Steve Stone resembled a man who acknowledge the magnitude of the job on his hands.
By his own admission, many will expect Norwich to be significantly higher up the table come May, and make more of a push for the playoffs this season. His determination was palpable and his approachability and openness since being appointed as Norwich City’s Managing Director has won him a lot of plaudits around the club.
After the toxic reign of Jez Moxey, the need to rid the club of an omnipotent Chief Executive was pertinent. An admission that contemporary football was much too complex to be kept under control by one person.
Stone is primarily a numbers man. He comes from a history of accountancy and finance, this, in many ways, was his big break. His candid nature and calmness under questioning and scrutiny from both media and supporters is admirable. Pressure is something he seems to take in his stride.
Although he won’t admit it himself, Stone has ensured the Canaries stay afloat, making tough decisions both on and off the field to ensure Norwich City Football Club have a sustainable future. In an industry whereby short term thinking is common, Norwich have an off field structure and long term strategy to ensure longevity .
Some supporters have criticised the work undertaken by Stone and his colleague Stuart Webber, for all the positive work they’ve done, the facts are clear, Norwich did finish in 14th last season, and patience on the new regime is wearing thin.
The financial situation has stabilised, and the noises from the powers that be suggest improvement is of paramount importance this season. Stone admitted his optimism was tempered.
As he sat onlooking the newly laid pitch, Stone seem reenergised and determined to make this season a better one for all involved as he spoke after the club announced a new long term sponsorship deal with Woodforde’s Brewery.
“I think we need to improve on where we finished in terms of last season, in 14th, and I think we have the squad to do it”.
“I believe we’ve got a strong squad, we’ve got strength in depth but that optimism is tempered by the fact there are 15 clubs who think they have a chance at promotion, or at least getting in the playoffs or better than that, getting automatic promotion. We are certainly one of those.”
Stone also responded to questions on the ownership model, and admitted that he is only prepared to deal within the current situation, and admitted he wouldn’t swap roles with Aston Villa, despite their newfound investors.
“Working within the model we’re working with, which is the status quo, we had no choice but to sell those players. It wasn’t a choice to bring money in to strengthen our balance sheet, it was bringing money in because we needed to balance the books”.
Stone added, “I’m very comfortable with how we’re doing things”.
“It feels like we’re trying to do things the right way, we’re trying to develop players, invest in the academy, bring players through who have a pipeline and a chance to play under in the first team. We’ve seen more of that since Daniel and Stuart have been here, that’s the point of that structure”.
During the conversation, Stone tackled questions about the ownership debate, safe standing and the current financial climate at the football club after the sales of James Maddison and Josh Murphy.
“Norwich are certainly in a better financial situation than they were when the last ball was kicked against Sheffield Wednesday, I don’ think it’s a surprise to anyone that James Maddison left the club. Most fans were expecting that to happen and it was just a question of what the price would be”.
“I personally think we got a very good price for James and also, it was helpful we did it earlier as it enabled us to plan for incoming transfers that we identified and could move pretty quickly on.” Said Stone, “Obviously, James and primarily Josh as well, who we got a very good offer for.”
“I think the majority of fans will understand why Josh was sold, because we needed to strengthen other areas of the squad”.
“Although we’ve lost the player of the season last season and goals from the squad, I actually think we’ve got a stronger squad. We’ve recognised where there are weaknesses and we’ve strengthened, within the financial constraints, because we couldn’t spend all of the money from the James Maddison and Josh Murphy deals. Not that we get all of the money upfront on those deals”.
Those questioning where the money has gone has received their answer, its all part of this new approach to balance the books and worked within their means whilst ensuring a conveyer belt of talent is coming through in the academy.
Stone believes his methods are the right ones, and on the evidence of the money raised in securing the financial status long term, who can disagree?
Naturally all eyes will be on the pitch come Saturday, and it’s clear that improvement is necessary from Farke’s side from both board level and from supporters.
Listen to an exclusive interview with Norwich City Managing Director Steve Stone as he opens up on a range of issues including the atmosphere at Carrow Road, safe standing, the financial situation and his expectations for the season. He speaks to TalkNorwichCity’s Connor Southwell and My Football Writer’s Jack Goddard.
Lowestoft Town Football Club are hosting an evening with Norwich City legends Iwan Roberts and Darren Huckerby this evening, here these two greats will talk about their career, take a Q&A session as well as meeting and greeting the audience. There will also be a photo opportunity available at some point during the evening.
The Amber Dew Events Stadium for a fantastic evening on Friday, August 3 with doors and the bar opening at 7pm. Tickets will cost £10 each.
To buy your tickets, please call Terry Beamish on 07900735626 or you can purchase them at The Jug & Bottle or Graphic Solutions.