There is rarely a perfect ending, but after a period of reflection I will leave Carrow Road and the Lotus Training Centre for the final time this weekend with a sense of pride. The work of a football club is never done or complete, but we achieved so many things that I would like to reflect on from my time here.
I have given everything to this special city and it is the right time for me to take a short break from the sport.
I am truly honoured to have served this great club as its first sporting director and I will always be thankful to Delia and Michael for the trust and faith placed in me.
During this period I have had the privilege of working with three experienced and highly-talented head coaches and I have learned from all of them.
As one of the figureheads at the club I felt a responsibility to protect them wherever possible and try to provide a working environment where they could thrive and succeed.
Football management is unforgiving territory, but they operated diligently, professionally and with integrity at all times.
I also worked with some incredible footballers during my time here.
I am immensely proud of the way we paid respects to Wes Hoolahan and Russell Martin in a classy, dignified and proper manner that befitted their status at this club when they left. They put their hearts and souls in to Norwich City.
We also developed the next generation, giving our passionate supporters some new heroes to cheer from the stands.
The life of a professional footballer is challenging and demanding, but the commitment they show each day is inspiring.
There have been tough moments with players and difficult conversations, but I always put the club first.
As I prepare to leave Norwich, I want to thank all the players I have worked with and to acknowledge their professionalism and desire.
The day Grant Hanley was given the responsibility of captaining this club was special. I know how much it means to him to wear that armband and he has done so with his customary distinction and dignity. Grant is a great leader. Over the years he has had some tough conversations with me, but he has always put the interests of the dressing room first and fought their corner. I admire those qualities.
During the pandemic he was the driving force behind a group of players who donated more than £250,000 to help the people of Norfolk through this period.
This period also made me fully appreciate the work of Jackie and Ian Thornton OBE at the Community Sports Foundation. They have changed the face of the foundation and made it a truly outstanding community asset that continues to grow. It has left such an impression that I will continue to support it where possible.
I also want to show my gratitude for the team behind the scenes.
At my very first meeting with our ground staff Gary Kemp (head groundsman) and James Randell (assistant head groundsman), I told them that I wanted to transform the training ground and to turn it into an elite professional environment which would become the envy of clubs all over the country. We got there in the end and I hope that it continues to develop in the years ahead.
Training grounds are often neglected by teams, but the continued work at the Lotus Training Centre is important to the club’s long-term future. This is a place of work and it is important to provide an atmosphere and facilities that match the expectations of footballers and support staff in the modern era.
With the help of our executive committee — comprising Zoe Webber, Anthony Richens, Sam Jeffery and Neil Adams — we have created that. This began with the Canaries Bond idea put forward by Tom Smith, when we called upon the financial assistance and support of our fanbase. They responded and we wanted to give them something back in return.
There were 49 portable cabins in use at the training ground when I arrived and I am pleased that we can now provide our players with a first class, modern, fully-equipped training facility that is a thriving, intoxicating environment to work in.
I want to place special thanks to Glyn Lewis, John Iga, Jay Eastoe-Smith and Chris Burton for helping to design the gym and recovery hub. We dared to dream and to be different as we watched our training centre come to life.
We have achieved so much off the field, but I will also cherish the special memories of our two Championship title wins.
During the first promotion season, when we were in the tunnel at Villa Park, the hairs on the back of my neck were standing and my heart was pounding at the thought of achieving the Premier League dream at such an iconic, historic venue.
I turned to Daniel Farke and told him that we should never forget that we were about to lift the trophy at the home of the former European champions in front of more than 3,000 of our travelling fans.
Although I have always been first to protect the club and act as a spokesperson, it is not generally in my nature to be part of the celebrations or to join in with the squad and staff during those special moments. Reluctantly I did that day, encouraged to do so by my friend and ex-colleague Neil Taylor who convinced me to celebrate with the fans. I look back on that and I am glad that I felt the raw emotion, the passion and the excitement from our supporters.
The second title win was special for different reasons because it gave our staff and fans something to hold on to during a global health emergency.
It is a shame they never got to celebrate together, but I felt at the time that the pandemic had tied the community to the club in a way that will probably last forever.
As I look back on more than half a decade here, I also know that I have made mistakes.
We suffered two relegations from the Premier League and I have never shirked that — nobody wanted to stay in the top flight more than me and to establish this club in the best league in the world. The pain is always there.
Naturally, I have had difficult moments, but I always tried to defend the board, the coaching staff and the players as I felt it was my responsibility. Perhaps I misjudged situations on occasions, but my only intention and instinct was to serve and protect.
I have worked with and got to know so many staff members from the academy set-up right through to the first team.
I will miss the smiling faces of Vicky Brittin each morning, head chef Dan Savage and his team, along with our kitmen Pete Dye and John Howes. They help to make this football club.
To work at the Lotus Training Centre every day, to watch so many people develop and demand more of themselves, is a joy and a pleasure to be around.
One of my passions is helping to nurture young talent and provide a habitat where they can flourish and follow a pathway to the first team.
It is a huge part of Norwich City culture and history, and I respected that.
When I appointed Steve Weaver to head our academy system it challenged our staff and young players to meet new expectations.
At the time our academy was at risk of being downgraded because of chronic mismanagement and a systematic failure to bring players through on this club’s famous production line.
In years to come the achievements of Steve and his team will no doubt receive wider recognition because 21 players have gone on to play senior football for Norwich City.
Many of the names of the coaching staff will be unfamiliar to people reading this, but I cannot leave without showing gratitude to Colin Watts, Jay Marshall and Steve McGavin for identifying so many of these talented players.
The recruitment team, first led by Kieran Scott and more recently by Lee Dunn, works tirelessly behind the scenes to find talent which fits into our system and culture.
Club secretary Andrew Blofeld is Norwich City through and through and has assisted so many departments with his wisdom and experience.
I have already said goodbye to so many people, but I must thank the staff at Carrow Road for their support and hard work over the years.
I am sorry they did not all get a mention here because I will miss you all.
Dave Wright, Matt Gill, Darren Huckerby, Alan Neilson and Greg Crane must also be recognised for their coaching acumen and ability, along with the many physios, analysts and educational staff who help to maintain and drive an elite environment.
There are so many other incredible memories.
Getting to know club legends is so important because it widened my range of field and made me understand what Norwich City means to them and why it is such an important part of this community.
Many of the former players had not been back for years, but great names like Iwan Roberts, Dave Stringer, Rob Newman, Chris Sutton, Jeremy Goss, Terry Allcock and Robert Fleck have all returned in recent times.
Finally I must thank the supporters of Norwich City. Football is nothing without you.
The night at Arsenal in 2018, when we had 8,000 travelling supporters, made me realise the strength of feeling towards this team and made me understand how big a club this is. It means so much to so many.
I have always tried to make myself available, to be approachable and to be open, honest and transparent about our work at this club.
The challenges are huge at this level of professional football and I tried to articulate our decisions and reasoning for the benefit of the fanbase.
It is your club and I always felt it was important for supporters to have a better, informed opinion on its direction.
This fanbase shows such remarkable devotion and I have come to recognise this over the last six and a half years.
As many people know, one of my lifetime ambitions has been to summit Mount Everest, which is one of the principal reasons I am pressing pause on my professional career so that I can fulfil this personal goal.
Alongside it, I have a charity and we plan to raise money that will benefit the community by funding projects for disadvantaged people in the area.
Please give Ben Knapper the support you have given me as he begins his first days and weeks in his new role.
I hope he can match and go on to exceed your ambitions. With the team of so many highly motivated and professional people around him, I am certain he can go on to do just that.
The support of Mark Attanasio and his team, along with the board and executive structure in place here in Norwich, can make dreams come true.
The life of a sporting director can be a lonely, insular and isolated job at times, but it is also a privilege to be able to work at this incredible club.
Thank you again to everyone who has been part of this journey and I wish you all the very best.