Robin Sainty: From Ed Balls to Delia Smith... we salute you all
- Credit: Archant
Norwich City never do it the easy way. In spite of utterly dominating Blackburn last Saturday, the fact that they were never able to kill the game off meant that there was no chance to relax and enjoy the experience until Andy Madley blew that final whistle.
The nerves were certainly jangling in the South Stand as I lapsed into a form of footballing Tourette’s while my nerve-wracked neighbour Dave turned into the speaking clock. “Ten minutes left, Rob!” “Five minutes to go, Rob!” “Yes, I know, Dave, there’s a big clock on both scoreboards, mate.”
Many others have already eulogised about this remarkable squad of players and coaches, so I’ll concentrate on some of those who have had less attention, but nevertheless have been pivotal in the reformation of the football club.
I’ll start with Ed Balls, who stepped into the breach when David McNally left and steadied the ship at a difficult time. I know from my role with the Trust just how much work he put in during those critical months.
Having originally intended to take the role of chairman for a year, he ended up staying for three while overseeing the transition from a club living well beyond its means to one which is largely self-sufficient and, crucially, he was a prime mover in the decision to adopt the sporting director and head coach model.
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While he may attract criticism from some for his high media profile or his political past, he is a passionate City fan first and foremost who is regularly found amongst the supporters at games.
Following the aberration that was Jez Moxey, an appointment that the head-hunters employed by the club got horribly wrong, Steve Stone arrived and started the process of making the club more customer friendly, laying foundations on which others have built. It wasn’t an easy tenure, coinciding as it did with the end of the Alex Neil era, but the personable Stone did a great job of mending many of the bridges that Moxey had managed to take a wrecking ball to in his mercifully short stay.
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Stuart Webber’s input speaks for itself. His impact on the playing side of the club has been remarkable and his sometimes painfully frank interviews have given fans a much bigger insight into the situation behind the public façade of the club, but one of his most important achievements has been the closer working relationship between Carrow Road and Colney, which had previously been running as almost separate entities.
The upgrading of Colney itself is also a key part of the story of the regeneration of the club; that was funded by the Canaries Bond, one of a number of innovative concepts introduced by Tom Smith which raised the money needed in a matter of weeks while offering fans an attractive investment proposition to which promotion has now added a bonus.
Of course, Webber is only one part of a three-person executive committee and great credit should also go to Zoe Ward and Ben Kensell, whose work may be largely out of the public eye but is nevertheless a crucial component in the Norwich City machine.
The club had to become leaner and more efficient, and as a result of their work City are now generating the third highest level of off-field income in the Championship while bargaining hard in the transfer markets.
However, none of this could have happened without the majority shareholders who have overseen a revolution which required patience and courage. They may not have the bottomless pockets of other owners, but the fact that they first embraced the radical overhaul and then stuck with it has resulted in City now being seen as a model for other clubs without rich benefactors.
On and off the pitch City’s recipe for success is the same; good people working hard and all pulling in the same direction.