Doncaster knows answer to the $64m question

PUBLISHED: 09:00 06 September 2008 | UPDATED: 15:45 10 September 2010

The Man In The Stands

Neil Doncaster made for interesting listening on Radio Norfolk's The Scrimmage this week.

Neil Doncaster made for interesting listening on Radio Norfolk's The Scrimmage this week.

He told Chris Goreham: “Owning a football club is something a lot of people want to do, we have seen this with the takeover of Manchester City and speculation around other clubs.

“I am certain there will be a number of people who express a real interest in getting involved in Norwich City Football Club - being one of the clubs that's most respected in English football.”

The Man found it intriguing, because in previous years I've heard Neil say on numerous occasions that there was no queue of investors lining up to plough money into a provincial Championship football club.

But then he qualified the remarks: “Attracting investment is something the club has tried to do over the years.

“There isn't many people who want their wealth to go towards supporting a manager's transfer budget, but some people do and that process [of speaking to them] has been ongoing but has received renewed focus with recent events.”

Renewed focus indeed.

As our austere chief executive goes, that's about as candid as he gets. And it sums up the difference between “ownership” and “investment” neatly.

For while there will be scores of rogues and dubious consortiums who would be interested in owning Norwich, there presumably isn't too many people out there who just want to top up a manager's transfer budget, without having their name above the door.

What will be interesting now, as the club's search for investment moves from “always having the door open” to actively seeking money out, is quite what green and yellow deal people are being offered.

Is the club after an investor, or is it after a new owner? Only Delia and Michael, and Neil Doncaster, will currently know the answer to that question.

Would Delia and Michael make the massive commitment of ploughing another £2m loan into the club if they were on the verge of selling up? It seems unlikely, but it's not unthinkable if jobs are on the line.

The Man understands that following the Turners' departure, there has been no contact between the club and Peter Cullum. (Naughty me, I mentioned the 'c' word again.)

Now I don't blame Delia and Michael for that at this stage, clearly you do not ring the guy up when you appear to be in a vulnerable position. If they are really serious about selling up they will be working their contacts' book to see what else is out there first.

The amount Cullum offered for their shares (something between zero and £16m I'm told…) is not going to go up without some healthy competition from elsewhere.

The other option, of course, is that Delia and Michael are simply looking for someone to fill the gap left by the Turners, and not to sell up. On that basis, Cullum would be the last person that they call.

Time will tell.

The Man has said before that Delia and Michael's lack of dialogue with Cullum will come under scrutiny. That is not being negative towards the pair, it's just true.

And we've now, post-Turners, reached a stand-off where neither side is prepared to make the first move; for understandable reasons.

Delia and Michael probably think Cullum is a bit of a rotter for offering them a derisory amount for their shares a year ago. He can come back if he's got a decent offer to make, they'll think.

Cullum will have looked at the numbers and questioned why he should be paying £56m for a business that loses money hand over fist. Twenty million pounds and a little bit for Delia and Michael's shares sounds right to him.

Although the initial and on-going lack of dialogue is regretful, The Man does not think there is a real baddie here.

While there has been a lot of sneering at Cullum from some quarters; and some ill-motivated abuse of Delia from others - there is no bogey man or woman here.

In one corner you have a couple who love this club with all their souls; they live and breathe the club. It is like a child to them, and it would be one hell of a wrench to let it go, especially for what they see as a derisory amount.

While in the other corner you have the richest Norwich fan in the world, who is simply not prepared to pay what he sees as over the odds for the football club. That's how he does business, that's fine.

Naïve I know, but it's just a shame that these two great Norfolk success stories - yes Cullum is from Norfolk, despite the temerity he had to move to Kent - can't seem to get on.

In all of this turmoil, the current league table - embryonic though it maybe - makes for interesting reading.

Wolves sit top, and already look a very decent bet for promotion. It is a club owned by one of Delia and Michael's closets friends in football, Steve Morgan.

Morgan, a life-long Liverpool fan, recently bought the club for £10 on the basis that he ploughed up to £30m in take the club forward, something which appears to be happening.

As much as we all may hate it, cash is now king in football. The “Charlton model” is out-dated, and with people continuing to pour money into football at the top end, the trickle down effect of high wages will still be thrust upon the likes of ourselves.

The Man has said before, Delia and Michael's 12-year stint at this football club deserves some reciprocal loyalty from ourselves, and we have shown that in season ticket sales and share issues - and richer fans such as Carl Moore have gone even further.

Again, if you asked me now who to choose - I'd choose Delia and Michael - better the angels you know.

But if Cullum isn't the long-term answer; The Man really doesn't know what is. There should be no sides, just one club: peace out! OTBC.

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