Our club is exactly where it was nearly 60 years ago when I started supporting it – mid-table in the second tier.
But then Ron Saunders was appointed as manager in the summer of 1969 and everything changed. We had never been in the top league in our history and the resulting promotion in 1972 was seismic. The idea that we would be playing the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal, and Chelsea was both exciting and daunting.
Furthermore, and much further down the line, the very idea of us ever beating Bayern Munich would have resulted in a trip to the funny farm. For me, that achievement has never been topped.
After the Saunders’ promotion of 1972, for 20 of the next 23 years City were in the top flight, and the three times we were relegated we bounced back the very next season. And during that time, from the late-80s through to the early-90s, we were regularly in the top six – the Brighton of the day but with numerous European qualifications sadly denied by the Heysel disaster.
Under Dave Stringer, between March 1988 and January 1990, we beat Manchester United five times in a row. Imagine that.
But, as ever, times change. Mr Chase got his sums wrong, very wrong, and we then had nearly a decade of stagnation in the Championship.
That was until Nigel Worthington was appointed manager and there was that glorious Championship win inspired by Darren Huckerby in 2003-04. After that, we had promotions, relegations, promotions and more relegations than I care to remember.
But it is true to say the last 20 years at Carrow Road have been exciting for reasons both good and bad.
And it was a short reply to Martin’s ‘Remember those new shares?’ piece on March 19 that caught my eye, when a regular MFW commenter asked a very fair question (and I’m playing devil’s advocate here) … do we feel entitled?
I remember one poor soul calling on Canary Call and nearly having a heart attack because we failed to beat West Brom (we drew 1-1). So the question is not without merit.
Have we become so used to Championship success under Paul Lambert, Daniel Farke and, to a lesser extent, Alex Neil that have we come to just expect it? Dean Smith, bless him, was bemused by the fact that no one was getting excited about us being sixth or seventh.
The comment on Martin’s piece cited Stoke City as a good example of a club with rich, billionaire owners that is still stuck in the Championship after five seasons.
By now, only Delia and Michael can really believe self-funding will work as a Premier League club, and perhaps deep down not even them, but certainly throwing money at it is not the only answer. Look at Everton – they have spent just under £500 million in the last few years (mostly pre-Sean Dyche) and have stunk the place out.
But, for me, you cannot run a football club in the real world today without investment. Brighton owner Tony Bloom is worth £1.3 billion. A staggering amount ahead of the Stowmarket two, but still only worth a quarter of the Stoke City owners.
So it is not just money.
You need a stable club with local press and supporters all going in the same direction and a top-class coach with a team that knows his methods inside out. Those methods need to be relayed in detail to a group of players who want to be here and who will buy totally into the coach’s philosophy.
But we also need honesty from those that run the club, something that’s been sadly lacking over the last few years here at Norwich City.
- We shouldn’t be told year after year that no viable offers had ever been made for the club and then hear differently at an AGM from a club executive.
- We shouldn’t have the sporting director blaming the fans for one of the worst summer recruitments on record and the resulting relegation with a paltry 21 points.
- We shouldn’t have hard-working local journalists who have the club at heart banned for daring to criticise the club when they are just doing their jobs.
- And we shouldn’t be borrowing against two years’ worth of parachute payments if the club is truly self-funding.
The list goes on. The dissension between supporter and club is at its worst since the reign of Chairman Chase.
We are at a massive crossroads in the club’s history. Get this wrong and we could end up back in League One or worse.
I now think self-funding will not even work in the Championship in the long term. In retrospect, Daniel Farke produced two miracles – let’s be honest.
This American investment needs to be real, not a smokescreen for Delia to do her Dick Dastardly impersonation and gain an even bigger stranglehold on the club.
So in answer to that MFW comment, yes, to be fair I think some individuals do get carried away and expect us to be back in Europe in a season or two but I also think most fans just want to go and follow the team and see some traditional Norwich City football played and at least be competitive in both the Championship and, someday, again in the Premier League.
It costs a hell of a lot of money to go to football today, especially the away games, so supporters need and deserve value for money. And the empty seats recently at Carrow Road are a worrying development.
The American investment will still be a version of moneyball. We will still have to sell players at some point – I think James Maddison and Ivan Toney will both depart their respective clubs this season for example – but some additional investment will allow us to be more competitive with regard to wages and, hopefully, we can keep the good players at our club for a longer period, just as Leicester and Brentford have done with the aforementioned pair.
We have not been always given the facts regarding the investment situation within the club, so who is to say that without the right finances, our club edge closer again to those great days of the late-80s and early-90s?
As I write this Brentford, Fulham, and Brighton are sitting in the upper echelons of the Premier League, so with our catchment area, with no other clubs for miles, and a stadium that can be built upon, why can’t we at least dare to dream to do the same?
Expect no, entitled no, but yes to dreaming.
What do you all think? Entitled or misled?
History, and an unchanged ownership philosophy tell us that Norwich is basically a better than average Championship club, that occasionally outperforms itself, delights a very loyal fan base and Yo-yos its way into a very disappointing Premiership season, before sinking back below the parapet to normality.
In actual fact, the fans realise this, and enjoy their moments in the sun, enduring Premiership humiliation once every 2 or 3 years.
Will that change if the Smiths retire and let somebody with the billions and an ego take over?
It would be fun to find out, wouldn’t it?
Tim Ball says
It would Bruce.
I like many supporters have given Delia a lot of support in the past. But there comes a time in everything to asses whether you are help or hindrance, and I think in the “New World Order” of football many of Delia and Michaels beliefs are admirable, just not realistic.
Very good read, fair and the truth of the state of the club in there. I to touch the 60 year milestone, although not attending as much, but the delights of streaming I get to watch a lot of games.
To be honest, I do not think any club is entitled to be in the Premiership or Successful, they have to have earned with good management of players,etc of course having a bank balance, as long as Lands end to John O Groats (possibly longer) does help Some clubs have felt the sting of relegation both Manchester clubs have sunk, City to L1 . Newcastle, Burnley, the latter not pace setters but good mid-prem clubs.
We have earned the right to play in the big League but that is where we have been let down time and time again, but prudence, bad recruitment and mismanagement. The one constant in all of these ups and downs has been the owners. Bowkett, Mcnally, Mumby, Doncaster, Balls,,, the disaster from Woves, plus others I cannot recall at the minute, all come and gone.
Yet the stranglehold of an aging TV star has been allowed to get stronger, I will give then credit for trying different methods but all have failed after some limited success.
Time is now and past the sell by date for those two to sell up, take an honorary, place with non voting rights, before the animosity gets worse.
Tim Ball says
Hi Canary lad,
Unfortunately I do not go to Carrow Road at the moment because of chronic and pressing health matters. and like you I have to rely on Sky, Streaming and Marty and Nick😂
I was surprised to see the nearest EPL club to us is Tottenham. And that for me i find extraordinary that there has been no interest in the club before Mr Attanasio, or has there ?
I agree that any success must be earnt.
And I do agree if Delia doesn’t realise that time is up things could get a lot worse.
A very good read Tim.
Remembering the late 90’s 14/15’000 attendances, kids for a quid in the old South stand, losing to Bury and Oxford Utd, Football clubs all have their ups and downs.
At the end of the day makes little difference to fans as to which grade we play in it’s about the club being ‘as one’ the very point you make.
Look at Luton Town, demoted to the National league not many seasons ago, Wrexham, ‘sexy’ owners maybe but what a force, their fans are loving it. Our league one adventure, great fun.
City need a major reset but it’s not all about the footballing side. No team is entitled let’s just be careful what we dream for. A unified happy, harmonious club is my wish.
Tim Ball says
I couldn’t agree more Colin.
On here I have said many times, careful what you wish for.
Bury who you mention are a very good example, I saw them beating Brighton 3-0 on The Big Match Revisited the other month, now gone. Out of existence, so sad.
I was more than open to give the “new” idea of Sporting Director/Coach under Webber/Farke combination (I still think it is the future) and I think we can all agree that Daniel did his job, but the old saying ” a workman is only as good as his tools” has never been truer than in what he had to work with in the EPL.
Was that all Stuart Webber’s fault ? not all of it because of the budget he had.
But many of us said before the last season in the EPL that he was signing to many youngsters for a inevitable relegation fight.
I am sure Delia and Michel love the club, but I am worried they love all the trappings that come with majority shareholders more.
We can argue long and hard about who and what was responsible for our last two fiasco seasons in the Prem. But do we want a repeat? Let’s face it if by some miracle we did sneak back in via Wembley, would we with the present set up, thrive? No! It‘s time for a rebuild, the team ( recruitment and development) the finances and the upper management. The club interface with the media and the fans also needs rebuilding, all of which requires commitment and I doubt the present regime has the gonads.
Tim Ball says
I hate to say this Herr Cutz but I think on balance I am actually with you on this, and I half suspect so is DW.
I find it hard to think what is worse, EPL or Championship football next year.
I think it may be better to build next year from the Championship.
But then I come back to the £150million “reward” for winning promotion.
Rock and a hard place.
Fulham has a bank roll owner worth £4Billion and tried to buy Wembley a couple of years ago rumoured to be the bew home of his NFL Jaguars if he could have got permission moved overseas.
We possibly will have penny pinching baseball owners instead of an out of date cook come the summer, so far in his one interview he said he like to be part of the community, get on with local press and media and take the club to the next level all good sound bites.
I suppose watching city since 1959 I imagine that I’ve seen most things that can happen at a club but 26years of stagnation, no ground improvement and the big self funding really says the club has been the crutch that’s kept our celeb TV cook in the news.
Changes need to come sooner than later and hopefully they are in the pipeline, Stewart Lewis said that the trust have had some information given by the club to them so what the big secret and why not announce it now unless Delia purchased 195k more shares.
That would be the slow death of this club.
Tim Ball says
This is something I struggle with Alex, so many of the billionaire owners seem very reluctant to spend money.
The expenditure on transfer fees in the Championship seems a lot lower in relative terms to years ago. While wages in the Champo have sky rocketed.
It must be FFP I suppose.
I really, really hope Delia has not bought these shares. God help us.
Don Harold says
As fans we’re entitled and expected to dream. Some will have more ambitious dreams than others, but it’s the dreams of fans, players, coaches and directors to move any club upwards.
We’re also entitled to have good communication.
Tim Ball says
Agreed Don, and it is the worst since Robert Chase.
Mind you I do hope at least the rest of the board are kept informed by Delia of financial things, as I know for a fact Mr Chase didn’t tell his board.
I was just trying to get across the fact that road to entitlement will always lead to disappointment but even to dream you have to have everyone pulling in the same direction with no hidden agendas.
We’ve had success but never bought it. When we try to spend big we mess it up, we couldn’t compete with the top,top clubs even if we had their money.
We need to look back on how we’ve been successful previously:
Buy cheap but quality (Pukki Buendia, Krul)
Carefully develop young players, don’t just send them out on loan and judge them on how they do at other clubs. Give them more minutes in our first team.
The manager must know and be able to get the best out of players. We write off and give up on too many.
We aren’t going to beat the top clubs at their own game. The fans should get behind the team, there are no easy games.
Tim Ball says
It is true to say Gill that our “big” signings like Wolfswinkel and Naismith were disasters.
This maybe controversial but I think a ten year stay in the EPL for most mid-range clubs has to be seen as a success of sorts.
Years ago it was Charlton, Bolton, Sheffield Wednesday, Ipswich etc
The key is getting relegated and then coming back, and that seems the hard part.
I do wonder if too many players on high wages in the Championship make that such a hard task.
David Ward says
Dave Ward 23rd March
I think its honest and fair but is there the population if the stadium was made much larger to fill it with enough football supporters. who would come regularly. As an 80 year old I have seen and followed some pretty great teams and some very poor ones through out the years. But of late cannot get excited as I did when city were in the lower leagues playing top teams in the brilliant FA cup run, before being cheated out of the final.
Tim Ball says
My dad followed the team home and away on that great FA Cup run David.
I have to admit that I loves those years long gone when every match meant something.
No “resting” players for vital cup games.
Excellent piece Tim which I think fairly reflects the current position the club finds itself in.
The fans don’t have an entitlement to be in the premiership but I do believe they have an entitlement to value for money which has been sadly missing over the past two seasons.
The ominous number of spare seats must surely tell our woeful owners the time has come for a complete change at the club before it sinks further down football’s hierarchy.
I doubt very much if Delia can afford to run a championship club in the current footballing environment let alone one capable of survival in the premiership.
What happens next is critical I’m just worried that the club has become too big a gravy train to some pretty ordinary employees for the correct decision to be made.
Tim Ball says
I know for sure that a lot of the away supporters over the last two years haven’t had value for money. Because two of them have told me.
You do not get a lot of change out of £150 going away these days.
A frightening amount compared to when I used to go away in the seventies.
I agree that with Delia at the helm it won’t be long before we face another Championship relegation battle.
Get the recruitment wrong this summer and/or next and it could come sooner than we think, look at Huddersfield.
David C. says
Thanks for that Tim, a very good read. Very much misled !! and what we are entitled to is a united club with a transparent ownership/management. The fans are the true owners of any club, without them there is no club, Norwich City’s fan base haven’t caused this stalemate and disconnect, they are honest ordinary Joe’s paying an absorbent amount of their hard earned to follow the club they love, cheering and booing and having a good old whinge is the stuff of all supporters but not in the eye’s of Delia, her disdain towards the supporters goes back many years, take a look on YouTube at her infamous “Come on you lot lets be have’n ya” have a look at her snarling face, as black as thunder and said everything about her for me, Norwich City to her is what the bright lights are to some fading old film star, something to cling onto.
AlexB in his comment above touches on many points of concern to many of us, and rightly so, Alex the reason for secrecy is usually to hide bad news and this share issue has been a worry to me since it was first announced and the longer it goes on the more it looks like another rabbit Delia is pulling from the hat and if this is really happening it means Attanasio has withdrawn his Norwich adventure and so starts the demise of our beloved football club, of course this is just my suspicious mind at work and I’ve been known to be wrong before————- many times!! I too like you Alex go back to the mid/late ’50’s as a supporter so we’ve seen just about everything, but this Delia takes some beating her hide is so thick.
Chase looking back wasn’t a bad businessman, and if it wasn’t for selling players for good fee’s and purchasing land Delia would have kept the club going so for all the bad memories even after he left he still saved the club by his investments yet the cook takes the credit
Tim Ball says
I knew through various but very reliable sources that Delia did approach a very rich horse owner in Newmarket just over a decade ago regarding investment.
Whether that was straight investment or a straight buy out I don’t know, probably the former. She was flatly turned down allegedly.
This and the resulting influx of money into football over the following years enraged our majority shareholder and that came out in an newspaper interview a few years ago.
Such was her anger I was rather shocked in truth, but it did make me realise that she sees this as a crusade against the wealth in the Premier League.
But we pay the price.
martin penney says
A great article with some very good comments – every one’s a winner.
David C [above] raises a point I haven’t actually considered before – that look on Delia’s face during the infamous rant. I’d never really seen that in it before as it’s been too cringeworthy to seek out but I made myself have a look this morning and David is spot on. Malificent incarnate, it really is.
Good to see a bit of love for the Pink Un boys too – they’ve surely got enough problems without Stuart Webber who has swept away much of their raison d’etre in a stroke.
Tim Ball says
I think one thing we can all agree on here is that is that Delia Smith is a very strong personality who has a fundamentalist view on football.
She is right, always. We are wrong if we disagree with her.
Who does that remind you of ? Yes Trump, Putin for example. I am not for one minute putting our majority shareholder in with those two but the thinking is similar.
And it is the Pinkun boys and Michael Bailey who suffer.
Think about it, banned from Carrow Road because you are not praising the club and being upbeat enough about the club.
Hello …. relegated with 21 points from the EPL mainly because of poor recruitment, who in their right mind is going to write positive new about that ?
I will tell you who… Tass Russian News Agency !!!
Hope you are feeling better Martin
Great column Tim, and as always some excellent comments.
No, I don’t think we’re entitled, but we do deserve more from “our club” than we’re currently getting.
The squad are still (for me, anyway) underperforming, but not to the extent shown under S&S.
Recruitment recently has been poor, particularly since Scott left for ‘Boro, but it cannot all be down to those staff as some (we are told) are still leaving to go to Premier League teams.
I’d like Webber to explain his reasons for landing us with S&S – that from a Sporting Director who always stated that he had a succession plan for any eventuality!
And as loyal supporters, we really should be told exactly what is going on with the new share issue. Odd that the EGM, announcement etc., just happened to coincide with season ticket renewals.
Or is it (yet) another big win for those who supply the hierarchy at the club with smoke and mirrors??
O T B C
Tim Ball says
Although I have to hold my hands up and say I thought Dean Smith (Still amazed at how bad it was ) would be a good appointment for the club it did surprise me that we went for more of a manager than a coach.
David Wagner is much more of a natural successor to Daniel Farke than Smith ever was.
We need this share issue thing sorted out, asap.
As a fan of Norwich, Football, and Sport in general, I feel Norwich fans are “entitled” to a club aiming to be the best it can be.
In reality, for me, that’s an extended PL stay and perhaps a cup final.
Considering the history of our club (as was nicely described above), that’s not asking for the extravagant, I’m not even saying “let’s get to Europe” (which we have done) or “let’s win a cup (which we have also done).
What stinks about the club now is the “let’s make-do” attitude and the “it’s okay if we’re in the 2nd tier” narrative. It’s come from the club and has even infected some fans.
This is competitive, professional sports. That sort of nonsense doesn’t belong anywhere near our club and I wouldn’t wish it upon any other team’s fans either.
Tim Ball says
I agree David, without ambition what is the point.
I have always thought that the view some Supporters have of Championship football is that it is better as we are more competitive.
I can understand that but with this model sooner or later it will become a fight to stay in the championship.
I do feel torn with this feeling as to whether it would be better to stay in the champo for another year to help DW find his feet, but then feel bad because that I’m the one lacking ambition.