As Delia Smith’s 20-year stewardship of the Canaries came back under the spotlight, this made for a timely read.
It’s Daniel Taylor’s piece on how Southampton dodged a bullet when the men from SISI came a-calling – a bullet that, instead, has ripped a huge hole through the heart of Coventry City Football Club.
It is worth a read if only for the genius line about the club’s over-weight mascot. Or at least in the eyes of its new foreign owners.
Until someone pointed out that the club’s mascot was, actually, an elephant.
The point of the piece is how lucky Southampton were to dodge said bullet; given that they are now a model club when it comes to punching above your provincial weight.
As, of course, are Leicester City.
The reigning Premiership champions have shattered the notion that clubs of a certain provincial ilk can’t attract foreign investors.
And that those same, foreign investors can’t then make the kind of judicious investment and appointments that yield a Premier League crown and a place in the Champions League.
Albeit all at the expense of the Financial Fair Play League; whose rules are there to be broken in this day and age.
So it is do-able.
Southampton might not have hit Leicester’s heights. But in the Liebherr family – first the father and now, on his death in 2010, the daughter Katharina – Saints found a foreign investor willing to not only take a punt, but equally happy enough to take a back seat.
And not complain about the size of the club mascot. Or the colour of the club’s home shirt.
They got ‘lucky’.
Whether they will get lucky for a second time with talk brewing of a £200m plus sale to a Chinese sports investment house is another matter. But, right now, that’s probably a nice worry to have.
Compared to the worries that beset fans of, say, Coventry, Portsmouth, Blackburn and Bolton. Who have all been used and abused by their foreign owners; their Premier League hey-days now a distant memory.
That there is this huge, fine line between test case and basket case; between getting it very right and very, very wrong – with repercussions for the powerless supporters that could last for generations.
So, as ever when people begin to question the ambition of the Smith ‘dynasty’ now that nephew Tom is on the Board, there is a case of be careful what you wish for.
Norwich could just as easily be a Coventry, as it could be a Southampton.
And here is the ‘but’ that the Southampton tale adds to the pot.
The Southampton and the Leicester stories have one thing in common – astute and ambitious managerial appointments by back seat owners that duly took both clubs into the higher reaches of the top flight.
It wasn’t just their money talking. It was using that money smartly when it came to managerial appointments.
They found the men to match and deliver their ambitions. And they found those men abroad. Who duly instituted a pressing playing style and squad fit for Premiership purpose. See Liverpool.
And that’s maybe the crossroads the club finds itself on.
My impression is that the ‘succession’ is done. The club is in Tom’s hands now.
And the Lady – judging by The Times interview with Henry Winter over the weekend – is not for turning.
The fact of the matter is the whole ambition/ownership issues only raise their heads when Norwich are heading south; not north.
For as long as City are 16th and below in the football league ladder, then it continues to bedevil conversations; with no easy answers. Not when the baton has so clearly passed.
The ‘trick’ is to get beyond 16th through managerial strength and acumen as opposed to flexing financial muscles you haven’t got. O if you have, so has everyone else.
And this is the challenge for Alex Neil. In that play-off season, he proved a very good Championship manager when asked to manage Championship players.
Now he has to prove that he is a very good Premiership manager when managing Premiership players – in the Championship.
That’s a big ask. Of anyone. Let alone of someone still cutting their teeth in the management game.
He is no Rafa Benitez. Or Claudio Ranieri.
Wherein lies a world of difference. As Tom Smith is fast discovering.
A very good piece. I’ve always been one of those who support Delia and Michael, hopefully Tom Smith can learn from their example. Managerial appointments and especially transfers have been hit and miss. For every Grant or Wes we have RvW or well, any number of expensive flops.
But that’s the point, we have spent money- sometimes big money. Players have failed, the recruitment has failed. The board have made available a lot of money the failure is not to have got the wider backroom appointments right. Delia hasn’t personally identified players and gone and got them. Recently she hasn’t even appointed back room people as far as I’m aware. The buck does stop with her as majority shareholder.
So I support the Smiths at our club, I hope better appointments can be made but we have got the money to step up, we have spent good money. Regrettably we need more money. And a new manager.
So what do we wish for? Investment in players? We’ve actually spent millions. A higher profile? That happens from getting it right on the pitch. For me having the people in charge of our club having a genuine love of our club is a great thing. We should be proud of it, not disgruntled and wanting more.
Gary Field says
What this highlights, among other things, is how poor football governance is – the game has weak owners’ test rules and soft FFP regulations, that are easy to dodge, with minimal penalties if you get caught.
As far as NCFC is concerned, the underlying tenet seems to be “be careful what you wish for” as a reason for not doing anything – unless, of course, you have an “NR” postcode!
Not wanting to sell your own shares is one thing, but, if they’re resisting others from investing in new shares, simply on the basis that they’re domicile abroad – and 1,000,000 ordinary shares would also bring a new majority ownership – then there’s an unhealthy conflict of interests that’s never likely to be reconciled.
I think Delia´s view is that of ´Better the devil you know, than the devil you don´t know´, and in principle, I agree with that. There are just as many instances of outside investment going horribly wrong, as there are of them going stunningly right, and if she´s decided that the safest and most secure place for her shares are in the hands (and pockets) of young Tom, then who are we to criticise. We should back him, in the same way as we ought to be backing her.
Canary Mary says
This is an excellent piece of writing.
Spelling out IMO exactly how it is.
We have one of the best/well run football clubs .
Thanks in part to successive aid from directors & owners
who apart from being “poor” millionaires!Do not hesitate to put said money into their beloved football clubX
The finances of the above are worth more to this football club
than the millions given by faceless Billionaires!Because it’s given with LOVE! Not to enhance their reputations.
Instead of criticising the owners,we would do well to applaud
their selfless loyalty.
We have a football club that is the envy of many others.
Perhaps a few blips along the way! but we have two things
that money can’t buy- Loyal & Trustworthy owners!
And without doubt “quote” THE BEST FANS IN THE WORLD X
Starting to get seriously worried about how this club is being run. Nothing against Delia as she has done so much for us, but the whole setup of the club is so amateur now. Like it or not, football is a business, and most of our board have NO business or football experience. Aviva ended their official shirt sponsorship and we now have their community fund on the shirts… is that because our board couldn’t find a new sponsor. And look at the fiasco of the Galway Roast sponsorship.
On the pitch, the quality is going from bad to worse. Saturday was the worst football I’ve seen at Carrow Road since the season we went down to League 1. Can’t pass, set pieces are no threat, can’t defend set pieces, counter attack is laughably non existent, and our game plan seems to be pass it around the back then hoof it up to Jerome, and most of the time it’s either too far ahead of him and goes straight to the goalkeeper, or too high and he has to head it, but has nobody to head it to.
This isn’t just about 3 or 4 poor games, the quality has been declining for months. This has to stop now. Get a new manager in now who has time to evaluate the squad and work out what needs to be done in the transfer window, probably starting with a new scouting team.
I won’t back her. Why should I when I think she is wrong about most things she says?
She loves Norwich City, and always will, but would rather stick her head in the sand. Most of us know Alex Neil’s time is up (we recognise all the signs) but she will leave it to fester and delay any decisive action until she has virtually no choice.
Its clear she does not like the Premier League with its mega rich ambitious foreign owners, and I think she would be more than content to dawdle along in the Championship permanently if it didn’t lead to such financial difficulties.
Rich Clarke says
I would have felt much easier about this transition in ownership had McNally still been around.
I’m 100% behind Delia, but she is putting a hell of a lot of trust in young Tom, and I havent seen anything about him that convinces me that this trust is well placed. Give the lad a chance by all means, and lets hope he’s better at picking managers than aunty Delia has been in the past.
Keith B says
“I’m 100% behind Delia, but she is putting a hell of a lot of trust in young Tom, and I havent seen anything about him that convinces me that this trust is well placed. ”
Rich (7) – have you seen anything from or about him that says it isn’t?
Well run club lmao, Delia had us in league one and on the brink of administration before McNally and Bowkett saved her bacon , now they are long gone and it will not be long before City again find themselves skint and fighting at the wrong end of the Championship.
Delia , Hubby and nephew Tom should get out of this club now because opinion is starting to see them as worse than the man they took over from, and he at least delivered success on the pitch which she never has in her 20 years.
Dave B says
What I think people forget is that while we had the Lambert years under her, we also almost went bankrupt too. People talk about “a well run club”, how it’s great that we’re financially sound. We are now, having just been in the Prem. That’s like looking at your bank balance the day after payday and declaring you’re great at budgeting.
We’re either going to head back to the Prem where we’ll have to take a financial gamble to stay there. Or eventually we’re going to have an extended stint in the Championship. Crowds aren’t enough to pay the wages of the bloated squad of over compensated players we have today. If we spend five years in the champ something’s got to give.
There’s no middle ground where we happily keep yo-yo-ing. It just can’t go on forever.
Phil has got it spot on. Lambert and bowkett saved the club from the brink. Shame they are not around now because it’s up to little Tommy and ed to pul the fat out of the fire this time.
It’s as If some people,actually support Delia smith rather than Norwich city and like the media celebrity circus of Bruce oldfield, ed balls, Stephen fry, Roy hodgsons and the hangers on more than the football. Ask yourselv s a question, Delia in the third flight or an investor in the premier league?
If the answer is the former, stick to the great British bake off.
Tony Moore says
Whether Tom or Delia own the club is irrelevant. The point is that neither of them have the financial clout to take the club onwards and upwards. If we want a club that languishes in the championship then Tom or Delia will be for you. If we want someone with financial clout to a) get us into the Premier, and b) establish us there, then a change has to happen. Delia was a Godsend years ago. The point is, that was years ago. The world of top football has changed out of all recognition since they were our saviours. So we can either stay as we are, or make the necessary changes. And that is the rub, namely that Delia/Tom won’t allow it. Now that is a dreadful position for most City supporters.
Football is a game of many opinions. I do not think I am alone in bring depressed at the direction Delia and MWJ are taking this club. Whatever AN had in the past he doesn’t seem to have it now. It is entirely possible that he will get it back for someone else in this division as Hughton has but we live in the here and now. Our parachute money runs out in another year and if we miss out we will be pitched in against teams with 100m more than us who can attract an established manager and pay top dollar for players. The rot at Carrow Road starts from the top. McNally and Bowkett held back Delia’s worst excesses but sadly it is all yes men and cronies now. Should she sell up? Yes, like a shot if it was the right offer and I would even consider a foreign manager. The guy at Fulham would be great or Wagner from Huddersfield. Imagine half time team talks that actually inspired.. Unfortunately we will have to watch things get a lot worse before the board take the inevitable decision. As NCFC fans it is what we have become used to.
I dont mind them being here as long as they get there head’s out of their derrier’s…wake up and smell the coffee ..learn from the constant mistakes …..alas i think this is wishful foolish thinking
I hope im wrong lol
Also this moxey fellow is he actually there ,does he speak,have an opinion oris he delias puppet on a string lol
Im starting to miss mcnally lol
Andy S says
It’s all very well saying ‘we need a change’ or ‘Delia and Michael should go’ but for that to happen there actually needs to be someone willing to invest in the club to a significant degree. There are no signs of that happening and haven’t been for a while. They may not be the right owners to take the club forward, but they also can’t magic new, mega rich owners out of thin air so are doing what they can within their limitations to ensure some stability after they have gone.
We’ll never know if the owners totally refuse to listen to any offers. As they have admitted.
Stewart Lewis says
Phil (9) & Chris (11): Slightly skewed perspective, I think.
Delia & Michael first became financially involved with the club in order to save it from bankruptcy (as described in Michael’s chapter in the first volume of Tales from the City). Certainly, things declined in the 2006-09 period, to the stage where we were under threat again. At that point they hired David McNally.
Alan Bowkett did a brilliant job negotiating with our City creditors, persuading them that McNally would turn the club around. And as we know, he did – imposing discipline on the club’s operations and appointing Lambert as manager.
In short, the club was saved again BECAUSE OF Delia & Michael’s actions, not in spite of them.
Stewart, that’s your point of view and that’s fine by me. However, if you are quoting Michael Wynn Jones view on the subject you will of course get. One sided view. The club was in crisis, after some dreadful mismanagement and crass decision making at boardroom level, the tin hat was put on it by the daft hiring of Bryan gunn as first team manager. A ludicrous error of judgment and a load of sentimental tosh. Don’t try and turn the journey back from the brink as some sort of triumph – it should Never have happened in the first place.
Our club is directionless at present.
We leak goals like a sieve
We have players in the side who are just mercenaries.Others picking up a fortune for doing nothing.
Some of our best players are out on loan.
There is no leader on the pitch.
Youth is encouraged and destroyed in the same breath almost
The players don’t respond to the manager.
The manager has lost his way
The current owners back the manager.
The owner of the Club- in- waiting has yet to speak?
The “CEO” backs whatever the owners’say.
The Chairman is too busy dancing to know whats going on and when he does get back to reality his aims for the club seem uncertain to say the
Whats to worry about? Nero,fiddles and the smell of burning pervade the atmosphere and its not just bonfire night that’s responsible.
This may seem acerbic but I am a genuine fan who is starting to feel powerless to stop the slide.
Can’t Delia and Co understand how demotivating her recent interview was to fans who started to feel ,when Lambert was poached from Colchester,,that the CLub at last meant business!