It’s June, the sun is shining, and despite a deeply-disappointing previous campaign everything in the Norwich City garden is looking rosy right now. The principal reason for this is Stuart Webber.
Our new Sporting Director has yet to put a foot wrong since arriving at Carrow Road, releasing expensive older players and under-performers, refusing to make a snap managerial appointment of a has-been failed-before “name” to appease the “normals” and calmly waiting for the right man, with the right profile, to become available.
He speaks with intelligence and charisma, underpinned by a steely desire to succeed. Everything we need.
One interesting sound bite came up in the flurry of interviews following Daniel Farke’s appointment however. Webber said that City fans would be excited by what the club would be doing over the next two-three weeks in terms of player movement both in and out of the club.
As soon as I heard that I pictured thousands of City fans rising like meerkats on their hind legs to look in Webber’s direction. Commissioner Gordon has powered up the bat signal that means that action is imminent. Fantastic.
In setting that timeline Webber has set himself a target that he’s not entirely in control of. We know from previous statements from both Webber and Steve Stone that we have to sell to buy. And to sell you have to find willing buyers.
Our previous recruitment teams and respective managers post and pre-Lambert have always decried the lack of transfer movement in June. “Players are on holiday. Managers are on holiday. There’s no movement in the market.”
As annoying as this has been for fans desperate to see new blood arrive at their club, we all accept that whilst some of this is smoke, common sense dictates that a lot of it is produced by actual fire.
I’ve always taken the view that the summer transfer window is similar to school summer holidays. The best students do their homework early and thoroughly. The ones most likely to fail produce something dog-eared and barely fit for purpose at the last minute and only after they’ve been screamed at.
Webber has set his sights on being the former rather than the latter which is exactly what we want from him. The problem is that the rest of football doesn’t necessarily work that way. For every Webber there’s a Neil Doncaster or two in the CEO position at other clubs, who is happy pottering around a quiet office putting all transfer talk on the back burner until the manager gets back off holiday.
Getting a Doncaster to make a multi-million pound purchase in June so you can offload a Naismith or Wildschut? It’s possible but it requires luck, persuasiveness and determination. I’m glad Webber is backing himself in terms of being able to get this done but he’s set himself the bar of others being as proactive and hardworking as he is.
Norwich fans, burned out by years of false transfer dawns and underwhelming windows, have embraced Webber’s fresh approach and we’ve all signed on. We’re all in. But I also know that when Webber said on May 25th there would be In’s and Out’s in the next two to three weeks he set in motion an expectation.
June 15th was being ringed in red marker on mental calendars with “He said…” as a side notation. Like many fans I’m refreshing my Twitter-feed with a regularity that hasn’t been seen since the days when “the most impatient man in the world” was working his magic here and holding David McNally’s feet to the coals to get transfers through early no matter what.
Attracting a Marley Watkins to Carrow Road is a good start but in transfer terms it’s a relatively easy win to get him to a high profile Championship club. Getting other clubs to pay millions in June for high-earning 30 year olds is another challenge entirely.
Pull it off and Webber’s a genius. Fall short and whilst the vast majority will accept he tried and came up short of a very difficult target, it will also be the first chink in the Webber armour. Bizarrely in this country we hold our football executives to far greater account over their stated intentions than we do our politicians.
Over to you Stuart. No pressure.