The last international break was a godsend. It gave Messrs Webber and Farke the chance to take stock and turn what was at the time a spluttering, backfiring engine into one that’s running really quite smoothly, I’m loathe to say it’s purring quite yet because that would suggest there’s little room for improvement but it’s a far cry from from the one that billowed smoke at Villa Park and the New Den.
This latest hiatus however has been nothing but a pain in the arse. Watching England plod, nay limp, to qualification was just about as unedifying as it gets especially when last month delivered us such nail shredding excitement when watching our footballing first love.
Hopefully the win or bust nature of Wales v RoI will offer some thrills, and we’re sure to see Wessi scampering away at some point, but the pickings will be slim and for many/most it’s merely a question of biding time until the proper stuff returns on 14th.
That’s not to say there’s been radio silence from Carrow Road over the last week and it was a very open and revealing Stuart Webber who spoke with Archant’s Paddy Davitt and Radio Norfolk’s Chris Goreham this week; the clarity, passion and focus again there for all to see.
His words on the calmness and clarity with which the post-Millwall fallout was handled were reassuring and it’s clear there is a plan there and they intend to stick to it whatever. There will of course be reasons to slightly adjust the path along the way but they will not be veering from the general direction of travel.
Telling too were his words on the future of the club’s academy and, again, those words brought comfort, particularly so given the decision by Huddersfield to disband their own. There remains a clear embedded desire to produce the next Murphy brother – the sale of Jacob to Newcastle being a prime example of how the production of saleable assets forms a key element of this club’s own version of The Good Life – yet with that desire has come a shift in focus.
Webber’s confirmation that he’s undertaken an internal review of the academy was unsurprising given the root and branch approach to his Colney arrival, but it was interesting the club intends to “strip back what we don’t do well“. Quite what will fall by the wayside will only be obvious to those in the inner sanctum but there will undoubtedly be a different way of doing things.
“We need to invest more in terms of effort, energy and passion to the academy“, was another line that caught the eye; the inference being that upon his arrival there was cash but not necessarily will being invested in the club’s future stars. Again, that’s a balance that’s about to shift. Investment but not of the financial variety is Webber’s blueprint for the future for the academy, one he needs to produce a higher percentage of first-team quality players and/or those who will be attractive to those with deep pockets.
“The under-23 team needs to become our second team” was another nugget that Paddy extracted, which alluded to a significant shift in emphasis; the first signs of which came at the German training camp when the line between first-team and under-23s became blurred for the first time. No longer will there be the elitist ‘them and us’ type approach to training, the idea being clearly that an embedded style across the whole club allied to familiarity between first-team and ‘reserves’ will make the transition that much easier for those considered good enough.
All of which will hopefully whet the appetite for the likes of Glenn Middleton, Adam Phillips and Tristan Abrahams when there’s even the faintest window of opportunity.
In short, Webber offered comfort. Comfort that while the boat rocked alarmingly at the end of August he never wavered in his belief that the path was the right one. And comfort in that the academy is here to stay and, rather than be disbanded, is to take on an enhanced roll in the club’s desire to be self-sustainable.
I bumped into a pal yesterday morning; one who I’ve known since we were in single figures and who is a season ticket holder who also goes away. He and his wife witnessed first-hand the ugliness that unfolded in Bermondsey. He’s a half-glass full kind of guy but even he was wary over getting too excited too soon over the September upturn. “Is this a bubble that’s going to burst, Gary?”
The answer of course is that while we all desperately hope it’s a sign of things to come we simply don’t know – such is the inexact science of football – and in the way the last international break saw a 180 degree change in fortunes it’s not inconceivable this one could do the same. But where this differs from upturns of the past – last season’s even – is that there is a definite plan in place and there appears a solid base underpinning everything that’s occurring on the green stuff.
No more triumphs of style over substance.
And that’s why, with Webber’s words ringing in my ears, I’m content to believe this isn’t a bubble that’s about to burst but instead the start of a sustained charge for the play-offs.
But don’t mark my words. I know nothing about engines.