An Honest View From Inside the AGM

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An old friend of Vital Norwich, Savvy, shares his very frank and honest account of last nights’ AGM, and on things in general at Carrow Road…

I always really enjoy the AGM, it`s the only time in the season when all of the main protagonists are in the same place. Once the ‘formal` business is out of the way (that of re-electing the Directors), and we`ve been taken through the numbers which have been carefully contrived by the bean counters, the Q&A session begins, and it is always enthralling. On camera, in post-match interviews, or in the press there is always something quite rehearsed about what we hear from the manager, CEO or owners, but in the melting pot of the AGM the people behind the personas emerge (see Glenn Roeder`s ‘England Manager` quote from 2007 as evidence of this).

Yesterday`s AGM was one of the feistiest (and well attended – it was standing room only) I`ve been to. It wasn`t quite a pitchfork coup, the shareholders are more civilised than that, but what is always clear is that (for the most part) these people know their football, and more importantly, they know their club, often better than those sat on high at the top table do.

The re-election of the Directors was first up as usual. This year the shareholders were asked to vote as to whether Stephan Phillips, Michael Wyn-Jones, Tom Smith, Ed Balls and Jez Moxey should be re-appointed, this is usually a point of process – I`ve only ever seen real resistance to Stephen Fry being re-elected, and that`s probably because he never turned up.

This year was a bit different but everyone was still re-appointed as usual. I, only with a few others (I`d say 5-10%) took the opportunity to vote against. I voted ‘for` Ed Balls (he raises the club`s profile well, doesn`t take a salary and is a real fan often sitting in the away end at the London based away games when an MP) and for Michael Wyn Jones (nice bloke, steady, and has given up plenty of time and money) but I voted ‘against` Stephan Phillips, Tom Smith and Jez Moxey.

Why did I vote against? Well for me, Stephan Phillips has been there a long time, he hasn`t invested in the club (as far as I know) and I was never really sure what the point of him was. During his introduction he said he chaired the remuneration committee. Many of you who follow the Twitter account will know I`ve had a bee in my bonnet for years about McNally`s salary and bonuses, and his recent pay off was totally ridiculous – for those reasons, I chose to vote against. Turning to Tom Smith, I may be somewhat mean (as I don`t know him), but from the outside it looks as though he is simply benefiting from his Aunties` money – he doesn`t bring anything new to the club, is not a football man, and from what I know has no commercial experience in the private sector. If we were selecting based on ability or experience, he`d be nowhere near. With Moxey, I simply went with gut feel. He seems a tad slimy, rehearsed and polished, like an overweight used car salesman. He came across as quite patronising later on too. I also have a brother-in-law who is a Wolves fan who does not speak very well of Mr Moxey at all. Based on these factors, he was another one I voted down. If only the rest of the shareholders were also open minded and kept the Board on their toes, we might stand half a chance them being a bit proactive and arguably trying a bit harder to achieve our potential. Nothing ever seems to change, and it`s partly because everything just gets voted through.>What were the other key take outs?

1) Fans are still split on whether Alex Neil is the right man for the job, the Board (still) are not. They genuinely back him.
2) Ricky Martin has been given one of the most important roles at the club – running player recruitment and trading. I don`t know much about him other than the fact he`s the former Academy coach and for me this is not a transformational or progressive appointment. I would prefer a football man in this role, someone with contacts in the UK, in Europe and worldwide. The running joke in the office where I work is that our scouting network consists of a copy of FIFA 2012 and an internet connection for Wikipedia and YouTube. When was the last time we brought someone in that surprised fans and made us think ‘never saw that coming, who`s he?` Only one I can think of is Alex Tettey. Not since the Lambert days have we made anything like excellent game-changing signings. I honestly can`t see this changing with Martin`s appointment.
3) The financial situation is poor, poorer than it looks – due to the way transfer fees are accounted for we will still be paying fees for the likes of Naismith, Klose and Brady for the entirety of their contract, or until we sell them.
4) There was quite a few questions along the same theme, essentially questioning whether Bradley Johnson was still being missed, or whether we were lacking leadership on the pitch. Alex Neil got a bit angry making his points back on occasion, making the point time and again that Robbie Brady was younger, fitter, quicker and technically better. He was also quite damming about Kyle Lafferty mentioning his poor record on loan in Turkey and Birmingham. I do wonder if Neil has put too much emphasis on technical ability and not enough on fight, heart or spirit. He certainly doesn`t mince his words when being critical of his players.
5) Alex Neil is also trying to lower the age of the squad. Buying younger players is great. But he openly admitted he was struggling to fit them all in, hence why some are loaned out. Ricky Martin said his main objective was to address the imbalance in the squad (which we could all see in the summer).Trouble is, they have to be better players (and not just younger), or we weaken the team.
6) When angry Alex Neil was asked why some peripheral players had been offered new contracts when they`re not going to play, he wrote a list of players who he thought the questioner was talking about but he missed out Michael Turner and Steven Whittaker. I don`t know whether he did this on purpose or if he genuinely forgot. My sense is he just forgot, which worries me – he didn`t understand where the fan was coming from and is convinced he made the right decision about Whittaker, when he clearly didn`t (Turner was given a contract that meant he had an extra 2 years when we were promoted).

I don`t think Neil did himself any favours at all, he got angry a couple of times and kept shouting into the microphone, which made him sound even angrier. I`m far from convinced that we have the finances, structure or manager in place to turn the club around and grow it to be a stable Premier League club. However, I still think that we have the second best squad of players in the league, and with that we do have hope.

Overall, it was a very insightful evening. I warmed a bit to Jez Moxey, who may grow in to the role, and I think Ed Balls brings more positives than negatives to his role. What I do hope he does bring, is the Balls to do the right thing, acting quickly, and moving the club forward.

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