How Stuart Webber has turned Norwich City from relegated humiliation to Premier League inevitability.
Changing the culture has long been a desire of Stuart Webber’s. He adopted a football club rooted in pessimism, one opposed to patient football and demanding of a Premier League platform.
A title-winning campaign that nobody anticipated helps, of course. Utilising academy products, misfits and castaways to assemble a side capable of deploying the exuberant footballing philosophy your inexperienced German Head coach desires helps too.
A new culture had been formed. Stuart could do no wrong.
Then he tried his hand at Premier League recruitment. That wasn’t so easy.
You are now a Premier League club and you pay Premier League money for Premier League players, even if the mythical EPL cashflow isn’t as immediate, nor as bountiful as presumed.
Instead, your hands are tied and you are forced to turn to loanees and injury-prone freebees to supplement the title winning squad you already have.
It failed. Miserably. A global pandemic didn’t help either.
Stuart had planned for all eventualities, including one that ends with 11 straight league defeats and a mere 21 points. But not a global pandemic.
A condensed pre-season but a prolonged transfer window only exacerbated these issues at hand for Webber.
Eleven incomings had been agreed before a senior first-team player had departed. The new boys needed as much time as possible on the training pitch before competitive action started and the majority were warranted that time. Only Jordan Hugill and Ben Gibson weren’t as fortuitous, even if the former was granted 90 minutes away at Luton.
Despite losing 5-0 away to Man City on the final day of a demeaning campaign, the off-season allowed Webber to formulate a wave of positivity that would even make Todd Cantwell a tad squeamish. One that was so large, it forced an HMS frigate to nearly depart from its dock, until a humbling 3-1 defeat in the first round of the Carabao Cup reeled it back in.
Prior to the Canaries kicking off at Kenilworth Road, a prediction that City would finish anywhere other than the top two was hard to find within the City fan base.
Seldom has a relegated team strengthened its side to such an extent following relegation. At the time of writing, the only major sale is that of Jamal Lewis.
While it is expected that one or two more may depart, it is proving ever so likely that Norwich won’t have to part with all five of their assets, nor will team leaders Tim Krul and Teemu Pukki be poached.
Regardless of the departures, the Canaries will have a more evenly balanced side capable of deploying Farkeball 2.0; a revised footballing philosophy of the one that led City to 93 points in 2018/19.
Quite how revised, remains to be seen.
Recruiting technical operators, a year or two shy of their 25th birthday, means should Farke guide his side to an immediate return to the top-flight, they will be at just the right age to deal with the pressures of the Premier League.
But it won’t be all doom and gloom should it not pan out this way.
A second consecutive season in the English second-tier would mean teenagers Bali Mumba, Sam McCallum, Josh Martin and Adam Idah would all be afforded another campaignto showcase their development.
And Jacob Lungi Sorensen, Przemyslaw Placheta and Danel Sinani would be approaching 23-24 years of age, with a full season of Championship experience under their belt.
That’s not to mention the seasoned EFL professionals we’d expect to remain, even if they weren’t able to return to the top-flight at the first time of asking.
While some may disagree – particularly if a COVID-influenced transfer market is present – focusing on the long-term vision as opposed to short-term gain should be paramount above any immediate success Canary fans may desire.
City will return to the Premier League in the not-so-distant future. I’m sure of it.
What is more pivotal is that the infrastructure and provision around the football club is sustainable and more secure than last time.
They need to be in a position where they can add prudent investment to a promotion-winning cohort, as opposed to settling for loanees and injury-prone freebees like last time.
There was a genuine feeling following City’s recent promotion that there was a set of players capable of building a long-term project around, one that could compete in the Premier League for the foreseeable future.
What fans weren’t so aware of was the crippling finances that continued to plague the club.
City took a gamble and decided to invest their broadcast revenue in tangible assets. Whether this was signing Emi Buendia to a five-year-deal, or making considerable improvements to the training ground, the club was in desperate need of renovation and regeneration.
Returning to the top-flight at the first time of asking is by no means a certainty, but the frugal investments made will certainly help.
What is paramount above all else is that the Club needs to be ready for such a jump. And judging by the current landscape, I believe they are, thanks to Mr Webber.
Billy is ½ of NCFC podcast The Revere End. You can follow them on Twitter, Instagram & Facebook @therevereend and listen to their podcast on Spotify, Apple and Google podcasts.