Buidling Dreams Together

 

“We are not there yet, we start now.” – Norwich City’s fan forum thoughts ahead of the new season.

Strong words from the Canaries’ sporting director Ben Knapper provided an insight into what the fans can expect from the club and the teams performance ahead of Johannes Hoff Thorup’s first season in charge of Norwich, and his first season in English football, after moving from Danish Superliga side FC Nordsjælland. In an open event to all supporters at Norwich’s Forum venue on Monday, July 7, the panel, which was made up of Hoff Thorup, Knapper and Zoe Webber, the executive director, fans were able to understand what the club expect in the near future and in a more long-term capacity. Hosted by BBC Radio Norfolk’s Chris Goreham, the event saw a mixture of questions from Goreham and those raised by the fans. Note: Not all quotes are exact verbatim, but gives a strong flavour of the future of the club, short-term and long-term.

Zoe Webber
Norwich City executive director Zoe Webber (Image via: Norwich City FC)

One of the main topics raised tonight centered around the financial fair play, or FFP, rules and whether the club were close to breaking any of the rules; therefore being subject to potential points deductions and other sporting penalties, such as transfer embargos. Webber was quick to reassure the fans, with the director stating that Norwich have “always had a three-year plan”:

“The club are in a stable position. Mark [Attanasio] allows us to keep control of the debts.

“We always look ahead to make sure it [financial fair play] will not become a problem in the future [three years].”

Attanasio, the joint-majority American shareholder, alongside local resident and lifelong Norwich City fan Delia Smith, plus her husband Michael Wynn Jones, are the current custodians of the club. Over the summer, it has been reported that Attanasio is interested in beginning investments into other teams, with Portuguese side Benfica among those rumoured. Webber was quick to assure fans that Attanasio will not let anything affect his commitment to the Canaries:

“He [Attanasio] has regular dialogue with us and the board, and he will always explore opportunites, as they are an investment firm, but he has promised us it will never affect individual commitments.”

When asked about any updates to the stadium expansion, notably the City Stand, the price of steel stands as a major difficulty:

“If anyone could do anything about the price of steel, that would go a long way.”

Ben Knapper
Sporting director Ben Knapper addressing the fans (Image via: Reuben Clarke)

Knapper, who arrived from Arsenal in November 2023, was quick to remind fans that “football is a game about probabilities, and it is about stacking them in your favour”:

“We will all have to have patience – you have to suffer in football.

“We will deliver to you a team that represents you, the fans, and hope that you understand what you are going to see every week and what you can relate to.”

Norwich’s main way of ensuring a sustainable flow of money in recent years has been to sell players for profit, and Knapper does not see a change to that mindset any time soon:

“We have to sell incrementally if we want to become sustainable and achieve our goal of becoming an established Premier League side. Equally, you cannot bring in one big player and expect to fix the problems. There is not one quick fix, or one head coach that is going to achieve that quick fix for you.

“All I can ask is that you stick with us and judge us in time.”

With a relatively quiet transfer window so far, with the club only signing 23-year-old defender Jose Cordoba, many were curious as to what the club are actively looking into recruiting:

“In terms of recruitment, we are active in the market:” Knapper informed the fans.

“We do not want to make a hasty decision that is not the right one. We know there are areas we need to improve and we are really interested in these, one of these being a new left-back.”

On what the missing ingredient could be in remaining in the Premier League once the club reach the top-flight of English football once again, Knapper believes it requires slow, incremental change:

“Look at Brentford for example, they incrementally got better, slowly got better and more consistent over a matter of years, rather than one big squad overhaul. This is the approach that we want to take.”

Johannes Hoff Thorup
Norwich City head coach Johannes Hoff Thorup (Image via: Norwich City FC)

Hoff Thorup was quick to assure the fans that he is settling in well, with him exploring “every neighbourhood” in Norwich, and meeting plenty of fans on his exploration

When asked about how pre-season is going, Hoff Thorup explained how he has the players working to a very intense schedule:

“The more offensive attacking players were excited, as now they have more offensive chances in the game.

I also have had a meeting with “leaders of the group”; made it clear how we want to play and the environment around us [the squad].”

The fans were eager to know what exactly Hoff Thorup was planning in how he wants his side to play:

“I want a team that is in control for as close to 90 minutes as possible. If you don’t bring the football from day one, you don’t know why you are there.

“It’s a tough business, the Championship and the Premier League. There are areas we can improve, and we can build on these areas whereas other [teams in the Championship] will not. We have to build and compete in a way that is different.

“This involves a clear style of play, developing young talent; how we train, how we build the culture. If we create that, it can be work that we can continue to build upon.”

On striker Adam Idah, who spent the second-half of last season on loan to Scottish Premiership side Celtic, the head coach was swift to remind the fans he wants to evaluate him before deciding on his future, with the striker actively pushing for a permanent move to Celtic:

“I will give him a chance. Sometimes, it is not the player, but the environment they are in [which could be causing performance issues].”

Conclusion

In the closing message to the fans, Hoff Thorup assured the fans that the club want to be as transparent as possible:

“We try to be as open as possible so you guys have an understanding of what we’re trying to do. Some will be good, some will not [referring to matches] but we have to keep improving and we want to be as open as possible, so you, the fans, can understand and create and feel that sense of belonging. I want the fans to feel that this is my club, this is my team, no matter whether we win, lose or draw.”

Overall, the forum allowed the fans to gain an understanding of the direction the club want to head, which is something that has not been able to be openly clarified under the two previous head coaches, David Wagner and Dean Smith respectively. Many fans left the event feeling more at ease, and for some, hopeful ahead of the new season.