Today’s guest blogger is Rory Clarke, who asks the question that is on everyone’s lips.
All yours Rory…
Following relegation from the Premier League in 2020, Stuart Webber shouldered much of the blame, insisting that he was responsible.
“We sent Daniel Farke to war without a gun, and guess what? … We got shot.
“What we need to do is make sure that if we get back there, we’re fully armed up and ready to fight back.”
At the beginning of this season, following a successful promotion from the Championship but a summer transfer window that included the departures of two of our best performing players – Oliver Skipp and Emi Buendia – Webber proudly proclaimed, “Last time I sent Daniel to war without a gun, now he’s got a gun, a few grenades and a bazooka”.
I don’t know if he has ever clarified as to which players he was referring to but I’d love to know because having watched Norwich this season, I’m not even sure we have a water pistol.
So far, and at the time of writing, Webber is yet to shoulder any of the blame for this season’s failures.
I’m not going to criticise Stuart’s decision to climb Mount Everest though. I personally believe that to be an admirable challenge and one he should be applauded for, especially considering its charitable intentions.
But the interview with Henry Winter in The Times is deeply concerning for other reasons.
Webber’s initial contract was due to expire in June 2022, so as he and the club negotiated new terms. It was made clear by Stuart, that “there’s only one thing which matters to me in this negotiation, it’s not about money, titles or kudos.“
He simply wanted time off to “achieve a dream … of climbing Mount Everest”.
He does not want to be known as just being a guy who has worked in football for a few years. He says that if he gets introduced, even at a wedding it’s, ‘this is Stuart, he works for Norwich City’ or ‘he used to work for Liverpool.”
Instead, he wants to be known as the guy who climbed Mount Everest because that sounds way cooler.
But isn’t everyone introduced by some people with their job? “This is James, he’s an accountant”.
“My life isn’t to appease Norwich fans”, said Webber.
As Steve Gedge put it on Twitter… “If a senior executive at a multimillion-pound business in another field had that attitude towards his customer base he’d soon be out of the door”.
I have to agree. A hugely senior and influential figure at a football club freely saying this in a national press interview demonstrates how little respect Webber has for Norwich City and its fans.
Now, I should point out that Stuart is correct with that statement – his life is not to appease Norwich City fans. His job might be, but his life is not.
However, the ability to dismiss the feelings of the fan base so easily shows a man who really thinks he is bigger than the club. He seems to forget that it is those same fans who dipped into their own pockets to help pay for the training ground redevelopment, just a couple of seasons ago.
Unfortunately, Stuart, Norwich City fans were here before you and will be here long after you have gone.
Overall, Webber has largely had a positive impact on this football club. We’re told we are in a much better financial state than before, and we’ve invested heavily in our future to ensure longer-term stability.
For that, we have to thank Stuart and the rest of the team.
But, he has now had two attempts at building a squad and backroom team that is capable of surviving in the Premier League, and both times he has failed. Both times we have been (or are soon to be) relegated with little fight and even less character.
He must be held accountable for that.
Stuart reports to the board of directors at Norwich City. A board that now consists of his wife, Zoe Ward. I understand that her appointment to the Board is very well deserved, and I in no way wish to question her elevation in the club.
However, there now certainly seems to be a conflict of interest. How Zoe would vote on a potential sacking of Stuart is rightly a question on the lips of many Norwich fans.
Would she back the club or would she back Stuart?
Perhaps this is a reason why he is acting like he is untouchable. Engaging, like a petulant child, with protesting fans outside Carrow Road.
We as Norwich fans, ask for nothing but 100 percent effort from our players on the pitch. Similarly, we expect the same from our directors and leaders off the pitch.
Stuart, as per the Henry Winter article, is only willing to give 90 percent. That shows a lack of respect and a lack of leadership.
Why should Max Aarons, or Grant Hanley or Josh Sargent or any other player give 100 percent if their boss is only giving 90?
In the article, Stuart also says, “I am ready to walk out of the door, I’m ready for the next stage of my life”.
Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
I agree with most of this however there needs to be clarification about what SW said concerning the effort he puts into the club. I believe he said that he puts 90% of his time into the club,, which is a very different thing. Nobody puts 100% of their time into work we all have other interests..
Jason M says
Excellent article Rory. Mostly agree with all that.
Given that Webber has now apparently upset the local media, I think he’s going sooner than later. Maybe that’s what he ultimately wants.
Excellent article – more please 🙂
I particularly liked the payoff line!.
An enjoyable read.
I would like Webber to explain how come some many of his backroom staff that he recruited have jumped ship in the last 2 years has he created a toxic atmosphere where they feel uncomfortable.
It seems any enquiry for our coaching staff at any level is taken no fight to keep them.
Webber was lucky when he arrived the academy and U23 had a number of players to sell on at a profit Godfrey, Murphy brother’s, Maddison out of all his recruits the only one to make any profit I’d Buendia.
Maybe it was because they had time to develop only time will tell if any of the youth players he has recruited will go on to fill any black holes but do the club have time to wait for them to develop.
First team recruitment can be hit or miss but trying to survive when recruiting young American, Greek or other nationality is a dangerous business with a new language, Club and a family to settle so let’s hope those recruited last summer adapt to the championship next season.
Is it time for Webber to go I would say YES like Roeder you can’t take on the supporters that pay for a good product and give nothing in return.
Very well put Rory.
I’m afraid whatever he meant it’s come across as giving 90% effort and there can be no way back.
The whole article in The Times gave the impression that Norwich are second best in his current thinking and this may explain our dire recruitment last summer.
It’s time to go but I doubt if our woeful owners will agree.
In truth the club needs a complete change from top to bottom.
We’re told that SW’s favourite phrase is ‘ignore the noise.’ It’s a pity he ignored his own advice on Saturday. Picking fights with fans never ends well.
Chris S says
‘I’m committed to NCFC. It is of absolute importance to me, and I and my team are working as hard as possible to make the club successful, in the short, medium, and long term’ – Is what Stuart Webber should have said.
Instead we got, ‘Well, I’m not that a*sed, the club doesn’t really matter to me, and frankly I’ve got my mind on other things. Meh.’
Time to make those outside plans happen, Stuart.
If it were my business, he’d be gone. Then again if it were my business I wouldn’t have put myself ina position to be so dependent on one person, again.
Keith B says
We could write pages on how much this season’s performance is down to Webber, how much is down to the managers, and how much is simply down to an inability to fund genuine PL quality, in depth.
Obviously when we perform badly the players who haven’t been picked would definitely have done better, so that’s the manager’s fault. And the players we could have/ should have bought (with the same budget) would have done better still. So that’s Webber’s fault. Well, that’s how we like to look at it anyway.
From Webber’s point of view I’m pretty sure he will feel that overall his record does not deserve the lack of appreciation, indeed abuse, that he’s getting. I don’t blame him to be honest. The only CEO or similar we have had who was anywhere near as good as Webber was McNally and I suspect he felt the same towards the end.
When he goes – and I think it will be sooner rather than later – I look forward to seeing his detractors’ suggestions of similar individuals with a record of rebuilding mediocre squads at two Championship clubs, and with astute management appointments setting them up for promotion to the PL.
One final point – it seems to me that the biggest problem with our squad is lack of heart. The 3 games I have seen (including Saturday’s) have been the same – start well, look like the likely winners, miss good chances, give away a goal, cave in. I suspect it’s the same story at Watford, whose rather more expensively acquired and higher paid squads are about to change divisions with us for the 3rd season in a row. How do those in charge of recruitment deal with this? You can get statistics for pass accuracy, shots on target, headers won etc. etc. until you’re green and yellow in the face, but heart? How do you really know, until the lad turns up?
David Bowers says
“When he goes – and I think it will be sooner rather than later – I look forward to seeing his detractors’ suggestions of similar individuals with a record of rebuilding mediocre squad”
That’s easy Keith. Let Dean Smith do what Dean Smith does on the footballing/recruitment side. Neil Adams can take Academy/Infrastructure.
This idea of a Sporting Director providing continuity has been laughable because:
a) He’s about to go out of contract without a replacement, or we go year to year. at 90% commitment
b) He’s failed to keep staff in key roles
c) The results on the pitch and in recruitment have been spotty at best
If someone can tell me about the vast benefits we’ve reaped from having a Sporting Director over the previous Managing Director/Manager setup, I’d be interested to hear. I’ll tell you one thing, it didn’t materialize in Premier League positions, which have been a big step back.
Great article Rory. Like you, I am really not offended by SW wanting to pursue other interests like climbing Everest, life is afterall all about trying to achieve a healthy balance. However, it is the tone of SW comments in the Henry Winter interview which I found disturbing and distasteful as well as what this says about how the board are running the football club.
So much of the early years under SW was about cultural identity, playing identity, removing egos and succession planning. From the outside looking in it appears to me, rightly or wrongly, that this whole philosophy has disappeared over the past year.
It is clear from the SW interview, that he is remaining at the club out of a sense of loyalty towards the majority share holders rather than because he wants to be here. This loyalty is admirable but having somebody so clearly unhappy with life at Norwich isn’t good for anybody involved because the toxicity it creates is pervasive. It is impossible to not sense a lot of bitterness and resentment surrounding the club at the moment. From the majority shareholders towards the EPL because ‘money rules’ and the morality of where much of that money comes from; from SW towards the club in general for still being in post at the club; from the fans for a pretty dismal season and a sense of deja vu with how the club is being run.
But why isn’t there seemingly a clear succession Plan B for the Sporting Director role? We have known for several years that SW was planning to leave at the end of his current contract so why hasn’t the successor been already earmarked. Was Neil Adams ever a serious shout as a longer-term replacement? If he was, then for the board to seemingly prefer somebody whose heart is clearly no longer in their role is pretty damming.
Tim Ball says
Excellent article Rory.
Balanced and fair.
I too applaud Stuart’s efforts for charity but as you say the interview in The times with Henry Winter really did sound like a “FU” to Norwich City supporters. It would be interesting to hear the interview in whole just to be fair to Stuart.
I liked Stuart Webber when I first met him I will admit his blunt ” we will be playing the ball on the ground while Ipswich keep the ball at 32,00 ft” or something very similar was music to my ears.
But even then I did wonder if he had the patience to be a Sporting Director.
Because at the time promotion to the EPL seemed as distance as me winning the lottery. However with coach Daniel Farke he found a kindred spirit that for a while was a team made in heaven.
But if you read between the lines that first season together was not without its troubles. It seemed that a rather “honest” meeting between the pair in a hotel in Leicester I think it was showed Stuart’s impatience.
In football Rome wasn’t built in a day, Alex Ferguson took years before the glory days arrived back at Old Trafford. But our Stuart was a man in a hurry.
I know for a fact, whatever is said here or anywhere else, that first Championship under Stuart and Daniel came as an early surprise to the corridors of Carrow Road.
And here I will admit I got it horrendously wrong just as Stuart did. I thought the football we played that first Championship winning season under Farke was the best I had seen at Carrow Road since the late eighties and early nineties. Of course we do not need too many signings, one or two I thought.
Well wide of the mark 😡 Our wonderful flowing football was bullied and battered by a much stronger, physical Premier League. I still think without the worst injury crisis in my 60 years of supporting the great team we would have performed a lot better, but alas we will never know.
Bottom line Stuart got it wrong. Fair enough. I can definitely see why.
But why oh why did he then sign 5 players last summer under the age of 21 ? For a relegation scrap. Where was our Physicality ? Normann yes, Lees-Melou I don’t think so. And our pace ? Rashica is fast but he disappears from games like he is auditioning for a remake of “The Invisible Man”.
I also agree with many on here that it is not all SW’s fault, but the buck stops with him.
Spudgunnercanary put on here the other day a alternative view to mine regarding the ownership of the club. And I can see why a lot of people want to keep the Delia & Michael model.
They do love the club I have no doubt of that, but we cannot judge SW without looking at the ownership.
Spud rightly says a big investor does not guarantee a return to the glory days of Stringer and Walker and in that he is absolutely correct, I have said that many time on here myself. But what it can do is help with Stuart Webber’s big problem last summer, and that is being out bid due to wages by clubs like Brentford.
Too many times we are missing out on no1 targets due to not being able to pay the wages. And the club are right in the present circumstances to cut their cloth accordingly.
So SW is working in the bargain basement level, in the Championship it can work in the EPL no chance.
There is a reason that the successful democracies in the world limit the terms their leaders can be in office for. It is because absolute power corrupts absolutely, that is why Geoffrey Watling didn’t want the club to be owned by one person.
We have to the east a country that purports to be a democracy but any opposition is poisoned or imprisoned, now I am not saying the present ownership are resorting to anything resembling😂 this but they are doing everything in their power to stay in charge.
So before we all give Stuart Webber the stick he deserves to some extent, let’s all remember the working environment he is having to operate in.
And I do deep down think Stuart will find more job satisfaction outside the football world.
An excellent reply
Having a dictatorial owners has hurt the club and possibly lost us money from investors but none are so blind as those willing not to see how wrong their methods are.
Can city attract investors I would say YES but it needs the owners to realise what damage their intransigence is doing to the clubs reputation and forget that they know best.
Of course a club the size of Norwich can attract investors, the trouble The Stowmarket duo will want to keep power and control. What investor is going to put their money with these two running the show. The last few years have shown to any investor how the club has been choked. They will do their home work for sure. Of course there are the stipulations they have placed on any new owner or investor. That Will stop that right in it’s tracks.
Bruce C says
I honestly don’t know what to make of the SW situation. We know he has a snarky side, he exhibited that we the fans objected to the club’s choice of sponsor, but then so do a lot of people in football. I think on balance we have been far better with SW than we likely would have been without.
I can’t help noticing a few people on here willing to decry the recruitment who I recall applauded the signings of Tzolis, Gilmour and Norman et al at the start of the season – as did I (with the caveat that facing the season sans Oliver Skipp didn’t fill me with optimism)
Anyway, its a moot point, I think SW will leave fairly soon and probably stick two fingers up to us as the door shuts – on his arse or otherwise.
Suggesting a future vote on ownership doesn’t seem very dictatorial to me. Many folk seem to feel the opposite, that our custodians have entrusted power in others to much, Webber et al
Gary Gowers says
Take your point, Mike – is clearly democracy in its purest form. Just hard to imagine how it would work in reality!