Football first for new chief

Jonathan Redhead New Norwich City chief executive David McNally insists the key to the club's future is on the pitch - rather than in the boardroom.The 47-year-old was yesterday unveiled as Neil Doncaster's successor and revealed his number one priority was to see the Canaries perform on the field.

Jonathan Redhead

New Norwich City chief executive David McNally insists the key to the club's future is on the pitch - rather than in the boardroom.

The 47-year-old was yesterday unveiled as Neil Doncaster's successor and revealed his number one priority was to see the Canaries perform on the field.

With the club's joint majority shareholders Michael Wynn Jones and Delia Smith searching for fresh investment and suffering a backlash from some supporters following relegation to League One, McNally wants City's football to hog the headlines.

But while the former Fulham managing director expects City to be pushing for an immediate return to the Championship after last season's relegation disaster, he admits he will be making plenty of “tough decisions” off the pitch.

He says the Canaries need to 'cut their cloth' as the financial implications of the tumble into League One continue to hit home - and refused to banish the spectre of administration.

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McNally's appointment comes more than a month after the departures of Doncaster and chairman Roger Munby after the final day debacle at Charlton, where a 4-2 defeat plunged City into the third tier of English football for the first time in nearly 50 years. And he says bouncing back should be the key objective for the 2009/2010 season.

“There are a number of challenges,” said the ex-Celtic sales and managing director. “Firstly, we need to ensure that we focus on improving our league status as soon as we possibly can.

“No-one expects any game we play to be easy and in League One football will be tough. But we do expect to get back to the Championship as soon as we possibly can. As far as priorities are concerned that is the number one. As chief executive in the business, it's my job to ensure the business is run effectively and that's what I'm here to do.

“Clearly, at a football club the thing that matters most is winning football matches and we need to improve our league status as soon as we possibly can. I'll stress, no-one says it will be easy, but we need to get back, certainly to the Championship, as soon as we possibly can.”

McNally applied for the chief executive's job after hearing it was available from the other side of the world while visiting his daughter in Australia and New Zealand.

After leaving Fulham last December after four years working under owner Mohamed al Fayed, he said it was the Norwich City fanbase which tempted him to join the club.

“That's important to me whatever league you play at, you're in, it is a major advantage to have such vocal support amongst your fans and to be joining a club, with such a fine heritage too,” he said.

“Alongside that it was also important for me in my next career move to work with football people and people who are passionate about their football club, and I've found that with the owners and directors at Norwich and I'm delighted that I believe we are link-minded and we will just care about his football club and doing what we can for this football club.”

“And I know the supporters don't like football clubs being referred to as brands, it's a bit too business-like and I understand that. A club like Norwich is much more than a brand. Much more than a brand.

“And it's more so than almost any other club. It's such an integral part of the local community that to me means there's so much more for us to work with and so much more to develop.

“Clearly that creates a lot of potential. Now it's one thing having potential. It's another thing doing something with it. What we'll be aiming to do over the next months and years will be to really develop the business in the way we can.”

McNally does not officially start with City until a week on Monday, and says time is already against him and the club as pre-season training and matches rapidly approach and he tries to get up to speed on what's needed to pull City out of the doldrums.

“There are only so many weeks until we play our first game and pre-season starts shortly so it's lack of time,” he said. “But following this announcement, we'll be working full steam ahead on ensuring that I am up to speed with every issue and opportunity in the business and tackling those head on. There will be nothing more important though than aiming for promotion in the first season.

“We have to. The club and the supporters deserve that and we need to ensure that everybody in the business is pulling in that direction.”

But despite the positives, McNally hinted there could be a less pleasant side to his new role. Charlton and Southampton, who were relegated alongside City, have been forced into a spate of redundancies and trimming of the playing staff.

Although there have been no wholesale cuts to staff at Norwich, McNally suggested City's financial worries could force him to make some “tough decisions”.

“The fact that we are playing in this league and not the league that we were has certain financial implications,” he said.

“We have to cut our cloth accordingly. I'll be working with my new colleagues on the things that can help the club now and in the short to mid-term. Some of the longer term development projects which may benefit us in five or ten years time can wait a while.

“I think the fact we are in the league we now play, we will have to make some tough decisions and there have been some tough decisions which have been made by the club already.

“They're difficult and that's hard for everybody. The fact remains you only have so much money and so if the money isn't there then there's not a lot you can do about that. Suffice to say that we will operate in a way that is fair and we will be as sympathetic as we can be to ensure that whatever we have to do is done properly and fairly.”

And he admitted the thought of administration could never be far from City minds in the current climate.

“I think any business that has its finances severely affected in the way that ours has, has to be mindful of administration and serious business issues,” he said.

“I am assured enough to know we are strong enough to face the next few years together. That's good enough for me. But it would be wrong for us to disregard such important considerations.

“Any prudent business needs to face up to some of the risks that business face. We're no different in that regard.”