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.