‘We’ve got to be brave’ – Delia and Michael on the secrets to City’s success and previous Premier League experiences
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones have seen many things at Norwich City and they know what they want to see in the Premier League next season: bravery and humility.
The Stowmarket couple initially joined the club's board in November 1996 alongside Michael Foulger, after Geoffrey Watling had bought the club from Robert Chase amid financial crisis, and became majority shareholders the following year having loaned the club money to keep it afloat.
Since then they have seen their beloved Canaries enjoy five promotions and suffer four relegations, experienced play-off final heartbreak in Cardiff and joy at Wembley, worked with 12 permanent managers - or head coach, notably in Daniel Farke's case - and felt the highs and lows of the yellow and green roller-coaster as much as every other supporter.
Yet now, both aged in their late 70s, they can look forward to a seventh season of their reign in the Premier League.
After such a superb and unexpected title-winning campaign in the Championship under Stuart Webber and Farke's guidance, their excitement for the big stage is tempered by experience and the honesty of the people they have placed in charge.
"I think we've got to not be frightened," Mr Wynn Jones said. "We've got to be brave.
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"Of course they are apprehensive before matches at Old Trafford or something but by and large they are very strong characters and they've got to stick to that."
Mrs Smith is keen for the humble attitudes of this season to continue as well, referencing one of the club's recent motivational speakers, Damian Hughes, who wrote a book entitled 'The Barcelona Way: How to Create a High-Performance Culture'.
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"I think keeping your feet on the ground," Delia said. "I have seen what the Premier League can do to certain people, suddenly there's a bit of a swagger going on, that's the worst thing of all.
"In Damian Hughes' book there a quote from somebody and it says 'if you can get a group of people together to be a team, you can change the world'."
Asked if the latest promotion - the club's fourth to the top flight under their stewardship - feels the most satisfying, when combined with the huge amount of cost-cutting required, Delia replied: "It does but I mean it when I say I could see it coming, but Stuart said we might not and we'd just have to go again.
"So that's the attitude, just heads down, work hard and stay humble, keep a low profile if you can."
Michael stressed that successes at Norwich City have always been built on team work though, with the club rarely having much financial muscle to flex in the pursuit of success.
Asked if Farke's team are the best of his lifetime, he replied: "Technically, possibly so, but the real strength was playing as a team, not having any stars - although I can't think of a promoted Norwich side that had huge stars.
"There were the Darren Huckerbys and Grant Holts and what have you, but even they were very much team men."
The club's senior duo, and the rest of the board of directors, made the bold decision to appoint Webber as City's first sporting director and empowered the former Huddersfield chief to modernise the club in 2017.
After initially working with managing director Steve Stone, an executive committee was formed alongside business and project director Zoe Ward and chief operating officer Ben Kensell last October.
"It's unrecognisable," Delia said of the club's rejuvenation. "One of the great things for Michael and I is that this particular team have been very inclusive of us.
"And one of the things we've particularly appreciated is on a match-day in the directors' room we will most likely have a player who is injured or other players' parents, so we've really got to know the players or their parents.
"That's made a huge difference. When you are sitting next to James Maddison's parents and they're saying 'Daniel has made such a difference to his game' for us that's really lovely!
"We had the whole Pukki family, six of them, on Boxing Day around our table. That's making it so much more of a family flavour, relating to one another."
With their 80th birthdays approaching in the next few years, not to mention their 50th wedding anniversary, Mrs Smith assured fans they have no plans to leave the club just yet.
"We are very, very old now!" Delia joked. "I have this theory in life that bodies age but souls don't, so I still feel 19 inside.
"You know it's going to be agony and ecstasy, that's the name of the game."