belly laugh and, after a quick chat with all of us, moved on.
Good fun, I guess. We were ‘Premier League’ at the time and loving it. All of us.
That was then, but this is now.
These days, there are several folk about, like me, who think Delia is the source of a missed opportunity. We have had many chances to become established in the bottom half at least of the Premier League but have failed every time.
While there are supporters out there who would rather see us win in the Championship than survive in the PL, I am by no means one of them. I want to see Arsenal, not Preston.
So, let’s have a personal consideration of Delia and the Board as they exist today.
Lots of folk think it’s a cosy position for people of a certain religious and political persuasion. I don’t do religion but Delia is hardly shy about her left wing sympathies and the appointment of Ed Balls felt like a kick in his surname to some of us.
Why have a politician as Chairman? I agree he’s a personable man and a true supporter, but in my honest opinion it shows a lack of understanding of public feeling. Maybe some of us don’t rate politicians too highly?
Now let’s move on to Tom Smith. What, except to continue the family dynasty, can he bring to the Board of Norwich City? I’ve even heard the word nepotism bandied about, but they are Delia’s shares and she can do with them as she wants.
Peter Cullum was rebuffed, Tony Fernandez was too (quite rightly) and I cannot imagine any incoming investor getting the green light in my lifetime.
Then back to that ugly word … rumour.
Alan Bowkett quit, soon followed by David McNally. The questions are floating around still, but quite naturally confidentiality means there will be no answers. Two extremely astute characters who are unfortunately no longer with us – in the NCFC sense.
The most concerning rumour I have heard – I don’t believe it personally but so many people I know seem to think there’s an element of truth in it – is that we actively don’t want to be an established PL club because of the Board’s financial requirements (for NCFC, not for themselves personally).
And onto the Board’s Achilles’ heel – No communication with the fans. But I have a theory regarding this: There is an Archant man on the Board who maybe sanctions his own people to be fed crumbs. It’s common these days so no implied criticism of anybody, but when the football club and the local media have no regional rivalry whatsoever because nobody else exists is it a little too easy?
A lot of people know it’s a monopoly out there in both cases. A two-way winner apart from the natural reaction from those who see through it.
To anyone who might suggest if I don’t like the Board’s methods or actions I could always go to the AGM and ask a question, I would say this… in roughly 2004 I bought £100 or £200 of shares in NCFC. Primarily to help the club, but also to get what I thought would be a nice certificate I could frame and put on our wall as a symbol of solidarity and pride.
It turned out to be a cheap photocopy that probably got ripped up for shopping lists to be written on the back of. Three of my friends did the same and were equally disappointed. Myself and a friend were at the infamous AGM where the magnificent Mr Roeder responded to a floor question with: ” I presume I missed your tenure as England manager”.
We were six feet from the poor devil who asked the question and walked out. I would never go to one again. I’ve been to seriously serious business meetings in London, Paris, Mannheim, Dublin, you name it, but have never heard anybody treated like that. And the Board of the time all seemed to sit there and condone the comment.
However, I am not one to complain about alleged lack of spending. Against Wolves we had £11 million ( Naismith and Canos) not even in the match-day squad and on the bench were Oliveira and Pritchard (£13 million). That is £24million worth of talent not on the pitch. Something ain’t quite right.
Some folks blame everything from the scouting system through to our geographical situation to the wage structure when we don’t sign player X or Y. Personally I feel if agents were taken out of the equation life would be easier all round, but that’s an impossible dream.
Anyway it seems we are stuck with the Smith dynasty for the foreseeable future but, whether we like it or not, when we go to games we must get on with it and get behind the team, as most of us always do…
If only just one single member of our Board was a real “football person” I would have a little more confidence in them as a collective. But not a single one of them is and in my mind that doesn’t bode well for the future.
Nothing will stop me from being at Carrow Road for the Rotherham game – or any other home match come to that – and I’ve missed just three home league matches in 28 years (notice how I established some belated cred there?).
The Board are basically an irrelevance in that respect. Love ’em or hate ’em, we all love our team. And that’s what it’s still all about, not just the folks with the serious money.
Many thanks to the MFW team for allowing me the opportunity to express my views.
I guess I’ll be the one in the camouflage fatigues and tin helmet in Bacton Woods for a few days, but that’s what this site is all about and more power to it’s elbow.
Thanks to Martin for his thoughts. I’m expecting a busy day on the ‘comments’ 🙂
Martin, all thoughts and opinions are welcomed on here and we all, for the most, debate them sensibly, even if we don’t always agree with one another. So thankyou for sharing your own.
We are still waiting for ‘Jeff’ to expand on his. If ‘Jeff’, you think you’ll be ridiculed and shot down in flames, think again. People may disagree and the counter arguments may be strongly expressed, but I’d like to think that no-one would be abusive.
I’ve already rattled on for long enough here so will leave the debate to others.
mad brewer says
There’s a lot of well thought out stuff in Martin’s contribution. I think the lack of a “Real football person” on the board is at the heart of the malaise. Whether intended or not, many fans find our owners’ attitude both disdainful and patronizing. The appointments of Ed Ballroom-Dancer and Delia’s nephew fuel the flames of alienation. Plus, of course, the (ex?) Archant presence on the Board there. I am not up to attending games any more, but I fondly remember Carrow Road in the 60s. Not able to afford away games, I’d watch the Reserves instead. It was still Norwich City!! NCFC could do worse than invite Mr. Penney to join them in a “Think Tank”. For a fee, of course!! Nothing is gained by only speaking to people with whom you already agree. Or who always agree with you… Sycophancy and nepotism combine to make a toxic cocktail. Btw; I don’t agree with everything that Martin says! To finish on a slightly sycophantic note; I enjoy MFW immensely!
Bob in Diss says
Martin – fair play to you for sharing your views.
Ed Balls is an ex-politician and was when appointed as chairman. A serving MP would be totally inappropriate. His huge experience in business and lifelong support of the club are surely more important factors than any personal political views?
You don’t give a view on Jez Moxey? Surely, his 20+ year background at the cutting edge with Stoke & Wolves is plenty enough football experience for the board? Or did you imply that someone who has actually played the game is required? I’m struggling to think of too many examples of clubs in the top 2 tiers where an ex-player is on the board.
At this point last international break, there were calls for sackings and new owners with banner-waving planned at the Cardiff game to protest at the board. Since then, except for that 90+ minute blip at Newcastle, Alex & the boys have silenced many but not all the critics of just over a month ago.
What the next month and beyond holds, no one knows.
Jon Dunn says
Good piece, and well said.
I have to agree that it’s disappointing in the extreme that nobody in the boardroom, since David McNally left us, has any background in football.
But that aside, it’s all about the 90 (+ 4, 5, 6?) minutes spent on the pitch. Good result and the board don’t matter overly much. But where they do matter intensely is to have failed, (Timm Klose excepted) over at least three years to sign a reliable, dependable centre-back. This beggars belief and is largely the reason for our yo-yo status in recent years.
You surely don’t need too much football nous to realise that Bassong and Turner are no longer ‘fit for purpose’ in that role if we are to stabilise and even improve?
A very well thought out and reasoned article and adds to the debate re the board at NCFC. I agree that every current Canaries fan owe Michael and Delia gratitude for saving our club, but as for their son joining the board, then in my mind that’s a step in the wrong direction. Yes, Jez has been appointed to the board, but he has been totally inconspicuous by his silence since his appointment. It might have placated some of the fans had he at least commented on the lack of new blood iin the transfer window.
As Martin points out in his article – we had £13M of signings on the bench at Wolves, my question would be, ‘why sign them if they’re not going to get a chance to prove what they can bring to the team?’ I admit that it is pretty hard to drop Wes the way he has been playing, but surely with him having been away on International duty, the game against Rotherham would be an excellent opportunity to promote Pritchard to the starting 11, likewise Oliveira. My concern is that Klose may not be fit/risked and we’ll have to endure waiting for Bassong to make his customary error and so we’ll need to score at least twice to continue picking up points!!!!
martin penney says
#2 mad brewer: If ever NCFC wanted my opinion, I’d offer it for free – no fee required as I’m an early retiree. Thank you for your comments.
#3 Bob in Diss: I deliberately left Jez Moxey out of my piece because despite the rumblings from Wolves fans I think he deserves a fair chance to do his job before I or anybody else makes a comment on him.
I didn’t mention Michael Foulger either because I believe he has served the Club well and everyone knows the part he played in getting Darren Huckerby here so he’s a top man by me.
I agree Jez Moxey is a football person, much as David McNally was, but not in the way that he might have the heart and soul of the Club within him. I guess an ex-player (there are one or two around I would love to see as at least consultants to the Board) is what I had in mind. Dave Stringer would have been my choice – he did get involved in a consultancy role a while back but I guess that’s in the past now.
Martin, although I don’t necessarily agree with your views I enjoyed reading them. I think it’s always important to question and challenge those in charge, but to keep perspective too. Looking around at other clubs we have been competing with in recent years does suggest that the grass isn’t always greener.
One thing I’d say is that I too was at the infamous Roeder AGM, and like you I was shocked to hear what he said. But I will never turn down the opportunity to find out as much as I can about my club, and as I, like you, am entitled on the basis of my couple of hundred pounds worth of shares to go to AGMs, I make sure I’m at every one. I want to know the people who are running our beloved club, and hearing them speak in person and having the opportunity to ask them a question is the best way I can do that. I can’t quite understand why one very-long-departed manager’s behaviour would cause you to reject this opportunity we have each year? (I can say that I haven’t experienced anything even remotely approaching that incident at any subsequent AGM). Why not give it a go again?
Cosmo P. says
Ed(5) – “Jez has been appointed to the board, but he has been totally inconspicuous by his silence since his appointment.”
You must have missed his round of interviews with local press and the club press after the transfer window shut;
I don’t want a daily/weekly update from the CEO.
Keith B says
Martin, thanks for posting this.
In my view it is the position of CEO that really matters, and in conjunction with the manager most affects our overall performance
Yes, Delia and Michael saved the club, and are ensuring it remains a club owned by fans for the foreseeable future. I like that and will always be grateful. And in their early days working with Andrew Cullen they increased attendances enormously, and started to put the facilities to good use on some of the 300+ days when there’s no game on.
But for their first dozen years in charge we spent very little time in the top 25 clubs in the country (about 3 seasons I think). They largely failed.
The difference between then and the far more successful years that have followed was the difference between Neil Doncaster and David McNally; Delia and Michael haven’t changed, but the people around them did.
McNally’s gone – you’d assume there must have been some internal issue, although it might also be partly that he is a very proud guy and simply felt he’d failed to do what he should i.e. keep us up.
We don’t yet know how Moxey will work out. Nor do we know what the younger Smith can bring. It’s assumed that as he’s a relative that he doesn’t have any talent, he’s just lucky. It might be true – but then again he might have been invited along because he’s a family member with ability.
But the thought that keeps being posted by many as “proof” there is a big problem – I quote here from Ed (7) re. the new players – is “why sign them if they’re not going to get a chance to prove what they can bring to the team?”
And my belief is they have had a chance. They train several days a week at Colney. That’s where they have to show what they can do and persuade Alex to pick them.
My firm belief is that one or two of them arrived thinking exactly as fans do – “they paid millions for me, so I’m an automatic pick”. It doesn’t work like that. You train, hard. You get told what’s expected of you. If you understand what’s needed, if you buy into it, as Jacob Murphy clearly has, you get your opportunity.
“£24million worth of talent not on the pitch. Something ain’t quite right.” Absolutely – it’s their attitude that probably isn’t right, yet. and yes, you might argue we bought the wrong guys then. It happens, Ask Everton fans about Niasse…
And don’t forget the two Murphys are probably £5m players too now, it’s just we didn’t have to pay that for them. So even if Naismith, Pritchard and Canos played, leaving the Murphys and Wes on the bench that’s another £10m+ of talent sitting watching instead. Players we haven’t paid millions for also have a value, not just the ones we bought recently.
Mike C says
Football is a game about opinion.
I have my opinion, Martin has his, Jeff has his and the referee has his too. We are all entitled to them.
Quite often I disagree with the ref, but his decision is final, you can question it, but you won’t change it. You just hope to be able to respect it.
Jeff previously raised the spectre of “board related dividends” which he has chosen not to expand on, and Martin here has expressed a view. He cops out to an extent because he refers to a rumour he doesn’t believe when he says “The most concerning rumour I have heard – I don’t believe it personally but so many people I know seem to think there’s an element of truth in it – is that we actively don’t want to be an established PL club because of the Board’s financial requirements (for NCFC, not for themselves personally)”
What is this supposed to mean? Everyone else is straining within or outside the rules of financial fair play to get into the Premier League, but we don’t want to be? That somehow the club would be best suited by remaining in the Championship? Simply keeping Ip5w1ch company?
Have we truly slipped into a period when a simple assertion like this has become true because people peddle it around?
Can either Jeff or Martin put some flesh on these very suspect bones?
Oh, and Ed (5) “lack of new blood in the transfer window” ? Even Martin credits us with Canos, Oliveira and Pritchard.
martin penney says
#10 Mike C: I do not understand the intricacies of football finance but will go as far to say that I have heard stories that risking X amount in the Championship as opposed to risking Y amount in the Premiership are two different things.
And our Board feel they are on safer ground with the X amount. They have had their fingers burned and are reticent. I don’t blame them for that, as I hinted at in the article.
As for anything Board members might make from the Club it is none of my business and I have never suggested any of them are “on the take”. They are not, in my opinion at least.
As for Jeff, you’ll have to ask him yourself – if our Directors choose to pay themselves a dividend they’ve earned I don’t object.
The bones are still suspect because we don’t really know the truth and I guess we never will.
If the Board communicated, this discussion would be off the agenda.
Thank you for your comment.
I’m not sure that you’ve given reasons as to why we’ve failed to kick on, apart from the lack of ‘a real footballing person’ on the board ( I would suggest failure to buy/put together a better defence and/or failure to buy a top class striker).
I’m not surprised about our financial caution, given that Delia and Michael saved the club once and then arguably McNally and Lambert did a second time around. I do wonder if we could get someone in with financial clout, perhaps on the Everton model where Delia and Michael (and nephew) allow significant investment from outside, although Farhad Morishi is in effective control of Everton with 49.9% of the shares. It looks as D & M are reluctant to lose control, even if someone who appeared to be appropriate came along. And yet part of our failure to establish ourselves in the EPL appears to be lack of investment and ambition – money again.
I do feel that with our hinterland and support we should expand the stadium so that there is more opportunity for casual fans to come – again that involves gambling with money and top flight status is close to essential if we have a bigger stadium (I remember some talk about only being able to do it when the world cup is in Qatar, because a prolonged winter break then would cause less disruption).
So we seem to be caught between 2 stools – gambling on spending more money on better players to ‘guarantee’ promotion and establish ourselves (and we know there are no ‘guarantees’) and trundling along as one of the main yoyo teams – of course that status could soon end if we don’t bounce back in one or two seasons.
Having said all that I can’t criticise Delia and I do enjoy the fact that we seem to be one of the few clubs in the top 40 or so that is still locally owned by people, who care and aren’t after a quick buck for themselves.
Martin, first and foremost thank you for a well argued piece. I don’t agree with all of it but there are some logical views. So my counter points if I may: “football people on the board” Moxey has a career in football and Delia & MWJ have c.20 years each now… which I think is often discounted. They have made mistakes(Roeder, Doncaster, Roeder, RvW, ROEDER) but have also overseen 4 of 6 season in the premier league and have spent (the not spending is a myth). Managers have been backed (too long in some cases Worthy/Hughton) but they do care, which is far better than chase.
Regarding #5 – I think we need to ignore the current fees, the market is skewed and a £5m player is no longer a “big” thing – at least not at our end of the A140! If you were to play Naismith, Canos, Pritchard and Olivera that means No Wes, Murphy, Howson or Jerome – are they playing in a fashion to be dropped, or have the new arrivals caused them to up their game? I honestly can’t answer but the fact those players are not starting doesn’t automatically indicate something is wrong, it indicates those in possession of the starting shirts are doing their jobs so as not to get dropped.
Re: the infamous AGM, if you’d stayed you would know that Roger Munby demanded that Roeder apologise to the questioner a few minutes later. Roeder was initially reluctant to do so, but Munby insisted and the apology was made. Far from sitting there and condoning it, Roeder was thoroughly chastened. It’s a shame how often entrenched views come about through ignorance of the full details. Otherwise a good and thought-provoking read, even though I tend to disagree.
Mike C says
#11 Martin your piece is headlined “Case for the prosecution” and there follows supposition, hints, hearsay and rumour; particularly with regard to financial matters. Not allegations that you are making, but you are giving credence to by repeating. Any prosecution is based on evidence, not supposition or rumour. Where is your evidence?
You are a shareholder, you will get a copy of the club’s accounts every year, but you don’t understand football finance. You choose not to attend an AGM because of a slight by Roeder aimed at someone else more than 10 years ago? You complain that the board don’t communicate with fans, but you choose not to communicate with them at their formal shareholders meeting each year.
How would we be better off in the Championship? Nonsense.
I’m sorry that you choose to give credence to unsubstantiated rumours and innuendo. I’m not going to argue with you further, but refer you back to my earlier comment on opinions. “…you can question it, but you won’t change it. You just hope to be able to respect it.”
Keith B says
The thing with Roeder’s comment was that what he said was actually spot on – many fans write and speak as if they know a lot more about the game than the pros do when they haven’t actually got a clue. I would imagine that deep down a lot of managers could identify precisely with what he said.
The trouble was that at that time Roeder was himself floundering. If Alex Neil made that comment now, or if Paul Lambert had made it after two successive promotion, people might have grudgingly accepted it.
But when your team is rapidly heading south – that’s not the right time.
martin penney says
Thanks to each and every one of you for your comments – I enjoyed reading them all. And many thanks to all of you for making my MFW debut a pleasant experience.
PS #15 Mike C, I didn’t write the headline:-)
Gary Gowers says
Mike C (15) – The headline was my work, so unfair to take Martin to task on that. Clumsy on my part.
Mike C says
Martin (17) and Gary (18), accepted re headline, but that doesn’t change much about the piece.
I was also drawn in by “Lots of folk think it’s a cosy position for people of a certain religious and political persuasion.” I’m sorry???
Maybe I’m simply struggling to come to terms with the ‘post fact’ times we now appear to live in where assertion is king.
Stewart Lewis says
Martin: thanks for a thoughtful & thought-provoking piece. As Gary says, you provide some balance to the mix and I hope you’ll be back with more contributions.
I wonder if you read the previous articles by Gary Field (20 Sept) and Mick Dennis (12 Sept) which gave factual background on Delia/Michael and ownership issues. They answered some of the points where you admit you’re unclear and (a little unfortunately, I think) quote some ill-informed speculation.
Two quick specific points. It seems to me very healthy to have someone like Pritchard on the bench. He’s a long-term replacement for Wes and I believe in due course (probably within this season) we’ll see £8m as a bargain – but for now Wes is rightfully keeping the shirt.
Alan Bowkett was certainly an asset to the club, but most clearly in 2009-11. His great strength was understanding of the City, and he (perhaps alone) could negotiate the crucial re-scheduling of our debt. Not so much of an issue now.
On the other hand, Ed Balls is a renowned strategist and organisational leader. His advice and guidance to Jez Moxey (the football man) will potentially make them a very strong combination for our club.
Gary Field says
Apologies for my late arrival to the party. An interesting perspective and worthy of the numerous comments to date.
I would add two observations.
First, the majority of our directors are non-executives and not involved in the day to day running of the club. Given their business backgrounds this is hardly surprising and not untypical to most football clubs. This begs the question why so many seem eager to hear from Delia and other non-executive directors?
Second, this rumoured presumption that the Board may be content with being Championship. The numbers speak for themselves.
A Championship club without parachute payments receives £8m pa.
A Championship club with parachute payments – £40m pa for 2 (or 3) seasons.
Being in the Premier League – £100m pa.
Why would they want anything less than being in the Premier League?