With nearly half the season gone and City languishing in mid-table, it would take extreme levels of optimism (or pessimism) to consider anything other than a third consecutive season in the Championship next year and with it, a parachute payment-sized hole on the balance books.
Not insignificant for a club which is seeking to buck the footballing trend by developing a sustainable self-financing model.
For without the hand-outs from the Premier League and media companies, it’s a model that relies on the sale of prized assets, which invariably means the players who have provided the all too rare moments of magic and excitement in an otherwise turgid season.
Little wonder perhaps that discussions have again centred on the architects of our current position and the self-funding strategy; namely the board of directors and majority shareholders.
It’s a debate that is vaguely reminiscent of the canvassing that surrounded the Brexit referendum.
The disillusioned on one side, desperate for change. Their counterparts quick to point out the dangers and pitfalls that any change could bring.
It’s a futile argument.
Football is littered with both success stories and failures that allow us to simply choose the examples that validate our own views and, as such, I’ll try to resist the temptation of citing specific cases to support what follows.
But ultimately, it’s pointless because there is no referendum. The owners have bought their shares and with it an entitlement to do as they so wish, and we already know exactly what their intentions are.
No chance of ‘Dexit’ for the foreseeable future.
The ‘remainers’ amongst us will cite the Board’s ‘party line’ by insisting that there are no investors queuing up to plough their cash into a club like Norwich City.
It’s a hard argument to refute as I can’t provide a list of potential candidates, however, I also can’t believe that we’re such an unattractive proposition that it can be discounted completely.
We’re also told that we should be grateful to the current owners for saving the club from extinction and that we’re lucky to have genuine fans in charge.
With regards the former, it may (or may not) be true but should that gratitude extend to the point that we blindly accept the status quo twenty years later?
I’m not convinced but it’s the second point that intrigues me – how important is it that those who run any football club can call themselves genuine fans and what benefits does it bring in real terms?
It’s worth noting that I’ve only met Delia and Michael once. It was following a Southampton away game, in which they had swapped the Director’s box for the away end and afterwards stopped for a chat and a selfie with my lad.
They couldn’t have been nicer and so I can’t advocate any form of personal abuse or criticism aimed at them as people or as fans.
However, I’d have happily swapped that whole experience in favour of having some aloof owner with both the means and the will to throw pocket loads of cash at the club.
Simply put, I struggle to see the tangible value in having fans in charge when those fans are not able to compete with the riches enjoyed elsewhere.
Currently, it feels ‘nice’, but little more than that.
I’m sure it could be argued that the investment made by Delia and Michael has come at a personal cost; that their interest-free loans benefitted the club to their own detriment and that their money could have been better spent elsewhere. Hearts of fans, ruling the heads of successful business people.
But we could all make a similar argument for the money (and time) that we’ve ‘invested’ over the years, traipsing around the country in support of the football club.
It’s at an entirely different level of course, but even Delia and Michael’s millions are not at the level needed to sustain a football club in the modern era. Or at least not one which hopes to eat anywhere close to the ‘top table’ in the current climate.
And it’s those hopes and aspirations which lie at the heart of the debate surrounding current and future ownership.
I don’t believe that there’s a right or wrong answer – just different personal expectations.
Unlike some, I struggle with the notion that we should simply accept our place in football’s hierarchy. The league table has nothing to do with a club’s history or fanbase and everything to do with its ability to attract the best coaches and players. And while investment doesn’t guarantee success, it sure as hell gives you a better chance of finding it.
As for the argument that we shouldn’t consider alternative investment in case it goes sour, it’s akin to ordering the same dishes off the takeaway menu in case you try something new which you don’t like. Or going to the same holiday destination each year because you already know the resort.
There’s nothing wrong in that but it’s not for everyone.
With the Club’s future already mapped out, those of us who crave change or something different are in for disappointment and unfortunately left with a stark choice.
As we approach season ticket renewal time, it will be interesting to see what choices are made.