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Good to see the times are changing at Norwich City

PUBLISHED: 08:24 13 May 2017

Tom Smith is part of the changing face of Carrow Road. Picture: Nick Butcher

Tom Smith is part of the changing face of Carrow Road. Picture: Nick Butcher

Archant © 2017

We all love a secret, some inside information – it’s what football fans, in particular, thrive upon.

However, keeping your secrets in-house does provoke and produce an awful lot of misinformation which can do more harm than good, not least because fans love to be loved. They want their club, which they support with a passion, to keep them in the loop, to share a secret, which in turn makes them feel wanted. It then becomes a secret no more, but the emotional bond is secure.

In recent years, football has changed as clubs have realised that everything that moves within its walls is their property – including information. Therefore, they hoard it until it becomes a commercial asset, and then ‘sell’ it – usually via its website where it can make financial gain every time we go there to check out the latest ‘reveal’.

Nothing wrong with that, it’s called business.

Except that along the way, doors have been closed to avoid prying eyes and radar ears the opportunity to pick up information. Again, their choice.

But at some point there becomes a disconnect between club and supporters who crave information about an institution that, let’s be fair, their money funds.

In recent years this has happened at many clubs – we hear stories backing that up from fellow writers around the country – so it was good to see Norwich City director and owner-of-the-future Tom Smith admitting that, in his words, fans “didn’t feel as connected to the club as they had in the past”.

“They felt the board and the senior management were too distant, that we weren’t listening,” he said in the final matchday programme of the season. “I can assure everyone: we are always listening.”

Pointing out that board members attend events and AGMs (which perhaps they ought to anyway) and “interviews now and then”, he did say it was important to recognise and react to the perception of a disconnect.

Fans generally want to talk about two things: the playing side and what the board are doing when things aren’t going well. Opening up more avenues with supporters (I know of fan representatives who were extremely unhappy at their treatment under short-stay chief executive Jez Moxey) brings everyone together in a united, happy clappy group.

The board have set the wheels in motion – their structural reorganisation has created a feelgood factor that no one thought would be seen at the end of the season. Talking about Stuart Webber’s appointment as sporting director, Smith said: “The fact was that we had grown significantly as a club since 2009. The idea that a single person could control all of it – setting football strategy, overseeing the Academy, deciding what sort of key-rings we should be selling in the club shop – was, in hindsight, anachronistic. In particular we realised that the football side now required dedicated expertise, so we decided to bring in someone who could take a strategic and long-term approach to all of our sporting operations, freeing up the managing director to focus on the commercial and administrative elements of the business.”

Basically, put the football in the hands of football experts and the rest of the club in the hands of management experts.

Webber’s frankness has been an eye opener – and, again, something which has pleased supporters. He appears not to have body-swerved a single question and the decision that he and managing director Steve Stone should face the media this week was a simple but very cute signal that things are changing.

I was fortunate enough to be in the Legends Lounge before Sunday’s game against QPR when Adam Drury, excelling in his new career with a microphone, was conducting a Q&A with keeper Declan Rudd. The most obvious question from the audience was: do you expect to be number one choice next season now John Ruddy has gone?

Rudd was sensible enough to talk of his ambition, without going too far. Drury’s comment that “if Stuart Webber was here he’d tell us for definite” was said with a smile, but revealing, given he had opened up at the same pre-match forum just a couple of weeks earlier.

There are bridges to be built all the time between clubs and supporters, if only because you can’t please all of the people all the time. But opening up, revealing snippets of inside information which, frankly, fans should probably be appraised of anyway, helps.

The signs are that the times are changing at Carrow Road.

In some ‘administrations’ it would be regarded as a fix, but, thankfully, here at Archant Towers we are much more understanding when it comes to certain things.

Like the winner of the Pink Un prediction league – who just so happens to be the man who organises it. Yes, Sportsdesk Pete has regained his title as top tipster.

The fact that he takes the crown from yours truly has nothing to do with this post.

What the final table (Pete was ahead of Michael Bailey, followed by columnists Melissa Rudd and Robin Sainty) does reveal is who are the pessimists (some would say realists) among us.

Week after week I nailed my colours to City’s mast. Week after week they let me down. Even last weekend, against QPR, they couldn’t just help me out: I called it 3-0 and when a late chance went begging I almost jumped out of my seat with joy. Then Wes Hoolahan struck. And once again, my tipping frailties were exposed.

Roll on next season.

So, here we are then. It’s summer. The season when football fans realise they have gardens and families and that supermarkets are open for business on Saturday afternoons.

The off-season isn’t my favourite, but today gives me the opportunity to repeat a classic story from Tommy Docherty, recalling his attempts to get a wage rise during his playing days at Preston.

“I went to Deepdale on my day off, tapped on Billy Scott’s door, sat down and said ‘right, boss, I’ve come about my pay rise.’ Preston are one of the leading teams in England and from now on I want as much money as Tom Finney. Tom Finney gets £14 a week in the season and the same in the summer. I only get £8 in May, June and July.’

“The manager couldn’t believe what he was hearing and just said, ‘What are you talking about, lad, you’re not as good as Finney, no player in the world is.’”

Docherty replied: “I am in the summer.”

2 comments

  • The comment below, while unusually erudite for a Troll, is not from me. Just so you know.

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    French canary

    Monday, May 15, 2017

  • The latest utter nonsense from Lakey. What is the big secret that the club has supposedly opened up about, that which justifies the first few paragraphs of page filling guff about radar ears, hoarding information and selling it? Communication used to be one of the Club's strong points but putting all the blame on Moxey is wrong. He was here for a very short time and things may well be improving in that regard again, but this is hardly radical stuff. Robin Sainty might be peeved that Moxey didn't return his calls but the main reason for the disconnect fans felt (and still do) is the Times interview with the Smiths. However reluctant Lakey might be to mention it in a another glowing tribute to Tom Smith, that disconnect was as much about tthe realisation that our Board seemed more bothered about their own version of football utopia than competing in the Premier League. Admittedly, appointing Tom to the Board while while neglecting to tell us the club was being handed down was one such communication faux pas, but that wasn't of Moxey's doing. And all this dawned while decisions about the playing side of things were overlooked and we trundled back to the Championship without a care and again ducked the big changes that could have been made thereafter. What minor improvements have been made on the communication front since are unimportant when balanced alongside the bombshell(s) delivered during that interview. Giving up on last season while we still had a chance only compounded the frustration among many who felt this Board was totally unfit for purpose. Feelgood factor? Webber's arrival is certainly welcome but very much overdue. Likewise there is a long, long way to go for this Board after the utter car crash of the last two years and communication and openness are not the biggest issues right now. Webber may well be as open as a barn without a door but most of what he has said and done is pretty obvious thus far, though he should be congratulated for it all the same. However, we still don't have a coach or a recruitment team and may not even get those we are holding out for. Releasing out of contract players was hardly difficult and the really hard work in shipping out those with inflated wages and egos before bringing in replacements is yet to come. If summer doesn't go to plan then all the communication in the world can be dressed up as changing times but actions speak very much louder than words.

    Report this comment

    French Canary

    Monday, May 15, 2017

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