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Norwich City supporters get an apology from the chairman at lively annual general meeting

Norwich City Football Club Annual general meeting to discuss the annual report 2014 at Carrow Road. Photo: Steve Adams

Norwich City Football Club Annual general meeting to discuss the annual report 2014 at Carrow Road. Photo: Steve Adams

Michael Bailey turns the spotlight on Tuesday night’s Norwich City Football Club annual general meeting at Carrow Road

Dealing with the past and looking to the future – Norwich City’s shareholders attempted to reconcile both during Tuesday night’s annual general meeting at Carrow Road.

The Norfolk Lounge was busy, and the audience was far from disengaged. Nor were they aggressive. It was more pointed jousting with the intent of reminding those current custodians of the Canaries that the lessons demanded by fans must be learned if the club is to continue in rude health – at least in terms of its balance sheet.

Even the formalities were challenged – something that began with debate over the absent Stephen Fry’s re-election to the City board. The much-loved Norfolk star apologised for his absence as he filmed his latest project in a secret location. It was left to those present to justify his commercial influence and results on City’s behalf – and that duly found a comfortable vote for his return to the board, minus a clutch of dissenting hands.

It was just the one dissenting hand as chief executive David McNally found his own board position renewed.

Financial director Sam Gordon’s final address before she heads off for a new challenge away from the Canaries brought warm applause and tribute – warmth that continued as City’s financial position was relaid, still radiating their Premier League income and promises of a sustainable reality as the fallow Championship incomes start to bite.

“The future isn’t rosy but it is manageable,” said chairman Alan Bowkett. “Our income has collapsed, but we can survive. We have the financial resources for (manager) Neil Adams to produce automatic promotion and going forward, we won’t be entering into the financial difficulties of a few years ago.”

Back came the past. Bowkett apologised for last season’s relegation: “We feel we’ve let you down. We should not have been relegated. And our current Championship position is not where we want to be.”

McNally was at it too, vowing last season was his “biggest failure in 32 years of work”, where the “tragedy” of relegation affected those at the club and supporters for many months.

“Humiliating,” he added, on a subject many would like to lay to rest with promotion at the earliest opportunity – and as was reiterated on numerous occasions in underlined tone: “That earliest opportunity is this season.”

All questions were answered by either Bowkett, McNally or Adams – the latter answering with the poise you would expect from someone who dealt with supporters over the phone for years. Even when there was disagreement, things held together.

And that was a noticeable change from the same place last season – when the board took hold of the financial issues, and left Chris Hughton to fend for himself on the footballing tribulations.

This time around, the coverage and responsibility between manager and board was fair and even.

Delia Smith, Michael Wynn Jones, Stephan Phillips and Michael Foulger were all in attendance on the top table. All kept it to a watching brief.

No questions appeared on toilets, pies, big screens or gimmicks – this time there was more than enough football debate to keep everyone ticking over, apart from those who found their window for a question expired by time.

While the club is now entirely external debt free, a £3.6m overdraft will help tied the club over as they adjust to Championship life – albeit for what they hope will be a short period of time.

From a season of relegation, McNally’s £367,000 bonus also came into question from one shareholder – a bonus paid on pre-agreed financial and personal targets, and short of the football-related part that everyone concerned at City missed out on following that wretched year.

From a list of 24 names, to a shortlist of seven, then a seriously considered trio to the one final candidate – all in the space of two days: It will be Mike Phelan’s first day of work as first-team coach at City on Thursday. For the board and McNally, he is the “best in class” coach City were missing. The man “to help us win the league”.

Come the same time, same place, same shareholders next year, everyone will be hoping such words prove more prophetic than last time.

Follow Michael Bailey on Twitter @michaeljbailey

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