When Stuart Webber arrived in Norwich, he found a football club in need of a new lease of life.
He also arrived with the weight of expectation on his shoulders, with supporters awaiting a significant change in the club’s footballing operations.
Last season was, by his own admission, a bit underwhelming and for all the talk of patience, there was still frustration that this transformation hadn’t set the world alight. Let’s not forget the fact Webber left a side on the way to becoming a Premier League outfit to take up a role at an underperforming Championship side – one that boasted the second-highest budget in Championship football.
Webber witnessed his ex-employers’ triumph at Wembley and then comfortably survive their first season in the Premier League while his new employers could only manage an uninspiring 14th place finish in the Championship. It would have been only human to feel an inch of self-doubt or regret.
“I’m really glad they did stay up. I’m a huge believer in legacies and leaving places better than you found them. I still look with pride at what we did at Huddersfield. David [Wagner] gets most of the credit for that but, again, there was a group of a lot of good people.
“To see them take it on last year was excellent to see.
“I knew the risk of leaving there was that I could be leaving a Premier League club but, as I said at the time through no bitterness at all, you can’t compare Huddersfield and Norwich as two clubs. The story at Huddersfield has been amazing and one we’ll look back on and talk about it for the rest of our lives.
“Fundamentally, I always believed this was a club that could become established in the Premier League. I looked at the challenge which this club imposed and thought, I fancy having a go at that.”
To, potentially, build two Championship promotion-winning sides on no little more than a shoestring has elevated Webber’s profile inside the game. With success comes speculation and we’ve already witnessed that with the Southampton rumours, and last season, with the club languishing in midtable, few could have blamed Webber for feeling anxious about his decision.
“There were times last year where it was really tough. I’d be out walking my dog at six o’clock in the morning and you’re questioning is it worth it? What’s the point? You’re getting a load of hassle and stick, and you could be sat in the Premier League. I got spoken to about another job last season but I’m happy where I am.
“Sometimes you think you could take the easy option out here. But nothing worth having comes easy, does it?”
As a self-proclaimed workaholic, Webber seems intent on finishing the job he started nearly two years ago – a job in which he is the chief navigator and Daniel Farke, his own choice, is the driver.
And together, these two have steered the club away from the oncoming traffic of financial peril and are now starting to put the throttle down.
Regret and self-doubt are topics not generally spoken about in the professional game. The need for leadership often prohibits emotions from always being expressed and the pressure mounts with every passing game. It begs the question, who’d work in football?
“You do question your decision because you work so hard every day with people and you’re trying to do the best thing. When the results don’t follow that, it’s hard. When you’re winning, it’s the best job in the world but it’s tough when you’re losing because as much as it affects a supporter when we lose on a Saturday night, it doesn’t affect anyone more than it does us.
“There were times last year where I wouldn’t sleep all night.
“I’d be awake at 2 am, 3 am and my wife would come down and ask me if I was coming to bed but I couldn’t sleep. You’ve got a million things running through your head, you’re trying to fight and find a way of finding a short-term fix but deep down knowing there isn’t. People don’t want to hear that, they want you to fix it.
“I remember having a conversation with Neil Adams, who’s been great for me personally because he’s a great guy with such experience, I’ve had lots of chats with him early on a Sunday morning about stuff. He gives you answers.
“He said to once, how do you feel after you win, you must feel great? I said no, I feel relieved. Relieved that for three or four days, we aren’t going to get stick, they are happy with us until the next game.
“It was tough last year and for me, it was a new experience. It’s the first time in my working life that everything that could have gone wrong, did.”
As it transpired, last season was a learning curve for everyone involved.
For Farke and his squad, it was about understanding the rigours of the division and the fundamentals needed, for supporters it was about understanding that foundations were being laid, and for Webber himself, it was about learning to roll with the punches.”
“Last season challenged my belief, confidence and made me question whether Huddersfield was just a fluke. Was it nothing to do with me and I just happened to be there and tagging off the back of it?
“I’m not doing anything overly different here really, but it wasn’t working the same way so you’re constantly questioning and challenging yourself.
“It’s a difficult place to be at.
“Then you’re thinking, my god, I’ve moved all my family down here, brought a house so we’re committed here. What if this goes wrong? How do I go home and say to the wife that this isn’t for me or I’m not for them?
“We’re well paid and we’re really fortunate to work here but all those doubts are still there and you’re constantly challenging yourself. Some days it’s bloody hard to drag yourself in and try and go again. Especially when you’re leading a group of people.
“People expect to feed off you. I can’t come in and just sit in my office and cry. You’ve got to be at it and so you have to put on a clown face when sometimes you just want to sit in the corner and cry.
“Difficult. But you have to go through it, and you become stronger from it.”