Saturday, 9 October 2010
But I realised the other day that in my thoughts and writing, I increasingly find myself referring to our club as 'New' Norwich City. In the last fifteen months, there has been such a transformation around Carrow Road that it is hard to believe at times that I am supporting the same club. It's as if I need them to have a different tag, distinguishing themselves from the dark comedic version of recent times. Unlike pubs, fish shops and hairdressing salons, they can hardly be expected to put up the signs saying 'under new management'.
On the field, the changes are obvious. The entire nation is aware of Paul Lambert and what he has achieved. But whilst success on the pitch remains the most important thing to the club, it is the commercial developments that are starting to impress me.
As I said just the other day, the international breaks are an irritant for most football fans. But at Norwich City, there was the small matter of an England Under-21 match to host. And correct me if I am wrong, the club has cashed in on it, like never before. I am not talking about cash through ticket sales (I understand City get some kind of payment from the FA for staging the game, plus the profit from all other matchday sales) but the way they have used the match to raise the profile of Norwich City Football Club.
Staging such matches at Carrow Road is not a new thing. In fact the FA used to ensure the game of football was spread to all corners of the country, so inevitably the likes of Norwich and Ipswich got their turn. But the events came and passed, with little or no impact on the standing of the club.
New Norwich City however, grabbed the opportunity with unusual relish. The circus arrived to a fanfare - and no chance was overlooked to get a bit of publicity. Stuart Pearce said how impressed he was with the Canaries youth set up. A school was visited, to grab attention in the local community. An England tyro or two made mention of how fantastic a ground Carrow Road was to play in. A record crowd then turned up, and England scampered to a 2-1 victory on the night, that meant the publicity machine even had to put in a little post match overtime.
But now the dust has settled and the show has left town, it is perhaps time to reflect on what it all means to Norwich City.
Certainly locally, nobody will be in any doubt that something big went off in the city on Friday night. The club has had a major task on it's hands to restore pride and respectability, not just with fans but just as importantly, the good citizens of Norwich. From that point of view, it was a job well done. And further afield, it sent out, in my opinion, another strong message that Norwich City Football Club are on the way back. I think all the other twenty three Championship clubs would have loved the chance to host that match. Though I doubt any would have seized the week with quite the same focus as we have just done.
Once more, the present Board have shown their ability to make things happen. Don't get me wrong, the pickings were not so huge that the club suddenly finds itself propelled into another realm - but it was another nudge forward in City's precarious commercial journey. The thing I really like about the work of our current leaders is that they quietly go about their business. Many other football club owners find the highest peak from which to shout. Our lot, and I purposely mention no names as I am sure it is a collective effort involving many people, are simply getting on with it.
As I found out during my business life, many companies will tell you how good and professional they are. How single minded they are in the pursuit of excellence. But to carry it off, is something quite different. It actually takes special people to achieve special things.
Increasingly, it is dawning on Canary supporters that something special is happening at their club. As a 1959'er (not to be confused with a 59'er who is somebody much more talented and important than me) I have seen it all from the seventies onwards. Whatever the next three years ultimately brings to Norwich City Football Club, I for one can definitely say that never before have we pursued the market in the way we are presently doing. Whilst some fans choose to scoff into their sleeves at the recent appointment of Stephen Fry as a director, the truth is, it is part of an initiative that will take the Norwich City brand to new places. Twitter is a potent communications platform, especially amongst people likely and able to spend money on football. And if the most famous contributor to the site also happens to be nutty about Norwich.................well you use the opportunity, don't you.
It is another example that every stone will be turned over in order to move this club forward. Interestingly, just yesterday Chelsea were saying that they had no short term plans to move to a larger ground equal to some of their rivals, and were confident that they could (excuse the pun) 'bridge' the gap via other worldwide commercial activities. Norwich City will do the same, and Stephen Fry and Twitter will play their part.
So, fellow City fans, let us wallow a while in the current success of Paul Lambert and his excellent side. And enjoy it. But meanwhile, keep one eye on what is going on elsewhere in the club. It really does feel that something good is happening.
And just in case anyone really thinks I was advocating a name change at the start of this post, I wasn't. In fact, as somebody so obviously interested in the history of Norwich City, I think were it to happen, I would have no option than to jump from a very high ledge. Which would be a shame. The next few years could be fun.