Beyond the league and form tables, I have little insight into the other Championship clubs, aside from preconceptions and second-hand opinions.
I’m guessing that’s also true of other teams’ fans.
Ask a neutral what they make of Norwich and I suspect there would be raised eyebrows at the lowly league position, and some platitudes about being a well-run club that should be in or around the play-offs.
That has been the widely accepted narrative, ever since Emi Buendia and Teemu Pukki fired City to two Championship titles and the prudent approach to Premier League survival.
Self-funded, canny operators in the transfer market, with a conveyor belt of academy graduates. A club that was prepared to buck the trend and deserving of respect.
But it’s an outdated view.
We’ve all digested the figures within the annual accounts and dissected the latest failed attempts from our Head Coach to get a tune out of his playing squad.
I have nothing to add.
A back-four of Placheta, Warner, McLean, and Fisher, says it all.
It is worth highlighting that ten years ago, City’s Under-18 side, containing the Murphys and Carlton Morris, lifted the FA Youth Cup. Last Saturday, the present Under-18s were beaten 7-0 by Aston Villa and remain pointless in the U18 Premier League after eight games.
So that’s three pillars of our model (the finances, the playing squad, and the ‘youth’), which wouldn’t look out of place in Pisa.
The development of the training centre continues, however with results as they are, the new ‘recovery hub’ would arguably benefit more from having a team of therapists and a licensed bar rather than a swimming pool.
In football, results are everything. They create the lens through which we view and judge what’s happening off the pitch. But ultimately, what’s happening off the pitch will determine what happens on it.
So we can blame the defender whose mistake led to a goal. We can blame the Head Coach who picked him or the Sporting Director who bought him.
In reality, there are two people who are the architects of this unholy mess.
I’ll try to keep this impersonal and avoid going in two-footed on the owners. They are nice people and genuine supporters. I’m sure they believe that every decision has been made in the club’s best interests over their own.
The debate on whether they ‘saved’ the club has played out many times and is always emotive.
Perhaps what we can all agree on is that there was a time when the club needed them, more than they needed the club.
That was in November 1996. In their first season as majority shareholders, City finished in 13th place in the second tier.
Twenty-seven years later, City finished last season in 13th place in the second tier.
Six promotions and six relegations.
Seven seasons in the top flight, 19 seasons in the second tier and one season in the third tier.
The landscape of English football has changed significantly since they took the helm. Maintaining the club’s status as a mid-table Championship club could be seen as an achievement in itself, considering the financial revolution within the industry and their relative lack of personal wealth.
Last season, Vincent Kompany’s Burnley were the Manchester City of the Championship. They spent £90 million in the summer to become the Norwich of the Premier League.
Chelsea’s transfer spend under Todd Boehly passed the one billion (not a typo) pound mark. They are currently in tenth – one point and one place behind Brentford.
But we are not currently pitting our pittance against the top-flight billionaires. We’re getting battered by Plymouth and just about everyone else who shows up to Carrow Road. And all while ‘enjoying’ the advantage of Premier League parachute payments.
It would be wrong to accuse the club of not trying to change or find a formula to bring success.
The problems arise from the choices made and the pace of change.
While it’s unfair to use hindsight to criticise decisions, the indecisiveness is less forgivable and represents a lack of leadership.
It is clear that Delia and Michael value patience, stability, and loyalty, and have embedded those values into the club. Commodities that are rare within football. They have often been accused of delaying the decision to part ways with a manager. Trusting or hoping that things will turn around before finally succumbing to the inevitable.
However, all those who serve Norwich City, whether as employees or as self-proclaimed stewards of the club, have to face the fact that at some stage, their services will no longer be required and be deemed obsolete.
It’s a harsh but common reality for playing and coaching staff. Club legends, Iwan Roberts and Darren Huckerby were released at the end of their contracts with no sentimentality or regard for their past contributions. No option for them to decide to part ways at a time or manner of their own choosing.
Of the 14 managers (excluding caretakers) to serve under the current owners, only Paul Lambert chose to leave the club. All the others were relieved of their duties.
It is the nature of the game because football is a ruthless, results-driven industry.
If you had a player at the end of their career, whose ‘legs had gone’, you wouldn’t change your formation and tactics to accommodate them and expect someone else to do the running for them.
In essence, that’s what Delia and Michael are doing. They have created a leadership structure in which their responsibilities as owners, to hold the directors to account, have effectively been delegated to those very same people.
Ironically, when Stuart Webber concluded that his own time was up, it was Delia and Michael who pleaded with him to stay on (at 90 percent), such was their reliance on him.
In doing so, their position becomes increasingly problematic. Without investment and/or decisive leadership, their roles amount to little more than a pair of figureheads enjoying ‘free’ season tickets and corporate hospitality. It creates a vacuum in which decision-making and authority lack clarity and effectiveness.
It is easy to see why they are reluctant to give it up, especially as the proposed three-year transition would see them reach the landmark of three decades in charge.
It’s been their life. In many ways, it defines them.
Some would argue that they have earned the right to run it how they choose and to leave when it suits them but the club needs more from those at the top than they can currently give.
With new investors waiting in the wings, we are now in a place where the owners need the club more than the club needs its owners.