In early 2019, I was contacted by the club’s then media head-honcho, Joe Ferrari.
After months of me pestering, haranguing and, probably, annoying him, Joe – a really lovely guy – was calling to offer MyFootballWriter the chance to interview Stuart Webber.
In this particular instance, persistence did pay off.
We chatted for a bit about the logistics – where, when, for how long etc – and just as we were about to sign off, Joe chipped in with an “oh, you’re welcome to video it if you want”.
While the concept of videoing an interview was hardly radical in 2019, it was a radical concept for MFW.
I’d envisaged it would be me trotting across to Colney to meet Stuart in his office for a brief chat, with the limit of the technology needed being me hitting ‘record’ on an app on my iPhone and, perhaps, sheepishly asking for a photo. Once home, I’d look to convert Stuart’s thoughts into 1000 to 1200 words, plucking out a couple of key quotes, and Bob’s your uncle…
But no. Joe offered us the chance to video it – something that, despite the odd logistical issue or two (like not having the ability to video it), was too good an opportunity to turn down.
Despite my dad urging me to still do the interview, I knew that my strong Suffolk (I know) accent, propensity to stumble over my words and inability to think quickly on my feet, made me a car crash interviewer waiting to happen.
(I am to the spoken word what Josh Sargent is to tap-ins.)
But, already on the books of MFW was a young man who didn’t sound (and look) like the Singing Postman, who was sharp and erudite and who could also probably lay his hands on the equipment needed to video the interview.
As luck would have it, Connor Southwell, with the help of his mate Ben Ambrose, was quick to whip my hand off when offered the opportunity.
There was however still the small matter of not having a platform on which to post the video once it had been recorded and edited. For all of its qualities, MyFootballWriter is very much of the written word and so it was to Google I headed to discover what it would take to set up an MFW YouTube channel.
Fortunately, even Allan Smethurst (Google it) was able to suss it out and the channel today known as Ben’s NorwichTalk originated from this very keyboard – its crude initial set-up being my one and only major contribution.
So, on 31st January 2019, Connor and Ben made their way to Colney, were greeted by Joe, and then introduced to Stuart.
The rest, as the saying goes, is history.
What Stuart gave us that day exceeded all of our expectations in terms of both time and content. This was the Webber with fire in his belly; the one with a bloody brilliant plan that he was in the process of executing; the one who had us all fired up because we liked what said and how he said it.
Connor, bless him, managed to get four separate articles out of that interview for MFW, which I was able to spread over four days, during which times he and Ben edited away like a couple of good’uns until the video was whittled down to a still feature-length 1 hour 28 minutes.
Not bad considering that my initial chat with Joe was based around Stuart giving us 30 minutes of his valuable time.
As I recall, the lads had one or two technical issues along the way, particularly when it came to uploading the piece on YouTube, and then there were a couple of late edits requested by the club that they insisted hit the cutting room floor. (Don’t ask – what goes on the cutting room floor, stays on the cutting room floor).
But there it was… finally. One hour 28 minutes of classic Webber, who was not only generous with his time but also spirit. How many sporting directors would give up two hours to chat to two 18-year-old lads from a website he’d probably never heard of.
But he did… and it was a video that’s now been watched almost 14,000 times.
Other City fansites may scoff at us getting all giddy over such numbers, but for us it remains a matter of immense pride. Connor and Ben were magnificent, so too was Stuart.
For those who’d like to fondly remember the way we were in heady days of early-2019, the video is below, along with the links to Connor’s four articles.
But why resurrect it all now?
Well, aside from Rick W and Stuart B suggesting to me in yesterday’s meeting that it would make for an interesting watch/read right now, it’s also useful to remind ourselves that Webber wasn’t always this confrontational figure who comes across as half-@rsed and appears ambivalent about whether he goes or stays at this football club.
This may or may not be the end of his era at Norwich City, but no one can contest that the Stuart Webber of 2019 was an impressive individual – one who went on to transform this football club and deliver us two Championship titles.