MPs blast Canaries board

Two Norfolk MPs rounded on the beleaguered Norwich City board last night, warning that just one more poor result would have fans calling for their heads.

Two Norfolk MPs rounded on the beleaguered Norwich City board last night, warning that just one more poor result would have fans calling for their heads.

Dr Ian Gibson, MP for Norwich North, said he was “furious” with the club's directors, adding: “The vultures are circling.”

And Norman Lamb, MP for North Norfolk, said he was worried by a “sense of drift and inertia” at Carrow Road.

Club officials hit back, saying that while they shared the MPs concerns at the Canaries' league position, they were determined to conduct a “proper and thorough” selection process to choose the club's next manager.

And former home secretary and Norwich South MP Charles Clarke gave his backing to the directors, and warned against seeking “scapegoats.”

The MPs, all Canaries season ticket-holders, were speaking as the club languished just one place off the bottom of the Championship after losing their second game in four days.

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The Canaries parted company with manager Peter Grant two weeks ago and have yet to appoint his successor. Former City defender Aage Hareide, now Norway boss, is the latest big name to be ruled out of the running for the post.

On Saturday the club face a difficult away tie at second-place West Bromwich Albion, and eight days later host local rivals Ipswich Town.

Both MPs warned there could be adverse consequences stretching far beyond the football pitch if the club's crisis was not speedily resolved.

They said the Norfolk economy - and the image of the county among London's movers and shakers - would suffer serious damage unless a solution was found.

“Success at Carrow Road sends out the message that Norwich is a good place to visit, to invest in and for your kids to receive a university education”, said Dr Gibson.

“If the club fails, development of the city moves back inch by inch.”

Mr Lamb said the image of the county among people he dealt with at Westminster was often coloured by the fortunes of Norwich City.

“If you have a team in the Premiership or that is doing well, you get noticed. People are talking about us at the moment, but for the wrong reason,” he said.

Both MPs emphasised the importance of the club to the county's and city's economy, well-being, self-confidence and identity.

“The economy clearly benefits when the club is doing well”, said Dr Gibson. “As has been shown over the past decade, success for the club can run in parallel with economic success in Norwich.”

Over that time the club has also had a clear association with the political success of the Labour Party, through the regular attendance at Carrow Road of Dr Gibson and Mr Clarke, and through the support of schools secretary Ed Balls.

“When we win, spirits are lifted and our work rate - unlike that of some of the current players - rises”, said Dr Gibson.

But with City flirting with relegation, he complained: “We have developed a smart stadium, and it is beyond me to understand why we cannot be like Reading and rub shoulders with the big clubs and their stars.”

He said he was “furious” with the club's board for “allowing it to go this far”. And he continued: “The fans are not yet calling for the heads of the board, but in my opinion that is just one match away. The vultures are circling.

“This has to be sorted quickly and the board should listen to what I am saying because I am speaking for the fans.”

Mr Lamb said he had no doubt that the club's board was trying to do the right thing, but he was worried by “a sense of drift and inertia” as he waited for news of a managerial appointment.

“It is very important for the board to understand its responsibility to the fan base,” he added. “There are an awful lot of people in the county who are passionate about the club.

“It is a private business, but it is also much more than that. People feel part of their club. It's an emotional thing. It's about identity and belonging.”

Dr Gibson also stressed the “passion” of the fans for a club that “has always had a tremendous family spirit, and which lives and

breathes Norwich”.

Mr Clarke said: “I think that the Norwich City board deserves our full support at this time. It's a very, very difficult period for the football club but no one should forget the tremendous commitment of the board to creating a community club which is successful in footballing terms.

“Seeking scapegoats is not the best way for us to address the genuine issues that we face.”

In a statement, Norwich City said it noted the MPs' views. “As fans their concerns are understandable as, like them, we are all very concerned by our current league position.

“To this effect we are determined to conduct a proper and thorough selection process to choose the next Norwich City manager. Our refusal to comment daily on the selection process involved and speculation involving individual candidates is a common professional courtesy to the candidates involved rather than being symptomatic of the 'inertia' suggested by Mr Lamb.”

It said a “meet the board” event at Diss tonight would give fans the opportunity to discuss their concerns with directors face-to-face.

“The board, meanwhile, is acutely aware of its responsibility and accountability to the local community, reflected in its commitment to so many different community actions over the years.

“We recognise that getting the next managerial appointment right will not just bring success to Norwich City FC but will enhance the profile of the city, county and business community.”

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