On my train back from the capital on Easter Monday after witnessing what was a wretched, desolate City performance, my Twitter timeline became saturated with references to this now notorious Stuart Webber interview. Obviously, having been at the game and not in possession of a DAB radio, I hadn’t heard what our Sporting Director had to say. However, I remained intrigued by the vehement and polarised nature of the responses his comments were eliciting.
Twenty-four hours on and after listening to an entertaining post-match Canary Call – mediated impressively by the insightful Cedric Anselin – I listened to Webber’s interview. I have listened to the views of the fans, many of which were characterised by the expected despondence that becomes inevitable after a 4-1 defeat. I have listened to Daniel Farke.
By many, Webber’s comments have been radically misconstrued. To correct the interpretation of several City fans, he did not merely state that if you don’t like the football you’ve seen at Carrow Road this season then you should p**s off and support another team. He did not state that everything at the club was rosy. He did not state that all at Carrow Road was going perfectly to plan.
Instead, he spoke with the realism and pragmatism of a man who is aware of what still needs to be done. His remarks about the style of football and ‘supporting another team’ came in reference to the home games against Bolton Wanderers and Burton Albion, goalless draws I wasn’t present at but ones that by all accounts were peppered with manifestations of creativity, purpose and opportunities. If that isn’t how you want to see the team you follow try and play, then maybe being a football fan isn’t really for you.
Like the rest of us, I’ve not been happy with the football I’ve witnessed on many occasions throughout this season. I’ve been at the Millwalls, the Villas, the Hulls and the QPRs, games where City’s lateral, laboured and directionless style was accompanied by defensive shortcomings that saw us leak four goals in each of them. Meanwhile, I’ve been at home games where that now quintessentially slow and ponderous build-up has triggered pervasive disillusionment. I stand in staunch agreement with those that have been so fervently critical.
However, where my views deviate concerns the future. One caller on Canary Call predicted that next season we will be ‘cannon fodder’. Another that Farke and his team have just eight games – eight! – until he writes off this experiment and declares it a failed one. Yes, things this season – at times – have been far from brilliant, but at least give those responsible for the club’s future a fair chance to achieve their vision.
That vision is clear: a City team that plays crisp, purposeful and dynamic passing football, shifting the ball quickly up the pitch and creating regular opportunities. A team like Wolves, Fulham, or even Brentford to a lesser extent. With current personnel, that vision is simply unviable. Indeed, as was long ago established, the attainment of such a philosophy will take at least three transfer windows.
Do City have the resources to achieve what Webber and Farke desire? I don’t know. However, both are realists who are acutely aware of the financial limitations they are working within. In that respect, I believe it may well be possible.
The manager too is far from the finished article, either. While I remain firmly in the ‘give it time’ camp owing to City’s gradual improvement throughout the season – bar a few recent blips – and Webber’s seemingly meticulous and prudent nature, Farke’s reluctance to make changes and his lack of touchline presence at Loftus Road were legitimate causes for concern. When the third and fourth goals went in, he cut an isolated figure. He must learn to be bolder, be stronger, be more pro-active and decisive during each game.
Fans are divided. For the final 15 minutes on Monday, the away end was not a pleasant environment to be in. However, those who are writing this project off already are merely relying on guesswork, simply assuming that further change in the summer will fail to improve this City side in any respect whatsoever. Instead, we must all be more open-minded, accepting of the fact that it will be the next four months that will function as most crucial in determining its outcome. Indeed, the completion of radical change takes time.
Analysing City at the moment takes nuance, rationality and moderation. Having travelled to nineteen away games this season, I’ve been as despondent as the rest of us at some of the performances I’ve been witnessing. The football has largely been slow, purposeless and uninspiring. The defence is still susceptible to a collapse. However, at such a critical stage in determining the club’s long-term future, now is the time for unity not division, trust rather than scepticism, and optimism not pessimism. You never know, with a small dose of patience, things may even work out for the best.