No white smoke but the name Stuart Webber looks to be the first piece of the Canary jigsawSun 26 Mar 17 by Gary Gowers
If the bookies were sufficiently bothered to run a book on who’s going to be Norwich City’s new sporting director (they’re not) they’d have stopped taking bets on Stuart Webber.
While we still await the plumes of white smoke to emerge from the chimney of the South Stand chapel, shortly followed by pictures of said gent holding aloft a City scarf, the fact he’s reportedly been sent on gardening leave by Huddersfield probably tells us all we need to know.
I suspect he’ll be here sooner than you can say ‘hefty compensation’. And then the new era can begin.
His first task of course will be to lead the way in a search for a shiny new head coach; one who will be au fait with a concept so modern in these parts that we’re not entirely sure what it even means. But what we do know is that it will be different – unlike anything we’ve seen before in the Fine City.
Okay, so on paper the set-up is not too dissimilar, at least in name, to the 1998 ill-fated combo of Bruce Rioch and Bryan Hamilton – where the latter’s role as Director of Football was interestingly described in The Telegraph as ‘overseeing the club’s Football Academy’ – but (*crosses everything*) hopefully this iteration has benefited rather more by way of research, planning and innovation.
The cynic in me is still a tad sceptical over cultural change being achieved in the space of a fortnight by virtue of a big spreadsheet with a few more boxes than before which are joined up in a slightly different way, but it has to start somewhere. And if the boxes are filled with names of suitably qualified and talented personnel perhaps there is a way of fast-tracking a change in footballing philosophy.
I certainly hope so.
But in a week that has been blissfully light of Yellow Army bickering the one discussion that has strayed into ‘lively’ territory is that of how much urgency should be attached to appointing the new head coach.
Given Ed Balls’ insistence that the chronology would be sporting director followed by head coach – the former leading the search for the latter – an appointment is clearly not imminent but some are suggesting that with eight games to go and us being only five points shy of a faltering Sheffield Wednesday the club are missing an opportunity by “dithering” over the appointment.
For what it’s worth, my view is that it’s a bit early in the new dawn to delete the spreadsheet (dare I call it a project) and knee-jerk our way to a name who might, possibly, maybe, probably won’t get a tune out of a broody bunch who have done little anyway to suggest that top six is within their grasp.
The important thing is not how quickly we get the right man but getting the right man. If that means waiting until the end of the season then so be it, and, besides, the noises emanating from Colney suggest that in Alan Irvine the club temporarily has a steady, calming hand on the tiller. In the current climate that’s no bad thing.
And let’s not forget, while not the man for the permanent job, Irvine has not had a crack at winning away from Carrow Road, and may stumble upon that elusive formula. Who knows.
Equally, if he’s not able to inspire them to conquer their away-day fears then it’s likely then to be a mentality thing among this group of players that would prove a challenge even for a brand new face, particularly over just four games.
For me, Irvine represents a sufficiently safe pair of hands for the club to have bought itself some valuable time over which to deliberate, shortlist, interview and finally appoint a head coach. And to get it right is infinitely more important than how long it takes.
One argument used by the ‘get someone in as soon as’ folk – and it’s a fair point – is that a new man now would have the opportunity to assess the current crop, and it’s true that the summer cull needs to be done decisively and as swiftly as possible in order to permit time to being some fresh faces in.
I would counter that with, if he indeed arrives, Master Webber’s early remit will undoubtedly include that very task and, working with Irvine and the existing coaching staff, will have sufficient information and data at his disposal to start that particular ball rolling.
In fact, just ask the fans – we could probably draw up a fairly accurate ‘hit list’.
Naturally the name David Wagner has entered the frame, for no reason other than he was appointed as Huddersfield’s head coach under Webber’s watch, but there are others of a similar ilk out there who possess similar qualities. It doesn’t have to be Wagner – indeed I doubt very much if Hudderfield would even entertain an enquiry – but to find one from a similar mould would look to be a good fit.
If the bookmakers are to be believed Paul Heckingbottom is ahead of Wagner in City’s, currently fictitious, list of most-wanted – odds on in fact – but bear in mind some of those same bookies are still offering odds on Gary Rowett and Mark Warburton.
As such, a wide bookies’ berth is currently advised although I can’t pretend not to have sought comfort from the burgeoning odds of Messrs Pardew, Pearson and Pearce.
But these are interesting times and while the focus is on filling gaps in the new structure they’re temporarily diverted from loftier echelons in the Carrow Road hierarchy, where disquiet still exists over the ownership model.
My suspicion that now would be Tom Smith’s time looks to be ill-founded although maybe, just maybe, they await the embedding of the new model before further change is delivered. But I’m guessing. Nothing more.
“On the Ball City…”