What's gone wrong with our club?
Frustrated Norwich City fans today rounded on the board of the struggling Canaries and demanded to know: “What's gone wrong with our club?” Majority shareholders Delia Smith and Michael Wynn-Jones and other club directors are bracing themselves for a potentially stormy annual general meeting tonight .
Frustrated Norwich City fans today rounded on the board of the struggling Canaries and demanded to know: “What's gone wrong with our club?”
Majority shareholders Delia Smith and Michael Wynn-Jones and other club directors are bracing themselves for a potentially stormy annual general meeting tonight .
With Canary fans on tenterhooks to find out the full scale of 17-goal striker Robert Earnshaw's groin injury, the meeting comes as the Carrow Road faithful grows restless at another disappointing campaign.
And today's announcement of a 3.6 per cent hike in season ticket prices will only add to the growing feeling of unease, with several fans reportedly thinking twice about whether to renew their tickets for the 2007/08 campaign.
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Just two years ago Norwich City was beating the likes of Manchester United and Newcastle in the Premiership and some fans have pointed the finger at the board for its much vaunted “prudence with ambition” policy.
Amid the threat of a relegation dogfight to prevent a slide into League One, chairman Roger Munby today admitted that financially the club was having to prepare for the prospect of relegation.
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Attendances at Carrow Road appear to be falling, the club has debts of nearly £20 million, Peter Grant is still finding his feet as a manager after replacing the sacked Nigel Worthington and has already announced the need for a player clear-out and a mere three players have been signed permanently since the end of last season.
Fans today called on the club to explain how the club has found itself in this perilous position with parachute payments from their spell in the Premiership supposed to have been used to get the club back up.
Justin Bullard, 28, a shareholder and regular from Union Street, Norwich, said: “It is very depressing at the minute. I think the problem we have at the moment is we have the same players as we did with Worthington.
“I don't think Peter Grant can really be blamed yet, but the worry is that when he came in he said he wanted to put his own stamp on the team, yet he has the same backroom staff and the only players we have signed were Luke Chadwick and Chris Brown, who were both Worthington targets.”
Mark Thorndyke, one of the leaders of the Worthy Out campaign, is angry so few players have been lured to Carrow Road, while other Championship teams such as unfancied Colchester are challenging for the play-offs.
He said: “Pre-season Neil Doncaster and Roger Munby said players would be arriving. We got Lee Croft who gives us a player down the right flank, but more players are going out than coming in.
“The five year plan the board talked about has now turned full circle and we are back to where we started off when Nigel Worthington took over.
“With how the this season is going, along with last, when the season ticket renewal forms from the club arrive at the fan's letter-boxes, they are going to think twice.”
But fans are not calling for the head of new manager Peter Grant, who has been critical of players for being “in the comfort zone” and pledged a shake-up.
Ben East, of the Northern Canaries supporters' group, said: “I just think Peter Grant has not been given long enough and Worthington should really have gone in the summer.
“I agree with everything he has said so far and that is that the players are just not good enough and don't have the passion. Too many of them have been here for too long.
“We need to make sure we don't get relegated this season and then start again. It is just so frustrating because it is another wasted season and a lot of people have been saying they can't be bothered to go anymore.
“But I think all clubs go through times like this and I am confident we will have our time again.”
Meanwhile, the board is facing growing criticism for failing to invest in players when Norwich City made it into the Premiership, with the £3 million capture of Dean Ashton halfway through the season coming too late to keep the Canaries up.
Rob Baker, 36, a season ticket holder and shareholder who travels to every match home and away from Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, said: “In my opinion the buck stops with Delia Smith and Michael Wynn-Jones. I think it all stems from the fact that when we were in the Premiership our fate was sealed by August. With the players we signed it was like we just gave up and accepted that we were going to be relegated.
“We could have stayed up but we suffered from weak management. Worthington should have been sacked earlier but he wasn't and in my opinion it is time for the majority shareholders to step down.”
John Tilson, who belongs to Norwich Independent Supporters Association, said his personal view was that it had started going wrong for Norwich City while they were in the Premiership.
Mr Tilson, who will be at tonight's meeting, said: “We have been in free fall for two years now. The board have crossed their fingers and gritted their teeth and hoped that everything would come right but it hasn't.
“It is going to get worse before it gets better. There are at least six players who are not good enough but who are on long contracts.”
Dave Garwood, from West Norfolk Canaries, said: “The club has got no ambition and we have got a very poor side. I am very disappointed and a lot of season ticket holders have had enough.
“We try to do everything on the cheap and you get what you pay for. The team is a disgrace. This is the most crucial time for the club and Peter Grant needs to get rid of all the dead wood. We need a creative midfield player, some leaders and a true captain.”
Roy Blower, chairman of the Norwich City Independent Supporters' Association, said the board could expect a grilling from fans at tonight's meeting.
But he said: “From my point of view we have come through grim times before and when you are in debt like we are you cannot get out of it in a short space of time.
“I suspect at the meeting there will be some people giving the board a hard time, but at least we have an honest board.”
The Evening News contacted majority shareholders Delia Smith and Michael Wynn-Jones, but they declined to comment.
However, a spokesman for the club said: “We look forward to a healthy discussion and exchange of views and hope as many people as possible are able to attend to put their thoughts across.”
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