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28 November 2016

We look back at the last two decades

TODAY marks 20 years since lifelong supporters Delia Smith, Michael Wynn Jones and Michael Foulger were appointed to a newly-constituted Board of Directors.

All three remain key members of Norwich City’s hierarchy. In the two decades since they were unveiled at Carrow Road, their commitment has been unwavering through the ups and downs, on and off the pitch.

The trio assumed their positions at a time of great need for the Canaries. Relegation from the Premiership in 1995 had left the Club’s financial position perilous, but their injection of cash, along with the work of majority shareholder Sir Geoffrey Watling, moved it to much calmer waters.

Smith and Wynn Jones took on Watling’s majority shareholding in 1997, but it wasn’t until Nigel Worthington was given the manager’s job in 2000 that the team began to build towards a return to the top flight.

At the end of Worthington’s first full campaign at the helm in 2002, City missed out on promotion by the narrowest of margins after being defeated on penalties by Birmingham in the play-off final in Cardiff.

Two years later, they achieved their aim in style by winning their first league title for 18 years - an achievement Smith, who by this point had also revolutionised the catering arm of the business, described afterwards as ‘the pinnacle of her career’.

Her public display of passion at half-time of the Premiership clash with Manchester City the next year went down in Canaries folklore, but despite a valiant effort in the second half of the season Worthington’s team were relegated on the final day.

A rocky spell then resulted in Worthington’s reign coming to an end in October 2006 and Smith and Wynn Jones publicly stating the following January that they would be willing to listen to offers to take on their ownership.

Local business owners Andrew and Sharon Turner briefly joined the Board, but a long-term buyer wasn’t found and more generous investment from Smith and Wynn Jones in 2008 kept the Club’s financial outlook from becoming increasingly bleak.

Demotion to the third tier in 2009 ultimately proved to be a turning point - the appointments of Chairman Alan Bowkett, Chief Executive David McNally and manager Paul Lambert brought an immediate upturn in fortunes, inspired by talismanic striker Grant Holt.

Holt, who lifted the Player of the Season trophy three times during his spell at Carrow Road, might never have pulled on the yellow and green, however, if it wasn’t for Foulger, who personally funded his transfer from Shrewsbury Town.

Remarkably, by 2011 City were back in the Premier League, and three consecutive seasons at the top table of English football allowed the ownership to rid the Club of its external debt for the first time in decades.

Relegation in 2014 and was quickly forgotten a year later, with Smith, Wynn Jones and Foulger joining the players and staff on the Wembley pitch in front of 40,000 Canaries supporters after the historic play-off final triumph over Middlesbrough.

With the Club now back in the Championship, the trio will be seeking to mark this special anniversary with similar celebrations as City target an immediate return to the Premier League.

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