Delia Smith, in her recent, poorly-timed Times article said, “I fear that the game is losing its soul. I really do feel for supporters. They’re treated so badly. They book their hotel rooms and get cheap prices for their travel tickets in advance. Bang! Oh, that game’s not on that day any more. The average age of a supporter goes up and up. Families have to share a season ticket: one child can go one week, and another the next because they can’t afford it. I’d love to see supporters worshipped and respected because otherwise it’s going to end up on television.”
However, delve deeper, and Smith confirmed they intend to pass their majority shareholding to their nephew in the future.
“The supporters will be very disappointed to hear that. But no way will we sell. We don’t even listen to any enquiries,” she said. “Our nephew, Tom, is now a board director. He’s 35. He’s a very good board director. He’s a very passionate Norwich City supporter and he will be the recipient of our shares.”
So nobody actually cares what fans think anymore… including us.
Condescending, obstinate, out of touch… the interview ticked all the wrong boxes for Norwich City fans and merely pointed towards two people with their heads in the sand.
What they failed to recognise is that they are part of the problem with modern football. We have some of the most ridiculous pricing for match day tickets in the country. Away fans are charged £40+ for second-tier football. Delia can hardly take the moral high ground, can she?
Five weeks ago I felt relatively positive about my club – Alex Neil was Manager of the Month and despite the odd wobble and flat performance, I felt relatively confident that we would be challenging for a return to the top flight.
But something hasn’t quite felt right and I’ve had this weird feeling for a while now. A malaise has drifted over the club during 2016.
We lost David McNally and whatever you think of the man there is no disputing he was hugely influential at Carrow Road and a major reason why we have spent four of the last six seasons in the top flight.
We’ve had yet another difficult transfer window. On the pitch our defensive issues are well documented. The manager has not kicked on as we all hoped he would.
I still hark back to the turning point being that Newcastle 6-2 game last season. It seems to have been the moment where he lost his mojo and he’s never really been able to recapture his swashbuckling self since.
And ‘that’ Times article was the moment the alarm bells really began to blare, loud and clear for many.
For the last few years, we have had a number of reassurances from on high that investment was being sought. But It would have to be the ‘right sort’ of investment, and we all know what that means (i.e. a Leicester, not a Leeds).
But now we are told there is no alternative ending to the Smith and Jones reign. We just have to lump it with nephew Tom.
I get that they want to help their nephew out financially but should it be at the expense of the supporters of a club that they blatantly love? Their judgement on this is extremely concerning.
The Times article was a watershed moment for me. It indicates that the malaise is set to continue. It all points towards a sustained spell outside the top flight being a very distinct possibility.
And without any conceivable search for investment on the horizon, things could get very murky indeed. A lack of ambition, something our board are often accused of – often falsely – has now never rung more true.
I don’t even dislike their philosophy. I think it’s very honourable that they want to be different. But their model won’t take the club forward – it simply isn’t possible in this day and age.
It might allow the club to remain stable for a while, but fans want more than stability – they want to dream of new and exciting possibilities that may come their way.
Football has moved into another stratosphere and just because Delia and Michael don’t like it, doesn’t mean football is suddenly going to conform to their way of thinking. If we want to keep up with the Joneses, we must move away from our own Smith ‘n’ Joneses way of thinking.
All they have done is alienate themselves from the fans – at a time when we require leadership off the pitch as well as on it. And that is a massive shame because I have a lot of time for them and what they have done for the club.
Right now I feel dejected and despondent about the direction the club are heading under their stewardship and the incarnation to follow.
As far as Alex Neil is concerned, in isolation, Preston was ‘one of those days’. Leeds in the cup was ‘typical Norwich’. We can’t win every game and the cup isn’t the be-all and end-all this season.
But if Brighton was a shot across the bows for Neil, Leeds was a direct hit and QPR was an attempt to cover up the sinking ship with those plasters that fall off when they get wet.
Losing a man after two minutes is hardly ideal, but the circumstances don’t really matter anymore. Neil has to get results or he should lose his job. That’s the stark reality.
If he doesn’t get a positive result at Derby (and I think he’ll get, at the very least, that game) then it should be curtains.
It may look as though it’s all unravelling very quickly but I think this has been in the offing for a while. Considering the money spent, this squad should not be losing five games on the bounce at this level under any circumstances.
So are there any potential candidates out there to take over if the gaffer gets the boot?
Michael O’Neill is in vogue at the moment and has the advantage of having ‘Neil’ in his name – an absolute must for any Norwich manager these days!
Mark Warburton from Rangers and Chris Wilder at Sheffield United are two managers who know how to win games with current and past clubs.
Or perhaps Roy Hodgson, who has links to our board members, would fancy one last hurrah? If you think he’s a bad candidate then you probably need to frequent his Wikipedia page to get a grip of his undoubted ability.
Sam Allardyce would be a firm favourite with many fans – even those who have forgotten they kicked Hughton out for not playing ‘the Norwich way’ – though his salary probably means he’s out of reach.
Or how about another leftfield appointment such as Stephen Kelly from Dundalk? He’s done a remarkable job with them.
The answer is, well… I don’t have the answer.
But then, I don’t need to. In my opinion, there’s not much to inspire out there but I think we need experience to shake our boys into shape.
But our board – in particular Jez Moxey – will have to decide shortly because I can only see this going one way.
There will always be hiccups in the plight of any club with the stature of Norwich, and outsiders may look at us and say ‘you’re 6th – get over yourselves’.
But I believe time is up for Alex. The players have failed – many of them multiple times at this club – but the buck stops with the manager.
I used to like the cut of his jib but he’s sinking now and I see no escape for him. And I am genuinely sad to see it end this way.
I don’t think he is the biggest problem at the club but he’ll be the one to pay with his job and, ultimately, we can still turn the season around regardless of the current owners.
It remains an attractive job.
David Bowen says
Well said James, I’m very disappointed that AN has lost his mojo, he showed much promise when he arrived, but now he continues to pick out of form players and overlooks some that have shown what they can do in u23s and Checkertrade competition. He promises change but does not deliver, I really don’t know why!
Something has to change and soon, he is losing the fans and we saw what happens in that case, just look at Chris Hughton’s demise, not a pretty sight!
Mike Fitz says
Lots of sound observations. AN can never be a great manager and I say this by listening to his match analysis. It’s made up of cliches and shows little intelligence. This is confirmed by his lack of flexibility with tactics. Nice guy but over promoted.
We are in trouble with them at helm. I can’t understand how you think their philosophy is honourable. That’s like saying someone is innovative for only selling low fat yoghurt in an ice cream parlour. You have to operate within the full fat realm you are in, with a few yoghurt twists. The former just makes you an idiot. As you say tho, they are in another stratosphere and she can go.
Regarding the ownership model, I think people are forgetting that it is the same model that did deliver premier league football. Enough money was generated from those 4 seasons to have stayed up and pushed on but our woeful recruitment got in the way. My biggest sadness is that we had our chance – and completely messed it up.
Jeff (3), I said it is honourable that they want to try a different route to the mega-money machine that envelopes modern football. But I also said it won’t be successful.
Phil (4), there wasn’t enough money generated from the Premier League years – we spent every penny we earned on fees and wages and now have nothing left. Without serious cash injections, the club cannot survive longer than a year or two in the top flight anymore. And that situation will get increasingly difficult year on year. Our current model is only sustainable outside the top flight.
James-That sums up my feelings precisely.For the first time in years I’m not bothered if I have to miss a game.My season ticket renewal rests on the way events turn out over the next few months.We should’nt be paying good money to watch the same basic errors week in week out.
Phil(4)aren’t you forgetting that we had McNally then?I suspect most executive decisions were left to him. He is sadly missed.
We desperately need ,amongst other things, a Director of Football on the Board who has credibility and respect of the fans-step up Alan Hansen ?
sixtiesbarclay boy says
I struggle to believe they are so out of touch, when they charge some of the highest prices in the league. They are not out of touch with money coming in. I believe that now the club is on a very even keel .thanks to much work by Bowkett and McNally. who both resigned and left. Wonder why.
Her loans are all paid back, the premiums directors can claim could be a nice little amount to tick one over for a few years. Why do they need to try and spend more on trying to get up to the promised land, that would mean having to spend money but cap budgets.
They especially Smith wants her little Norwich mentality back, the one she spouted on about when Worthington took us up. It is her family and it will remain in her family, because do not think that Tom isn’t grounded well in Aunties ways
Mr. Finbow, isn´t it just as much fans alienating themselves from the owners. No-one has done,or is doing, as much for this Club as Smith and Jones, and if Delia, in her wisdom, thinks that the best and safest place for her shares is in the pocket of nephew Tom, then so be it. As regards Alex Neil – no doubt he´ll be sacked very shortly, managers always do when things take a turn for the worse, and in just as many cases as not, very little changes with a new incumbent. Personally I´d give him until the end of the season, and if things have not improved, then look around for someone new – we are after all, despite some pretty lousy form and dreadful performances, still in the top six.
Sharon Bowles says
Completely agree. Alex Neil reached his peak at Wembley and doesn’t have the experience or nous to get these players to put in a decent performance. As for Delia’s interview, we all share her sentiment but the fact is her stance is completely unrealistic. When the parachute payments end, we will be back to 2009 again. The recent years have been a massive lost opportunity.
Good piece, that article from Delia really took the wind out of my sails, until then I had always believed that when the “right” investor came along, the Stowmarket two would make the right choice, how wrong could I be?.
With regard to Alex Neil when you look at him on camera he looks hollow, like a beaten man, someone who cannot see any way to improve things, but wants to hang on. A sending off (Howson) in his first game at Bournemouth all those months ago and we believed we had found another Lambert, one who could make changes to influence a game, where was that manager against QPR, or Leeds, Brighton, Preston etc ? Time for big changes.
Chris W says
Agree with all this. Always had that uneasy feeling that great managers do not need to stand the whole game and attempt to orchestrate every move from the technical area. Often wondered if that’s one reason players look lost, awaiting the next instruction? Never felt so despondent since we got relegated to league 1.
Exactly my thoughts. Living in the past and dinosaurs come to mind. Community club…maybe but as you say, £40 for a midweek match just before Christmas is a joke. Our lowest price season tickets are the highest in the league and for that we expect something different to what’s been on offer. Yes, I do thank all of them for what they’ve done in the last but we need to progress as at the moment we are stagnating. I can’t remember when I last got off my seat in anticipation of something exciting from any of our players. The manager has been promoted out of his depth, having had the time of his life initially and giving us a good day out. Recruitment has been to say the least, poor and looks as if he’s wasted an opportunity. If the players he’s bought weren’t his first, second or even third choice, he shouldn’t have bought them. Those he has brought to the club and those he gave new contracts to, haven’t been regulars or he has loaned them out. Something has to change and not just getting rid of the manager. The dynasty has to understand articles like that in the Times only show that nothing will change soon and we will still be seen as ” little old Norwich” a community club that charges the earth with no sight of ambition.
George (9), do you not feel it is arrogant to say they will ‘never sell the club’? What if the perfect buyer is just around the corner and is being ignored because they want to hand power to their nephew? Is that doing right by the club? All hypothetical of course, but its a valid view point.
Top article,Smith and Jones will have this club back in league one before you can say Ipswich Town .We would still be in that division now if it had not been for MacNally and Bowkett remember Delias solution to the problem was to reappoint Gunn as manager totally sums up just how clueless they are . Success for Norwich means removing the Smiths and the nephew , remain and there are going to be many bleak years ahead .
Good piece – We’ve known for years that Delia says some pretty ridiculous things.
By the time Delia hands over the Club to her nephew I suspect it will be a lot less valuable asset than it is today. Once Premier League parachute payments evaporate, and the Club is much more reliant on gate receipts, the finances will very quickly take a nosedive again.
9-George: How long do you think we will remain in the top six? (Neil Adams resigned when we were 7th ….)
Stewart Lewis says
PhillR (15): Quick question.
Who did you think appointed McNally (and let him appoint Lambert)?
Gary Field says
Personally, what they do with their shares is down to them.
If, however, they’re not actively looking for new investors (given that the Board has, since 2010, had Shareholders approval to issue up to 1,000,000 new Ordinary shares) as this would give the purchaser a majority shareholding, then that’s a potential conflict of interests.
Stewart Lewis ,so they got lucky once in 20 years and do you not think maybe Bowkett and McNally left because of the Smiths plans for little Tommy.
martin penney says
# 12 Chris W: top post and I thoroughly agree with you.
# 17 Stewart Lewis: you make a valid point but McNally and Lambert are both long gone – one longer gone than the other, of course.
A great article and I for one agree with James Finbar that the Times interview was both pivotal and, in my perception, soul-destroying.
Craig Bailey says
It should be remembered that McNally was hit and miss too, undoubtedly played his part, but was also responsible for our current player recruitment structure that has failed so miserably over the past few windows, especially going up last time, where we almost made a profit. He was just a human being like everybody else, good points and bad.
sixtiesbarclay boy says
Smith and Jones, do not need a McNally or a Bowkett anymore, they did their jobs. now all she needs are yes men and those who won’t rock the boat. Hence Moxley, Balls and little Tommy
I’ve always had misgivings about Delia smith. There have been more than enough mistakes and outbursts in the past. The times interview merely cemented the doubts and made everyone aware of the lie of the land.
We, as supporters simply don’t matter, dissent will not be tolerated.
The loss of bowkett and McNally has banished any common sense and ability from the leadership of the club and the motley crew left behind is a frightening thing to countenance.
Barring a miracle, whereby somebody whips the current shambles into a football team and promotes it, I. Eighteen months the premier league money that Delia so despises will run dry. Given that she won’t be dipping into her pocket to make up the shortfall can anybody tell us, for nobody yet has, how the hell we are going to sustain a championship football club with no external investment, unlike nearly all of our competitors, large and small. What happens under the smith model when the money runs out?
I can foresee a mass exodus of players, yet another weird managerial appointment and the padding out of the squad with loaners and frees and second rate youth products.
Basically Jarrett, brellier, killen, theoklitos, and the rest managed by gunn or Hamilton.
I for one don’t want to see Norwich city go to hell in a handcart for the sake of Delia smiths vision of how things ought to be.
Martin#20, don’t be too despondent. The storm that has erupted since the times article has brought things to a head, opened Pandora’s box as it were. In effect it’s done us a favour because people are talking about nothing else and the overwhelming consensus is that smith has dropped a massive clanger. Not for the first time.
This article is straight out of the Pink’un message boards and so are half the comments below it.
You don’t speak for me as a fan. Delia hasn’t alienated me. Nor thousands of others. Many, yes.
What makes anyone think that if there was a serious offer for the club we wouldn’t know about it? If someone wanted it that badly they’d do everything in their power to let the fans know about it. Don’t kid yourselves.
And why shouldn’t Delia pass the club on? She owns it. She saved it. She (in case you’ve all forgotten) has made us a consistently top-22 club for the last six years – a period of stability not seen in a long time here.
All this conjecture about ‘she just wants little Norwich’, ‘the club will be in league one etc etc’ is utter nonsense. Look where we are. We are a strong club. We have a good squad. We are debt free. We all know what needs doing – a remarkable AN turnaround or a quick appointment of an experienced manager – but this endless ‘it’s all going to hell’ is just pointless. Take it back to the Pink’un.
Well said and about time somebody did (take note EDP). I wonder if anyone will have the balls to say it at the AGM though?
The Times article stunk of naivety, but that has always been the way the club has been run under them – It’s just taken some fans longer than others to realise.
Phil 15- thank God for Gunny he bought in Grant Holt!
My Brother-in-law died last week and was a Luton Town supporter. Now they have been guilty and punished like no other even spending several years out the league of 92. Did the fans stop going, never!
Now, may be we need a change but let’s not forget what we’ve had these past years. Us fans have had the best, highs and lows a plenty but excitement virtually throughout. So I reckon we need to take a reality pill and realise that we were overdue a downturn. Our home support has been the worst I’ve seen for many a season so how about getting well and truly behind the lads next home game and do our part to lift them, a couple of wins and we can be back on track.
We owe Delia & Michael a depth of gratitude the fact Norwich City F C have achieved so much is down to their leadership. Would you rather be a Leeds, Blackburn, Sheffield Wednesday, Portsmouth, Bolton, Charlton, I…..h?
Chris w 12 really? You’d rather an LVG with a clip board? Klopp, Conte not doing to badly yelling instructions.
Why are most of you trying to tear the house down???
City fan (25), I have never frequented the Pink’un message boards I’m afraid, so not too sure what your point is. You’ve somewhat contradicted yourself with the comment “you don’t speak for me; many yes” – isn’t that the whole point of opinion pieces? That they offer an opinion? Mine differs from yours.
Delia smith owns 51 percent of the club. When she bought that stake in the club, she didn’t buy me. Clearly the same cannot be said for everyone.
Gary Field says
@ 25 City Fan – This isn’t really about what Delia & Michael have done for the Club in the past – for which the vast majority of fans rightly say they’re due significant credit – it’s about how the Club goes forward from here on.
Clearly, the majority of fans hold a different view to D&M.
Just ashamed they decided to make their announcement to a National newspaper so close to and in advance of the AGM, rather than waiting a couple of weeks and having a proper debate on the matter. Offering shareholders an fait accompli was never likely to be a popular move!
Excellent piece James, and highlights what I fear (post the Times interview) many, if not most fans are now feeling/fearing.
There seems to be a real malaise/complacency running through the club from top to bottom.
I cannot help feeling that there is something fundamentally wrong with our coaching/recruitment set-up as I can remember 2 seasons ago Pritchard completely dominating us when he was at Brentford, but so far since signing for us, he has been a shadow of that player.
Similarly, Canos was highly thought of at Brentford whilst on loan there (and playing!!) last season, but this season he cannot even get on our bench when we are really struggling.
After his cameo against Leeds, surely Lafferty deserved better than to be overlooked once again for the QPR match…
I have long felt that since the Newcastle away game last season, Alex has lost his confidence, and it seems the team has as well. The performances have been declining steadily since then, apart from 1 or 2 exceptions. The football I saw at the home match vs Leeds is the worst I’ve seen us play since the season we were relegated to League One. Fans hated Hughton for not playing “the Norwich way” but all we’re doing now is hoofing the ball up to Jerome at every opportunity.
It’s very sad that it’s come to this as Delia has done so much for the club, but that interview could be the beginning of the end. Much as I like the idea of us being a family club, I also want to see us in the Premier League and in this day and age that means being serious about the business aspect. In general I have no issue with her handing the reins over to her nephew but he has no business experience. Again, that would be OK if our Board had a wealth of business experience, but it doesn’t. Ed Balls has been in academia and politics, no real world business experience. People go on about him being non-executive chairman and it’s the CEO that makes the decisions, but the non-exec chairman advises and coaches the CEO, but how can someone with no experience do that? People also appoint non exec chairmen to bring their business contacts with them, but the Aviva shirt sponsorship hasn’t been replaced, and then there’s the farce of the South Stand sponsorship. Now we hear they’re even not listening to any offers?
At this rate I won’t be renewing mine or my dad’s season tickets. We have a 240 mile round trip for matches and due to age and health issues we’re finding it harder to make the journey for every home game. We went to matches even in the League One days, but if the club aren’t even trying to get the structure in place to be an established Premier League club then I don’t think we’ll make the effort either.
DC (33), a great post, but equally a sad one that it’s come to this.
Jon Dunn says
Cracking post and valid points raised, DC #33
With the season floundering, what was needed was unity and solidarity throughout the club, not divisive, selfish and antagonistic words from the owners.
If they are genuine about wanting / needing the fan base onside, it’s not the way to go about it – suggesting that money and the Premier League sucks, and we’re quite happy plodding along as we are for a decade.
Big incentive to renew season tickets, hey?
I’m a City supporter through and through but I have not enjoyed the last two seasons. On all these articles the fans have their say, Great, but in the finality no one is listening, The Board, the Owners the Players , the Manager, They get their pay and the Supporters just pay.
We have no say in the matters. The Club just takes our money. All very well Delia spouting her 1950’s philosophy, She is out of touch with her “common” Bexleyheath roots. she wouldn’t recognise an ordinary “bloke” if he/she spoke to her. We are supporting a club with Championship aspirations. When a company passes it’s control to a relative rather than someone with a good track record in management or chums, then the writing is on the wall. Do we know what said nephew has actually achieved? Sorry my fellow supporters the future is looking fairly gloomy. If someone on high can provide a response to all the comments then we might believe they care OTBC
I’ve been supporting this club since the mid-70s and can’t help feeling this is right up there with relegation to League 1 as the most depressing. The handing of the reigns to Nephew Tom is pure nepotism and the Times article both worrying and alienating.
As supporters though we do have the option to ‘vote with our feet’. Kingpike (36) – the club doesn’t take supporters’ money, it’s voluntary. We all know that football is and has to be run as a business but we also know that it is far from being a ‘normal’ business with all the passion, history, loyalties and passion involved when it come to it’s ‘customers’. The AGM tonight will be very interesting and I can only hope the board go some way to answering all these questions and reassuring supporters about the future. I am not holding my breath though and will seriously consider voting with my feet if not. It may be the only way to make the dinosaurs listen.
Not the chris #24 and 30 by the way. Although, the sentiments are pretty much in line with my own.
it is clear it is a closed shop in regards the opinions of fans. Canary call like the BBC vet calls and dont want to hear from those with a different point of view. The Truth is that Delia and co are only inteested in the business return .No real drive ,passion or understanding of the fan who earns under what they pay on champagne.It was a working mans game -but now we are fed what ever they think will quell the dis satisfaction .It isnt Neil -its the Board that needs to answer the fans-Norwich is renouned by players as a safe holding club to until a real club is available no matter how they play they still get paid!the minute silence to our troops was great display -but it is agood job they were not fighting for our country as we wouldnt be here now.