29/04/18 – Ed has written a column for The Times about Norwich City’s promotion to the Premier League
Below is the full version of the article. You can read an edited version on The Times website here.
‘I MARVEL AT HOW A NORWICH SIDE THAT COST SO LITTLE HAS DONE SOMETHING SPECIAL’
We’ve done it! Norwich are back in the Premier League, and massive congratulations are due to the team, Daniel Farke, the coach, and Stuart Webber, our sporting director. It is a stunning achievement because it has been done in a season when the club have been without the parachute payments that go to those who have recently departed the top tier or the huge injection of cash, sometimes from foreign owners, that have gone to many of our rivals in recent years.
Within the club there was long and sometimes anguished debate over whether such a feat was really possible. But from the moment he arrived in the spring of 2017 Webber insisted that with judicious buying and selling, a much better resourced academy and understanding from the supporters it could and would happen. And it has. Stuart was right. And what a wonderful surprise it has been to most of us.
I don’t think too many of the fans, and certainly not the board, would have expected runaway promotion as we started this season. Last term was unspectacular. Daniel had introduced his brand of possession-based, passing, methodical football, and it took us all time, fans and players, to get accustomed to it.
But the ground work was being laid. The pieces started coming together in mid September when we set off on a fantastic emotional roller-coaster that climaxed on Saturday night with a 2-1 home victory over Blackburn Rovers that sealed our place in the top flight next season.
Perhaps we should have seen it coming when we went with the team on tour to Germany last summer. The atmosphere was positive and confident. The academy changes were coming through. A young lad called Max Aarons had done well in the academy, and in one match Daniel spent the whole time running up and down the touchline shouting to him. He had spotted the talent and Max has been a total revelation, one of the Championship players of the season. Even as this season started there was no real hint of the joy to come, no expectation that other academy stars like Ben Godfrey and Todd Cantwell, as well as Jamal Lewis, would flower in the way they have. But the coaching revolution was paying dividends.
The other part of the Farke-Webber upheaval was recruitment. So Stuart and Daniel presented us with a free transfer arrival called Teemu Pukki, who had done little at Celtic but has become the division’s leading scorer and the greatest free transfer of all time; and a bundle of energy from Argentina called Emi Buendia, who has terrorised defences across the land and played in all of Norwich’s many victories.
What must have struck the neutral observer watching Norwich’s many televised games this season has been the team’s refusal ever to give up, scoring impossibly late goals in a host of matches, and the fantastic Norwich crowd, home and away. Even by December 14 of our points had been picked up in the last 10 minutes and the trend has continued right to the last with our equaliser against Sheffield Wednesday just last week in the seventh minute of injury time and other last-gaspers against Millwall, Forest, and recently Reading.
Without doubt our high level of fitness, on which Daniel has always insisted, has been a factor. But the hard work of last season has also paid off. We have adapted to possession football and that is part of the reason for the late goals. Even in injury time we pass it out from the back rather than hoof the ball hopefully up the field. The crowd now anticipates late goals and we think our opponents do as well.
And that crowd. What an atmosphere they have managed. The whole Norwich community has been behind the team, the banners and scarfs have proliferated as the season wore on. The fans sing louder when we go a goal down, believing the team has the capacity – always – to come back. Early on we lost at home to Stoke but the performance was great. At the end the crowd sang our On the ball City anthem as if we had won. And it is great to be a fan supporting a team that cost a few million and has ended up top.The management and the team have earned the success. It wasn’t bought.
Daniel has demanded the highest standards of fitness, and thoughtful, deliberate, methodological football, played in the most creative way. We have seen displays this season, like our demolition of promotion rivals Leeds at Elland Road, that have had the pundits in raptures.
How did this happen? Well the arrivals of Webber and Farke were key. Steve Stone, our acting chief executive at the time, had come up with the suggestion of Stuart in the spring of 2017 and we moved heaven and earth to persuade him to leave soon to be promoted Huddersfield where his reputation was strong. He immediately gave us his radical thoughts on recruitment, the academy and coaching. With our passionate owners Delia Smith and Michael Wynn-Jones, we had a special board meeting and Stuart presented us with three options for first team coach. Two of them we had heard of. The third was the second team coach at Dortmund, a man by the name of Daniel. Stuart felt he was a leader who would nurture young talent. We backed his judgment. He soon arrived with his team from Dortmund. It was a breath of fresh air.
Daniel has helped create a superb togetherness about this side. Youth has been embraced - look how Godfrey and Zimmermann have kept Hanley and Klose out of the back two slots - but when needed experience has been there. The fans may have doubted Krul to start with, but his influence has been enormous.
Norwich have had to sell regularly to keep the bank manager at bay. I can reveal that we had a very hairy few days at the end of last season. It was our intention to sell James Maddison, our best player last term, to Leicester. It was in his interests, our interests and the fans understood.
When Maddison limped off after only a few minutes of our last match at Sheffield Wednesday it did not look too serious. We wondered if he wanted to take a bow in front of the Norwich fans. But when Stuart emerged from the dressing room at half-time he told us it could be far worse than we thought, that Maddison had a knee problem and that it would be several days before we knew how bad it was. We had an away day at which the board and coaches debated what we could do if we could not sell him. The plans that have led to this season’s success were up in the air. We were biting our nails for several days but after a week we thankfully got the news that he did not need an op, and then that he was off to what is already an impressive post-Norwich career.
Since standing down as chairman on Boxing Day after three years in the job – I had originally told Delia I would do a year – I have gone back to being a fan in the stands, watching many home games and great away wins like those at Leeds and Bolton with my father, brother, son and nephew.
And now over the summer, while the fans celebrate and dream of premier league trips to come and the players rest and recuperate, Stuart Webber and his team will already be hard at working putting into action long prepared plans. What will the strategy be? There will definitely be signings this summer. But I don’t expect any radical overhaul of what is already a high quality and close-knit squad. If Norwich had not been promoted, there are at least six players who would have been targets for Premier league clubs but who will now stay to play in the top flight with Norwich.
Nor will the club want to throw caution to the wind and go for broke. That was tried in the last January transfer window in the Premier League in 2016 and the club has paid the price for that ineffective profligacy for the last three years. Since then the club has established a new philosophy matching ambition and passion with long-term planning and financial discipline. The board and Stuart Webber won’t make rash decisions now which would put the club’s five to ten year future at risk.
Like the rest I have marvelled at how a team that cost so little has done so well. Something very special and unusual has happened at Norwich.
Whether that model can stand up to the test of life in the top division who knows. For now let’s enjoy a remarkable achievement. Next season the fans will not expect to win every week. But with great professionalism strong foundations have been put down. On the ball City.
Ed Balls was chairman of Norwich City from December 2015 to 2018 and is a Club Ambassador and Vice-President
11/04/2019 Ed to present another edition of Friday Night is Music Night for BBC Radio 2
Ed will be presenting another edition of Friday Night is Music Night for BBC Radio 2 on Friday, 17th May at the Forum Theatre in Bath as part of the Bath Festival – come along and see us if you can!
Ed’s guests will be West End stars Hannah Waddingham and Ben Forster with the wonderful 60 piece BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Bramwell Tovey – and again it will all be about musicals. Full details on the Radio 2 website
08/04/2019 Ed stands in for Elaine Page on Sun 14th April on BBC Radio 2
Ed is standing in for Elaine Page on BBC Radio 2 this Sunday 14th April from 1pm-3pm. And he is going to be playing his and listeners’ favourite Tingle-Moments - the song from a musical where you always gasp or smile or shed a tear. (For Ed, it’s when the Von Trapp children sing get to sing the Sound of Music with their Dad).
Email him your favourite moment at firstname.lastname@example.org
02/03/2019 - Ed reaches top of Mt. Kilimanjaro for Comic Relief
After a grueling week of debilitating altitude sickness, severe weather changes and basic camping conditions, Ed and the rest of the team finally made it to the top of Africa’s highest mountain. The team climbed the equivalent of nearly four Ben Nevis’ and 18 Eifel towers, all to raise life-changing funds for Red Nose Day.
A one-hour special documentary of the challenge Kilimanjaro: The Bigger Red Nose Climb will be broadcast on BBC One, Wednesday 13th March at 9pm.
11/02/19 - Harvard Kennedy School Forum: ‘Brexit: What’s Next?’
Ed speaks at a Forum event, hosted by the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics, on how Britain got to the point of Brexit and what is likely to happen in the run up to the UK leaving the EU on 29 March 2019 - and beyond.
Ed is joined on the panel by Harriett Cross, British Consul General to New England, and Amanda Sloat, Senior Fellow at the Center on the United States and Europe, Brookings and Fellow, Project on Europe and the Transatlantic Relationship, Belfer Center for Science & International Affairs. The Forum is moderated by Cathryn Clüver Ashbrook, Executive Director, The Future of Diplomacy Project and Executive Director, The Project on Europe and the Transatlantic Relationship.
01/02/2019 - Ed to present second documentary with BBC
In his follow-up to last year’s Travels in Trumpland, Ed will head across Europe, discovering how the divisions exposed by Brexit are reflected in the rest of the EU. Ed will visit the continent’s most volatile countries, exploring whether Europeans still share the same values as in previous eras. The documentary will air on BBC 2 later this year.
30/01/2019 - Ed to climb Kilimanjaro for Comic Relief
Ten years after the legendary climb of Mt Kilimanjaro which saw Chris Moyles, Gary Barlow and Cheryl attempt to summit Africa's highest mountain, a new team of celebrity explorers will return. This time, the Red Nose Day challenge will see Ed Balls, Dani Dyer, Osi Umenyiora, Jade Thirlwall and Leigh-Anne Pinnock of Little Mix, Shirley Ballas, Dan Walker, Alexander Armstrong and Anita Rani form the squad who hope to raise more money for the annual charity event. The band of nine begin the ascent in February for a special one-hour documentary to air on BBC One. You can read more about the climb and how to support the intrepid explorers here.
28/12/2018 - Ed to appear on Rob Rinder’s ‘Good Year Bad Year’
Ed joins Rob Rinder and a host of guests to cast an unflinching eye over the events of 2018, Friday 28th December at 10pm on Channel 4. You can catch up on 4od HERE
04/12/2018 - Ed and Peter Sands publish their fourth Brexit paper with Harvard students:
‘‘Deal or No Deal?’ Businesses’ Views on the Endgame of the Brexit Negotiations’
This paper represents the fourth phase of a research project at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government, Harvard Kennedy School, where Ed is a Research Fellow.
The paper examines the impact of Brexit on small and medium-sized British businesses, examining their views as we reach the endgame in the Brexit negotiations. This research is primarily based on 180 interviews with over 120 small and medium-sized businesses, academics and trade association over the past two years.
The key conclusion from these interviews is unambiguous: the vast majority believe a “No Deal” outcome would be extremely damaging, and is a “worst-case scenario”. While preferable to “No Deal” the “Blind Brexit” that would result from the combination of the DWA/DPD would mean continued and damaging uncertainty, which is already having a negative impact for many businesses. While the DPD still leaves the shape of the post EU transition unresolved, most businesses would prefer a closer relationship with the EU than it currently envisages.
01/12/2018 - Ed to become Norwich City Vice President and Club Ambassador
I’m stepping down as Chairman of Norwich City Football Club on Boxing Day after three years in the role, and will become Vice-President and Club Ambassador.
Here’s my statement – you can read the full Club announcement here
"Having had to accept several decades ago that I would never play for Norwich City, it's been the next best thing - and a dream come true - to serve as the Chairman of the football club I have supported all my life. And like so many Norwich fans, I'm loving watching Norwich play this season. It’s great to see all the changes that we have put in place together over the past eighteen months now delivering such success on the pitch. Huge credit goes to our Head Coach Daniel Farke, Sporting Director Stuart Webber and everyone at Colney and Carrow Road.
"When Delia and Michael asked me to join the Board as a non-executive Director back in 2015, and then at short notice to become Chairman, we agreed I would do the job as Chair for a year. With all the turbulent changes we have faced following relegation from the Premier League, that term has been extended - and for all the highs and lows we've faced in that time, I've regarded every moment as a privilege. But the three-year anniversary of my appointment on Boxing Day is now the right time for me to stand down.
"It's been a very tough and turbulent three years and we have made some very difficult decisions, but every day has been an honour. I am grateful to my fellow Board members, and all the senior managers I have worked with, for their support. We have all worked together to listen to our supporters, make the most of all the talented people at Colney and Carrow Road - players and non-playing staff alike - and give our Club a real chance of further success.
“Like every other City fan, I’m now really looking forward to the rest of season. Together, we will all do our utmost to cheer the team back to the Premier League, where this great Club belongs.”
23/11/18 - Ed to host BBC Radio 2’s Friday Night is Music Night
Ed will be hosting Friday Night is Music Night on BBC Radio 2, Friday 23rd November at 8pm. No leotard. No Gangnam Style. Just an evening of glorious music from the world of musical theatre illustrated by casts and stars of the West End stage.
01/10/18 - Ed will be appearing in the new series of QI on BBC Two
Ed will appear alongside Sara Pascoe and Jonny Vegas in the latest series of QI. Tune in to BBC Two at 22:00 on Monday 1st October to watch.
13/09/18 - Ed to appear in Gareth Malone’s All Star Music Quiz
Ed will be appearing in Gareth Malone’s All Star Music Quiz on 27th September at 7pm on BBC Two.
A special for BBC Music Day, where the nation’s favourite choirmaster challenges two celebrity teams (with a wide range of ability!) to play the answer on their instrument of choice, as well as say it. Read the full press release here.
29/07/18 - Travels in Trumpland is now available on BBC iPlayer
Ed’s new series ‘Travels in Trumpland with Ed Balls’ is now available to watch on iPlayer. Watch it here.