Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones remain integral to 'special' Norwich City – Ed Balls
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After an eventful AGM, David Freezer spoke to Norwich City chairman Ed Balls about the current state of play at Carrow Road.
Results may not have gone the right way on the pitch in recent weeks but chairman Ed Balls believes Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones remain important to Norwich City’s unique charm off it.
The joint majority shareholders upset some Canaries supporters recently when suggesting they are not interested in courting potential new owners or investment, in a interview with a national newspaper.
Wynn Jones clarified the comments at Wednesday night’s annual general meeting though – which started with a warm round of applause for Delia, Michael and Michael Foulger, for their 20 years on the board at Carrow Road.
He stressed that the intention was to warn against the pitfalls of foreign ownership, not dismiss any kind of interest, but realised the comments may have come across as “dogmatic”.
“I think they said they’re not going to do anything that is contrary to the long-term interests of Norwich City Football Club,” Balls said following the lively and occasionally feisty AGM.
“That means they’re not having a closed mind or a blinkered view but at the same time, the reason we’ve spent three out of five seasons in the Premier League, the reason why we’ve got a sound financial position, the reason why the values of this club are clear to the supporters and the supporters are backing us with their feet each week, is because of Delia and Michael’s leadership.
“I just don’t want – and I think the board and the fans agree with this – we don’t want something which will just change Norwich City Football Club and that’s why Delia and Michael have been such important servants to this club over 20 years.
“I want those values to continue into the future and, if they’re backing our football club as they still are and want to into the future, that gives me confidence as a chair that we’re going to be going in the right direction as a football club.”
As things stand, Delia and Michael have made clear that their nephew Tom Smith will be the benefactor of their shares, having joined the City board in January.
It is the horror stories of foreign ownership at clubs including Portsmouth, Blackburn and Hull which has prompted such wariness.
“Michael and Delia have said they will rule noting out that is in the long-term interests of Norwich City Football Club,” Balls continued.
“Michael made very clear there are clubs out there who have decided to embrace new ownership solutions, which end up with the supporters saying ‘this isn’t the club we’ve supported all our lives’ and that’s what I’m not going to let happen.”
Reminded of the fact that foreign ownership has proved hugely successful at Leicester, Manchester City and Southampton, Balls simply replied: “I think there’s something special about Norwich and I don’t want to lose that.”
During the AGM some important news affecting the playing squad was also announced, when chief executive Jez Moxey revealed that winger Jacob Murphy had signed a new contract.
The 21-year-old academy product, a key member of City’s FA Youth Cup winning under-18 squad in 2013, has signed fresh terms to extend his deal until the summer of 2021.
That follows a breakthrough start to the season which has seen Murphy score six goals in 16 games, following a successful campaign on loan in League One with Coventry in which he scored 10 goals in 42 matches.
“The reason we’ve signed a long-term contract with him is because we want him to stay long-term with Norwich City and the reason he’s signed a long-term contract with us is because he sees his future here,” Balls said of Murphy’s new deal.
“If we were a club that was unattractive to the most talented young players, he’d have been looking elsewhere and I think he’s chosen Norwich City as a club because it has not only backed him in the past but where he sees a really strong future for him.
“It doesn’t always work out that way, Nathan Redmond did a great job for us and wanted to move on and in those circumstances we got a very good financial deal but that was because Nathan didn’t sign a new contract with us.
“Jacob has, which is really good news for Norwich City Football Club.”
Relegation has held up Colney improvements
Further improvements to Colney Training Centre have been put on hold as Norwich City focus on regaining their Premier League status this season.
Last year’s annual general meeting had seen former chief executive David McNally talk about the need for the Colney facilities to be improved, if top-level talent is to be convinced to join the Canaries.
“We want to invest in Colney, we worked up a lot of plans which were affordable in the Premier League but we can’t push the button on those at the moment because we are not in the Premier League and our priority has got to be what happens on the field and the players at the moment,” chairman Ed Balls explained after this week’s AGM.
“As Jez (Moxey) said, that doesn’t mean we’ve put Colney on the back-burner, we’re thinking about what we can do right now and in the coming months and years, and to make sure what we do is cost effective and delivers.
“Colney is not off the agenda but we’re going to look at the plans we had before because we need to plan for different outcomes.
“If we can get back to the Premier League then we can do more in terms of Colney enhancement.”