By Duncan Edwards
Since David McNally committed Twitter Hari-Kari, Norwich City has been described as everything from being in crisis, skint and a rudderless ship through to being in safe hands and merely quietly and conscientiously going about its business.
The hands on the controls are those belonging to Southampton University graduate and former Finance Director, Steve Stone. On Friday evening in excess of 100 fans turned out to meet him at another excellent event staged by the Norwich City Fans Social Club.
The man himself is direct, confident, articulate and clearly very sharp. He also seems more personable than David McNally and made it clear that he wouldn't micro-manage as his predecessor had should he get the job on a permanent basis.
So, yes, his application is in.
He has been interviewed along with others and he genuinely wants the job. He was keen to stress that despite a financial background with Gala and Punch Taverns, his aspiration has always been to move into a Chief Executive role. When McNally dropped his grenade, he was best placed to pick it up, make sure the pin was still in and ensure that the club continued to function as smoothly as possible.
Now, while that might have some of you gasping for air and muttering "...scouring Europe..." under your breath; it's also worth pointing out that Steve Stone is in no way kidding himself. He knows that the big hole in his CV is his lack of football experience. Practical evidence of that is the bringing in of agencies to assist with transfers. David McNally left in a hurry and also took his little black book of contacts with him.
Given the way that McNally conducted his business (HE did the negotiating), Norwich City were essentially left with a gaping hole that needed filling. The agencies have enabled us to continue to function and attempt to get business done.
It seemed that accepting, albeit after a bit of back and forth, the resignation of McNally was a massive step. It's clear that it has brought complications but that the decision was taken leads one to the conclusion that those tasked with the welfare of the club felt that it was in their best interests to do so.
Darren Eadie made his usual excellent job of hosting, though how he manages to speak in anything but a squeak with trousers that tight is beyond me.
He kept the evening flowing with a series of probing questions while those assembled on the floor also got stuck in. Interestingly Steve said that he wasn't committed to returning to his Financial Director position should we appoint an external candidate. I guess that with the consideration process still ongoing that is partially geared at reiterating his intent and confidence to perform in the role; he's definitely serious.
Reassuringly, funds are available for incoming transfers. The first half of parachute payments are in, the sale of Nathan Redmond has helped but Stone indicated that there has to be an eye on responsibility too. Income has to be to a level that enables us to remain financially viable, utilising all available revenue streams is key, he doesn't see us as a "selling club". Unfortunately, this means that we're unlikely to be participating in any "twenty is plenty" ticketing in the Championship as we need to maximise incoming funds if we are to get promotion.
That is, of course, the target. Steve said that realistically we had to achieve this within two seasons but that in all likelihood, year one was our best chance. Our priority is to sign a striker and he was bullish regarding possible targets. He also pointed out that Cameron Jerome was very effective at this level but, perhaps tellingly, indicated that when we get promoted, we'll be less loyal to those that got us there. It's imperative that we have the right players for the right division.
A replacement for Redmond was discussed, as was Sergi Canos. Darren Eadie spoke glowingly about the Murphy twins and Steve also seemed to be under the impression they would be very active members of the squad. Stone is also desperate for James Maddison to prove his worth as he grew up as a Coventry fan. Despite these encouraging sounds about some of our younger players, Stone admitted that our Academy has to do better.
The Premier League were hugely complimentary about the facilities and set up but were also damningly dritical about the number of players that were being produced, not only to play for Norwich City but that went on to have decent careers elsewhere. He went on to explain that with the current level of short-termism in football, blooding youngsters is often too much of a gamble - or certainly perceived that way and that is why we've utilised the loan market to give our lads key experience.
It would certainly appear that Steve will be in charge until at least September. He is aware of the tribulations of last Summer and confirmed that we had good money to spend but ended up not spending it. He's keen that this mistake is not replicated and asked to be judged after the transfer window. Players will be leaving, there will be loans, small fees or possibly even free transfers and despite joking to the contrary, Ricky Van Wolfswinkel is in the last year of his Norwich City career.
In his time at the club he is unaware of any approaches from potential investors, it's also not something that has been actively discussed with him. Ground expansion simply won't happen unless we feel that we're "established" at the top table and safe standing isn't worth discussing until there is a change in the law. Investment in youth looks like it will be a continued policy, player trading is still the biggest earner for many clubs.
Steve Stone comes across very well. I'd go as far as to say that I think he's a credit to the club and I'd be happy to have him here in some capacity for the future. Whether that is as CE, well, I'm just not sure. It's not that I think he couldn't do the job, I'm confident that he would, it's just that I think there'd be plenty not willing to afford him that chance. He is short on football experience, he hasn't got the contacts within the game and as far as things are going currently, he's keeping things going rather than stamping his own authority on things.
I completely understand that. If he was to change things radically and then not get the gig, the incoming CE would undoubtedly change things again and we'd see double the upheaval. It makes sense.
Let's see how he gets on for the remainder of the window and heading up the Footballing Board (future of which will be decided with the next permanent incumbent).
Is it really possible that we've scoured a continent for a second time only to find the outstanding candidate was already in the building? I don't know; what I am confident of is that Steve Stone's hands are perfectly safe in the meantime.