Night of easy listening at Carrow Road
Norwich City's AGM tonight is expected to be a rather more tame affair than some of recent years, as Paddy Davitt reports.
If the patient is not exactly in rude health, then it appears no longer in need of the life support machine.
For perhaps one of the few times this season tonight, the focus of attention switches away from what Paul Lambert and his charges can achieve on Premier League pitches to the club's performance off the park.
Norwich City's shareholders will gather to hear chairman Alan Bowkett and chief executive David McNally formally present City's latest set of completed accounts, relating to year ending May 31 2011 – or, as the rank-and-file fan may prefer, the culmination of another glorious promotion campaign.
City's elevation to the Premier League brings not only some of the finest footballers to Carrow Road, it attracts revenue streams the money men in suits could only have dreamt about when the club hurtled into League One.
The latest set of accounts and the positive headline figures contained therein mark another milestone in the upward trajectory of a club that was heading into dangerously uncharted waters.
Only those deep inside the corridors of power at Carrow Road will ever fully know how close they came to administration in the darkest hours. Now the talk is of all-seater record attendances and realistic plans for ground expansion.
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Terms like self-sustainability are far more palatable than strained relations with major creditors and escalating levels of indebtedness. The mission statement is now to ensure Norwich remain a buying club in the transfer market.
You don't need a degree in advanced economics to know the world financial system is in crisis. The 'Eurozone' meltdown has claimed numerous governments in recent weeks as the markets look for the skilled technocrats to drive through swingeing austerity cuts.
Football is not immune. Football is a business. But Lambert's skill in navigating a route through the Football League has been matched by a corporate 'turning of the super tanker' spearheaded by McNally and Bowkett at Carrow Road.
The trend now bends in a favourable direction. Revenue rose from �17m in the previous set of accounts to �23.1m. The stated aim for next year when the Premier League riches start to take effect on the balance sheet is to increase that figure to at least �40m. Net debt was reduced from �20.9m to �16.8m, with a target to reduce it by at least a further �6m.
Bowkett and McNally will re-affirm that commitment to accelerate the process when they speak to shareholders this evening.
Higher revenue yields balanced with reduced debt figures is the panacea clubs, businesses and countries for that matter are striving to achieve. In Norwich's particular case the added caveat is to ensure this is not at the expense of the core commodity which has driven the financial sea change.
City are guaranteed a minimum �40m injection this current season from forcing their way into the most exclusive football club on the planet. That feat was achieved by sustained success on the pitch; not simply good governance in the boardroom.
As astute an operator as Lambert and his coaching team have proved, the Scot would not have been able to drag the club out of the Football League without an overhaul of the playing personnel he inherited.
The majority of Norwich's loyal and long suffering fan base will welcome the millions to be deposited in the club's coffers – but they will also demand Lambert is allowed to spend to ensure City do not have to disembark the gravy train next May.
McNally and Bowkett re-affirmed at a fans' forum only last month the club will again look to strengthen the first team squad in the forthcoming January transfer window. Lambert has been backed in every previous market since he arrived at the club.
Implicit in the ambitious plans to raise the ground capacity to one day eventually turn Carrow Road into a 35,000 arena is the absolute prerequisite to secure Premier League football – for a minimum of three years, according to Bowkett when the accounts were originally trailed last month.
By then the footings will be in place on and off the pitch.
The path to self-sustainability on that scale will inevitably raise fresh questions and concerns; some no doubt will be expressed by shareholders this evening who remember.
But there will be none of the bitterness and rancour that characterised annual meetings in the not too distant past. Gatherings dominated by the hope of potential sugar daddys waiting in the wings and fruitless searches for foreign investors.
That in itself is a barometer of the progress under McNally and Bowkett's stewardship. Norwich have come a long way in a short space of time; in league position and on balance sheet.
Nevertheless, there is plenty of work ahead to make a full recovery. But the vital signs are good.