April 17 2014 Latest news:
Thursday, January 3, 2013
It would be really easy to be sycophantic towards Delia Smith in this column. Really easy. I have seen it done, I may well have accidentally done it myself in a fit of misguided enthusiasm.
The fact that Norwich City’s owner is also a genuine celebrity doesn’t help writers steer away from the luvvy-duvvy stuff on the keyboard.
In much the same way as one is tempted to compartmentalise Delia into a cliche-ridden cupboard, there is a temptation to be cruelly critical of one Tony Fernandes, a man who holds a similar role, but does it in a very different way, at Queens Park Rangers.
Delia Smith and Tony Fernandes both own football clubs, although that is a little unkind to Delia’s husband Michael Wynn Jones, who jointly owns Norwich City and puts, I suspect, as much effort into helping the club go about its business. Notice the phrasing “go about its business”.
The Smith-Jones collective doesn’t run their football club – at least not to the untrained eye of this observer – in quite the same way as Mr Fernandes.
Many years ago it may not have been the case: I suspect Smith-Jones have been far too responsible for the hiring and firing of a few managers and may, in hindsight, admit they got the hiring bit wrong on occasion.
Nowadays, Smith-Jones have taken a bit of a back seat. No longer do they come forward and comment on the lack of Balti pies at Carrow Road food outlets (and believe you me, that is a HUGE omission, with all due respect, but one for another day). They don’t need to. They have people who do it for them. The word executive is there for a reason – it means a person who can make the decisions on their behalf.
David McNally is the chief of those decision makers. He runs the football club, I would suggest, on behalf of the owners – Smith-Jones and Michael Foulger. Their money is managed by him.
The Balti pie question will be answered by the person with Balti Pie Decision Maker on his door. McNally will make bigger, much bigger decisions – with the backing and the trust of the owners.
How exactly Chris Hughton came to be appointed as manager I don’t know, but it didn’t involve the owners claiming a phone each in an office above the changing rooms and ringing all the managers they could think of and asking if they fancied moving to the countryside for a few years.
McNally was at the hub of the recruitment process, which began with him denying anything about speculation until he was able to introduce Hughton to the media. Meanwhile, Smith-Jones looked on, delighted that their man had got his man.
It hasn’t all been easy, but after four defeats on the run I have yet to hear public utterings of discontent from the boardroom, to read a Twitter outburst.
Business is conducted properly, for which we should be hugely thankful.
In the west of London, Fernandes just about guarantees himself national headlines with his latest views of life at Loftus Road – views that are perhaps better expressed by the manager in the privacy of the dressing room with an audience made up of his players. And no one else.
“No excuse. Lost for words. Back to the drawing board. Woeful performance.” Not four Tweets – just the one.
But there’s hope: “Reading some of the rubbish on twitter. Club is being rebuilt. We inherited little. New training ground coming.” Excellent news on the training ground then...
Fernandes has a refreshing honesty, and engaging with fans is fine. Except when it effects the team – and I can’t believe a man who made his fortune building an airline then decided to invest in motorsport and football, can truthfully say his comments on football are doing QPR any good.
They open the club up to ridicule among some football fans, and that is a surefire way to smash players’ confidence. Laugh at a footballer and he will bite back – it may not be nice.
Had Smith-Jones tweeted after the opening day 5-0 defeat at Fulham that City were rubbish, it might have been factually correct, but it would have been morally incorrect of them. But that isn’t the way they operate.