In today’s Pink Un, City’s Executive Director Zoe Webber says that surviving in the EPL is getting more and more difficult. She admits that because we have no owner investment it makes it even harder. But she is wrong… it makes it impossible.
She also hinted at player sales this summer, not a surprise but perhaps getting us ready for a bigger exodus than we want.
Only the owners at Nottingham Forest and Brentford are not billionaires in the EPL at the moment, but both have owners way beyond Delia and Michael’s wealth. To put the whole thing into context, Newcastle’s owners are nearly 30 times richer than Manchester City’s! That is what we are competing against.
Our two recent EPL excursions have resulted in 20 and 21 points – proof if it were needed, that we’re not even close.
The first season in the EPL under Daniel Farke I will admit had mitigating circumstances, like Covid and a horrendous injury list, but even without those things would we have had enough? I doubt it.
I hope, really hope, that despite Zoe not going as far as saying the word “impossible”, the board and our owners (I prefer majority shareholders) now really do realise that the game is up. Self-funding is like some mythical Arthurian quest, lovely in fiction but in the cold light of reality more of a nightmare.
So will the Attanasio family be our White Knights, riding to our rescue with regular EPL football and a return to European competition?
Probably not, but it will make us more competitive. The family is worth ten times that of Delia and Michael.
It will still be a version of Moneyball but, hopefully, the players we will be trying to sign will be an upgrade on what we have signed over the last few years.
I cannot agree with supporters who say we should have kept players like James Maddison and Emi Buendia. We had absolutely no choice in our present financial situation; the Maddison money was needed for Farke’s massive rebuild and Buendia basically went on strike, but more finances will allow us to keep our good players for longer.
I should stress though that money is now the biggest part of football – arguably bigger than the sport itself – but let’s not forget that Southampton’s owner is a billionaire and yet they are stinking the place out at the moment.
So money is only part of the problem in remaining a regular EPL club. As I have said before, Everton over the last few years have spent nearly the same as Liverpool.
In addition to being funded appropriately, you also need a top coach, a brilliant recruitment team, an honest, inclusive board and, these days, top-class stats operatives.
So with this crossroads we have arrived at – back in the same position we were in 2017 – where do we go from here? Promotion this season now looks like a forlorn hope.
As I said in reply to Martin yesterday, David Wagner must be given the players he needs to play his way. Will it be 4-2-3-1? Or a 4-3-3 that reverts to 4-5-1 when we don’t have the ball?
This was a massive reason why the recruitment of 2021 went wrong. The signings that summer were obviously for a 4-3-3 setup, but did Daniel Farke want that? As a coach at Norwich, he played 4-2-3-1 for 90% of his time, so why the change?
And who will Wagner want here?
I would give both Kieran Dowell and Onel Hernandez new contracts but let those determined to go leave the club and build with those that want to be here.
I would try to keep Andrew Omobamidele, Marcelino Nunez, (who may do a Vrancic and improve next season now he has a season under his belt) and Gabriel Sara.
I’d let Max go if that is his wish with our blessing, and Sam Byram as well because of his injury record.
Then start searching for the Grant Holts, the David Fox’s, and Wes Houlihans of this world as we have done in the past, especially now that German players are not realistic targets. Thanks, Brexit.
Three coaches have failed to get any consistency out of this squad, so to me it is time for Stuart Webber’s time at the club to come to an end.
I am sure he has worked hard at delivering what he promised, regular Premier League status, but even he must admit he has failed. He couldn’t ever win in my opinion because of the financial situation but instead of being honest with us he has picked fights with local journalists and fans and caused the biggest fracture between the club and the fans since the days of Mr. Chase.
The £66 million loan set against parachute payments was another gut punch for all the supporters. It costs a fortune to travel and attend away games nowadays and the club’s attitude to those hardy souls is absolutely dreadful. It is a wonder the club hasn’t blamed them for the inability to get automatic promotion as they did with the relegation last season.
So, a big summer lies ahead. Time for a new sporting director and a new majority shareholder and hopefully this discord between the club and local journalists/fans can be repaired, so we are all on the same page going forward.
Hi Tim, there is not a single thing I would disagree with in that piece!
The biggest problem the fans face is getting the hierarchy out and the new in. Free football and being wined and dined every weekend is the stumbling block here. Unfortunately I do not believe there will be enough fan support to change things at the top until the club really hits rock bottom?
Tim Ball says
I agree nothing will change until there is change at the top.
Do you think that Webber had the budget to attract PL quality players last season? If he did, he failed spectacularly. The same thing happened last summer, at Championship level. I suspect that he doesn’t have the budget and therefore has to roll the dice and buy talented, unproven foreigners, good players with a history of injury problems, or sign promising youngsters on loan.
We apparently have the ambition to get promoted, but have a squad with barely a single player who would interest any PL club. I’m sure Webber would do better with a bigger budget, but that’s not going to happen without ending the current majority shareholders’ reign of mediocrity.
Tim Ball says
No he didn’t Ali, and this is why I do have sympathy for him.
But making the fans scapegoats for the failure of last season was unforgivable.
I can’t send it too you because it’s behind a pay wall, but Michael Bailey has a brilliant article regarding the recruitment of 22/22.
Thanks Tim. I subscribe to the Athletic so will have a look.
Tim Ball says
You are too young probably Ali, but it reminds me of how Monty Python would do recruitment😂
So you are warned.
John T says
Lots of valid points, Tim. So much comes back to recruitment, doesn’t it? Successful recruitment has done wonders for clubs like Brighton and Brentford. Bad recruitment has cost clubs like Everton dear. Our recent recruitment has, of course, been dire. Do any of us think it’s about to get better?
Tim Ball says
We have succeeded under Nigel Worthington, Lambert/Culverhouse, Alex Neil and Daniel Farke in getting ourselves promoted but no one has managed to stay there for any appreciable time John.
And it is down to recruitment.
But signing so many youngsters for a relegation scrap made no sense to me.
Tim Ball says
I think the feeling around most of the supporters at this moment in time is unfortunately apathy. Letting Dean Smith go certainly took out a lot of the pent up anger out of the mix as most of us wanted to give David Wagner every chance.
I still do. But I think for any chance for him to succeed there must be changes at boardroom level and in the Sporting Director’s chair.
Both he and Daniel Farke have fashioned exciting championship clubs with deserved promotion to the Premier League and both found the needed financial help non existent when they got there.
I do think however a that a poor start to next season and Carrow Road will very quickly become toxic.
You’re right that being self sustained is impossible if we continue to play the same financial game as all the others. The first promotion with Farke we were supposed to be doing it differently – rewarding our young players and buying new young players. It failed, but we were close. We won the Champs again using the same technique – adding players like Dowell, MaCullum, Placheta etc for 2 or 3 million apiece. Better starting quality.
Then we gave up on that idea – No one has a clue why we did that. Shelling out not far short of £10m a time for Rashica, Tzolis and Sargent and giving out £40 and £50k a week contracts? Why? We should have stuck to our principles.
Now we are stuck in the same position as 2017 – with a bunch of overpaid players who are not good enough even to compete in the Champs but who will cling on to the last two or three years of their stupidly high deal, even after the relegation clause has kicked in.
Zoe Ward is simply defending her incompetent husband. Borrowing £66m against our parachute payments is and always was madness – surely that was obvious to everyone involved at the time and surely that includes the whole Board. The complete lack of scrutiny or NED involvement in such decision making is mind-boggling. These unbelievably untalented “Executives” are completely unaccountable yet are still earning an absolute fortune despite their total failure.
I can only hope that once Attanasio completes his takeover he will bring some ability to that Boardroom – it’s been sadly lacking for the last two seasons despite having a roadmap to follow.
Interesting read Tim.
From your appraisal of Zoe Webber’s piece in the Pink Un it appears the senior employees are all hiding behind the fact the owners cannot afford to run a club in the top divisions of professional football in this country. This situation is as bizarre as me buying a Bentley and expecting my neighbours to pay the running costs!
If Delia cannot afford to run the club she needs to put us all out of our misery and place the club up for sale so that we may be blessed with an owner who can afford to finance it.
To think that Chase was hounded out by the fans for selling players, despite producing top flight and European football, whereas Delia is treated as a saviour for twenty six years of luck and misery beggars belief!
It’s time fans stopped being so apathetic.
Exactly this. Stop using Delia Smiths lack of money as an excuse year after year.
The answer is clear and obvious. Step aside and allow thw club to compete with its peers on an equal footing.
Hundreds of millions of pounds that should have been used to improve the stadium, the playing squad and the facilities has simply been swallowed up to facilitate this wretched self funding crap.
Tim Ball says
It is indeed the case John.
There must be some reasonable people in the boardroom or the executive who know damn well that self funding in the EPL without owner investment is a fallacy.
I have said before there is a bit of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” regarding our custodians.
I agree too that Delia has had an easy ride with all of this..
However John I’m in a bit of a bind when people try to defend Mr Chase 🤣
Let’s put it this way allegedly his plans for the 1996/97 season would have caused this 😱😱😱
Tim, I was also opposed to Chase selling players and buying land.
I even wrote to the EDP about it but if I’d known what was to come I might have kept quiet.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
Tim Ball says
Don’t get me wrong John the former chairman had his good points but when it came to his survival or the quality of the teams we would have put out, there was only one winner in Mr Chase’s mind.
In that respect Tim, I see no difference between Smith and chase
Both have consistently downgraded the playing staff. Smith to an industrial level
Inside Right says
It’s one of life’s ironies that Chase was hounded out when the fans generally had ambition, to be replaced by something far far worse.
There is so much wrong with the club it’s hard to know where to start. We are potentially on a slippery slope as I still feel the Attanasio’s are a distraction for better times that may never come our way.
The club is simply perverse in the way it conducts itself and is the envy of nobody, regardless of the rhetoric of the majority shareholders.
I remember when the club employed Zoe and didn’t want it to be known her association with her husband, now we all know who she is with her husband the footballing equivalent of Terry & June.
Tim Ball says
I think Inside Right that when Delia and Michael took over it was a big relief at the time. Mr Chase was taking down us a road I can assure everyone on here that would have appalled even the cheeriest Happy Clapper this side of Ipswich.
I still think at the time D & M did have the very best interests of the club at heart.
But they have changed, even more so football has changed and I am afraid
D & M haven’t changed with it.
We have to be fair here, the seduction of “owning” a football club can be very intoxicating, that makes it very hard to give up.
Tim Ball says
I agree wholeheartedly sgncfc.
It really was a dagger through the hearts of all City fans that our custodians of the club who herald self-funding with a zealots zeal have borrowed BOTH of the next two seasons of parachute payments.
You’re half way there, yet still fast asleep.
We are in free fall. Delia’s incessant clinging onto the club (not Brexit – a trite and benighted dig), aligned with the subsequent apathy from the fans, has set us up for a dangerous time ahead.
I returned to the Carra for the first time in 5 years against Burnley and felt nothing but sadness. The fans have become so weak and passive, they won’t even voice their discontent with a purpose at the perpetrators of this mess (so of course they crack on with their socialist outlook on football ownership). They simply sip their PG tips and shrug their shoulders. We must stop blaming others, us fans are at fault for allowing this drivel.
David C. says
I couldn’t agree more Jeff, I’ve commented here a few time over the past two seasons about the supporters apathy, yes we are at fault, this false adulation of Delia beggers belief, the fans got rid of Chase who gave us the most successful period of success in the clubs history yet happily put up with 26 years of this shite, the Norfolk supporters are by and large apathetic it’s easier to just accept what’s dished up than complain ( but after 26 years !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ) give me a brake!! surely after getting rid of D Smith that should have given confidence of what fan power can do, a mass boycott and demo of “Chase proportions” is badly needed because anyone holding out for Attanasio to take over is going to be crying in their cuppa, remember when he showed a bit we were in the premier, not a struggling Championship side with debts, personally I think the club is in free fall and heading for it’s worst period ever
Tim Ball says
You are indeed correct Jeff in the assertion that I maybe still asleep with not realising what may come.
However on Brexit you misunderstand what I meant.
We can no longer buy European players who do not have certain qualifications.
And that is certainly down to Brexit.
On the day of the vote I must have flipped flopped all morning.
I still don’t know if it was wise or foolhardy.
Another thing I hear all the time is “we must get rid of Delia” that’s not easy.
We all want it but how ?
Why is it that no other SD has complained about Brexit, Burley recruited 3 players at least from Belguim and other clubs seem to negotiate any problems.
Being cynical South America has a lot more higher Mountains than Europe and in reality the prices aren’t that different, Sara will cost as much as Tzolis, Sargent and Rashica.
We stopped recruiting in Europe when Kieran Scott left as he had good contacts and picked up Buendia, rumour was Webber never wanted him, now the replacement for Scott the Huddersfield Owners son Hoylt has moved to Brighton as head of their European recruitment.
Delia and her cohorts have been facing this day for 26years and they will never admit to how many times the clubs been near bankruptcy the only headline one was when we sank to League 1 so they have lived to close to the edge and never seen the errors of their ways.
Football is a business first and a sport second these days and if you don’t finance it correctly then we could end up like Bury, Our majority shareholders say they are fans and care about the club if that’s the case why haven’t the got investment years ago simple answer they thought they knew better than the rest of football.
Zoe Webber was just stating the obvious that the supporters have know for years Smith and Jones couldn’t afford to finance a club but hung on for Dear life to their Celebrity status as owners and didn’t give a rats A### for what other thought.
Anyway a good read
Tim Ball says
I stood on a land mine mentioning Brexit. My mistake. I know from my own family not to go there😂
What I meant is that we could no longer scout cheap bargains who won’t get work permits nowadays.
I agree with you on Delia and Michaels’s mind set, it is almost like George Orwell’s book Animal Farm how absolute power can corrupt absolutely.
This is the question now, are we better off with Delia at the helm or not? most evidence says an emphatic no.
I may be wrong and we end up with Charlton, Bolton type owners but standing still in football is still going backwards.
I think we are Turkey’s voting for Christmas or Thanksgiving neither has a happy ending.
The Webber’s and the 4 Related Smith/Jones know that any changes at the top will hit them hard especially the first two.
Webber has by all accounts been over too Milwaukee with the recruitment teams learning their systems so trying to endear himself to Mark-A
Tim Ball says
That is exactly what I mean when supporters say ” Delia needs to go ! ” its not that easy. I do think some supporters just think she can just be sacked, she can’t.
Unless she goes of her own accord or via a hostile/friendly takeover then she ain’t for moving.
It is very interesting to hear that SW has been over to Milwaukee to see how they operate.
I have said this before in comments on here I still believe it to be the case. I do not think for one second that Smith & Jones would allow someone (Attanasio in this case) to come into the club and onto the board if it was a threat to their ownership position. The shares they own have always been promised to their nephew, I have not heard any different from that.
There is only one way out of this free-fall, and that is for the Stowmarket duo to sell out, lock,stock, and barrel. If not we will carry on exactly the same, with either no fictional Parachute or no Premiership Parachute. They have allowed chance after chance go by, I believe the best was Lambert, he got us there kept us up, and needed to add what he wanted to keep us there, not someone else telling him.
They must take responsibility, allowing other people to run the club, some can applaud that position as they are clearly lacking the skill set to do. But to stand back and give what looks like the reins to a married couple. You can be forgiven for thinking that Mrs. Webber is the only voice in Carrow Rd.
She will, of course, fight her husband’s position at the board level, I would expect nothing else.
The media block stinks almost like there is something rotten to hide, leaving the public with a very controlled output, which just keeps adding fuel to that fire.
We are getting closer to the trapdoor to League One again, wonder who will be the scapegoats this time round if that happens ?
The supporters are being groomed to take the blame
Tim Ball says
I have always said there is a touch of “Let them eat cake” with our Delia Chris.
Tim Ball says
In todays football you cannot have success without hard cold cash.
Do I think it is sad, of course but I live in the real world. Delia still lives in this imaginary world where she hates other people’s wealth unless it is hers. Her opinion is that so much of football money is dirty, it is but that is reality.
Could this be a disaster ditching Delia and Michael? of course it can, but keeping with the status quo will mean sooner or later relegation to League One again and perhaps worse.
martin penney says
It’s all been said before but that does not mean that it doesn’t need to be said again.
For me the saddest part is in what we might call the detail.
Although this story featured in the Pink Un it was actually lifted from a business magazine that very few of us would otherwise have read, so well done to Paddy or whoever for picking up on it and putting something of a spin on it to, but for obvious reasons it wasn’t a very pronounced spin.
Quite why Webber won’t let the Newsquest boys do their jobs this far down the tracks is really starting to bother me now as it seems personal and that’s no way to do business as we all know.
Free the Rouen Road three 🙂 ***
*** Or wherever else they operate from these days!
Tim Ball says
It was an excellent spot from Paddy and the boys.
We have just been down The Iceni having a few before Marty and Nick head off to Sheperds Bush. Not a thought of how they maybe blamed if this goes all Tom-tit tonight.
QPR haven’t won for ages so although Marty and Nick are the only ones going, none of us think we will win. tonight. Sadly a perfect ACN moment?
I hope for their sake not.
But there are 4 coaches going tonight, all ignoring the noise Stuart, supporting their team. Not bad considering our league position.
That is what football is all about.
As I understand Manchester United has several, at least 10 new owner possibilities. That proves that there is plenty of foreign interest towards english clubs. There is foreign owners in lower league english clubs too and it seems to be growing all the time.
I would change football brexit rules to involve only the premier league clubs. It would reduce the gap especially between the premier league and the championship. It would benefit overall football player markets. Nowadays all player transfers are bargain priced or free outside the premier league.
Someone mentioned Brighton, they are brilliant. At the same time their other club Union St Gilloise is brilliant too. Same owner Tony Bloom.
Tim Ball says
We have had opportunities over the last 14 years 1×2 to be a Brighton again but lack of financial muscle has done us every time.
That is why I say to Delia and Michael is it in the best interests of Norwich City FC for you to remain in situ ?
I say no.
Absolutely bang on.
It’s refreshing to read an article not based on bias towards our owners and their lack of ambition, but more importantly our Sporting Director who without question, has failed. Mr Webber intended to use us some degree of stepping stone to a bigger club, but his stock will be lower than ever now I’d say.
I for one will be happy to see the back of him. Thanks for all you’ve done, but your time is up now.
Tim Ball says
We discussed this today Jason.
The truth is Stuart Webber doesn’t really have a boss, in a way it is his wife.
Okay I still think his mandate was impossible but his reaction to failure has been ridiculous.
The recruitment in 2021, Stuart’s reasoning was “it was alright it was the fans fault”
So it was the fans fault that Billy Gilmour couldn’t pass to someone in yellow and green for the most of the game or that Normann and Kabak were kept in the treatment room because the fans kept kicking perfectly fit players when they got the opportunity.
Sorry Stuart I don’t think so.
Tim; as Martin says above, it’s such a shame that the article originally appeared in some magazine with a circulation somewhat lower than the belly of a snake.
Like yourself, I’ve been a staunch supporter for around 60 years, and in that time have never ever felt so disenfranchised with my club. Yes, Chase was hounded out, but we should never forget that under him we had our most successful ever period. Under Alas Smith and Jones there have been a few highs, but the lows are really, truly, low.
As other have pointed out, why do the Brexit rules apply only to our sporting director? Burnley have recruited brilliantly, and like every other club in the 92, can also use the loans market effectively. NCFC?? Other than Skipp have we really had a successful loan-in (and those out don’t go to well either).
Our Sporting Director claimed to have every eventuality covered should staff leave. Well, that really came back to bite him when he binned Farke, and since Kieran Scott left, recruitment hasn’t exactly been a high point.
I gave up my ST’s after last season. I miss the cameraderie around the friends we made at the matches, but the actual football?? Not at all. Yes, at the start of this season it was difficult, but now?? Not one bit!!
Of course I look for the results, and want my team to win every match….but somehow they’ve made an art form of going from the sublime to the ridiculous in ever more ridiculous ways.
Like 20,000 others, I put in more money each season that it appears Delia and Michael do. I truly had had enough, but after the performances up to January, find it incredibly difficult to comprehend how, once again, those 20,000 are stumping up for yet another season.
It’sthe hope that kills you!
O T B C
Tim Ball says
Just to let you know that according to my season ticket holding mates the football this season has been particularly dire. So you certainly haven’t missed anything, other than the great company of fellow supporters.
Again I should not have mentioned Brexit. You are quite right that we can still sign European players just not the bargains that have we picked up in recent years.
I won’t try to explain how it works, because I don’t fully understand it myself, but it is to do with new rules and paperwork linked I think to games played at what level including international appearances.
This all comes down to one thing John are we better off with Delia and Michael as majority shareholders or is it time to move on from them?
With the way football is now that has to be an emphatic yes.
Mic Corbs says
It’s quite something when the Main Pink un message board reflects a more intelligent approach that my football writer; a cosy cartel of comments here.
So the fans are not to blame, yet many of these comments snipe at those who show “adulation” towards the current custodians. My only real criticism of them is they have been a little over ambitious. As for Robert Chase, we could of won the league, even a double was on, with a little more ambition- a loan move for Ian Dowie in particular.