I need to choose my words carefully. This week I’ve been accused of exaggerating and catastrophising the extent of City’s current plight.
This is, apparently, merely the lot of a football club where the good times and bad times come together to make it what it is. Football’s natural cycle if you like – the ebb and flow of Norwich City.
But, with apologies to said gent, the events of yesterday did feel catastrophic in a footballing sense. It did feel like a new low in a season that’s had more than its fair share.
It was always going to be tricky, let’s not kid ourselves otherwise, with Swansea having put together a run of results that we can only dream of, and with Russell Martin’s men well drilled in a style of play that we’re familiar with and which, by design, strangles the life out of its opponents.
By the 65th minute, the humane thing to have done would have been to pull the curtains around and call the vet, which suggests Russ’ plan worked better than he could ever have hoped.
The mess is clearly not confined to what’s happening on the pitch, albeit what we witnessed yesterday is about as grizzly as it can get. In fact, it’s the mess off the pitch that has fuelled the disasters that are unfolding on it.
Dean Smith bore the brunt of most of the angst in the first half of the season although many of us recognised at the time that, while he was part of the problem, he wasn’t the only problem.
By that point, Stuart Webber had also become a problem.
He had fallen out with the fans, he had criticised the fans. he had fallen out with the local press, he had criticised the local press, he blamed the fans for costing the club vital funds, and he told us in no uncertain terms that if 90 percent of his time wasn’t good enough for Norwich City then he’d happily walk away.
And, as far as I’m aware, there has been no sight nor sound of an olive branch, nor even the slightest hint of contrition in the intervening period.
And so when Carrow Road exploded in fury yesterday, it was at Webber that the ire was aimed.
“We want Webber out!”, was the call that echoed around, and not just from the more vocal areas of the stadium.
It was a cry for help, as we watched helplessly as our team and club imploded before our very eyes,. It’s all we have. Fans of other clubs may handle these situations differently but we’re Norwich City – we don’t do footballing anarchy particularly well.
The message was clear – but to whom?
It was Delia Smith and Michael Wynn-Jones who begged Webber to stay and told him that 90 percent of him was good enough for us. So, they’re hardly now in a position to change that view. Of their many supposed qualities, knowing when to call time on the tenure of a high-ranking employee has never been one of them.
Besides, I don’t think they want to.
The other person in a position to call into question the sporting director’s ongoing ability to do the job is said sporting director’s wife. Enough said.
So, effectively, the only person capable of making the call is Webber himself.
There is no chairperson. There is no CEO. For all intents and purposes, the club is run at the behest of two married couples, with assorted suits there, one layer down, to implement their decisions without challenge.
So it matters not that under Webber’s watch, David Wagner has been delivered a squad so unbalanced and so lacking in the fundamentals of a Championship side aiming for promotion, it’s become physically painful to watch.
The plan that was once there has long since been dispensed with. I couldn’t tell you if this team is designed to be a high-energy, high-press type of team, one that wants to be possession-based, or one that looks to absorb pressure and play on the counter.
I know what I think Wagner wants but I’ve seen zero evidence of this team having a style and identity of its own.
It muddles through. It plays in fits and starts. It concedes possession. It makes mistakes. It lacks belief. It lacks intensity. It lacks goals.
The catalogue of mistakes that have led to the compilation of this squad are too numerous to list, but just to pick out a couple of obvious ones:
- How have we managed, after suffering a costly centre-back crisis in our Premier League campaign of 2019-20, to end up with one fit centre-back?
- And how, as much as we all love him, has Onel Hernandez, been deemed the winger to take us forward when, last season, he was twice sent out on loan as not deemed good enough?
The second of those points is in no way a slight on Onel who, in the circumstances, earned his new two-year deal through sheer effort and desire. But it has shed a light on all the money spent on wingers in the last two seasons to no benefit whatsoever.
Yet, not for the first time, I don’t lay all of the blame for this unholy mess on Webber. Responsibility must also fall on those who facilitated his rise to almost absolute power. And those same people failed him when it came to delivering him a budget that would give him a chance of fulfilling the stated goal of making this club one that could survive in the top tier for more than one season.
He never had a chance.
So, while Webber took all of the flak yesterday, let’s not ignore the role played in this club’s unwholly demise by its current majority shareholders.
Any club that allows itself to be governed by two married couples without challenge isn’t a serious football club.
I have no idea where we go from here other than to suggest you read Andy Head’s excellent piece on what a long and winding road back to sanity may look like.
Mike Corbs says
Fair enough. Yesterday felt like a calamity. On a personal note I felt very lucky after the game to meet up with 15 or so German canaries. A perfect antidote to to one of the worse days I’ve experienced as a fan on the pitch. Thanks guys, keep the faith. Fingers crossed for WBA away, again for personal reasons a key date in my calendar. Then it’s farewell to Teemu, and some serious soul searching.
Gary Gowers says
Cheers Mike. Yes, I heard the German Canaries were in town yesterday and that they are a terrific bunch. Good point too about Teemu’s farewell … he doesn’t deserve for the current malaise to impinge on what will hopefully be a rousing farewell.
Relegation awaits !if nothing changes . Smith and Jones must go !
BG Canary says
I would argue for the first 100+ years of professional football in England a club run by married couple is exactly what a football club is. In fact I would go so far to say that for the most part the premier League clubs are businesses and investment vehicles not clubs. Other options are equally worse, be at the whim of some American investor or worse some crypto con.
As owners I hold Delia and Michael entirely responsible for ensuring the club exists for my nephews and nieces to support and for maintaining the reputation of the club as a family friendly place. Everything else is just football.
Buying a ticket to a game is unique in the world of entertainment because the only guarantee it confers is watching 22 men run around after a scrap of leather. It guarantees no refund for a loss, a missed penalty or ugly football. In fact my best Norwich memory is going to an fa cup semi final with my dad which we lost.
As for Webber he took risks and they didn’t pay off putting him on the same place as 18 others at the end of the season. He is hardly the scooby doo villain some fans make him out to be. If the goal is to be a top 26 club in the UK consistently he has succeeded 66% of the time.
It’s the end of a cycle not the end of the world.
Gary Gowers says
I agree it’s the end of a cycle. Some good context there, BG.
Not the first time you’ve put me in my place 🙂
Thanks for the comment.
well, I guess we are all entitled to an opinion ! probably best I leave it there !
Be Interested to read this I’m a few years’ time. Personally, I hate football and how it’s run atm.
Delia is right on how clubs should be run but the problem is that means the state of play we find ourselves in after what can only be called an utter shambles yesterday!
You throw 10s of millions at it you become a Forest, Leicester or the like? Back in the same place as us and £100m in debt. Do you become Newcastle sell your soul to the devil and become hated by everyone? Or does the government step in and stop the Premier League selling fans up the river and regulate all clubs making it a far more equal playground?
It’s a hard call – I know where I stand on it all (back on the standing Barclay late 1980s when footbaĺl was still a working class game – £6 pay on the gate and players would still take to the masses). Times change but in this case its gone far, too much one way and needs to be brought back no matter what the cost to some clubs!
Derek P says
It’s about time someone said this. No one was complaining when we won the Championship in successive years. money was provided and spent, albeit poorly. We’ve made mistakes, what Club doesn’t? So now it does feel like the end of a cycle, so it’s time to start a new one.
Sax yellow says
Both championship years we sold our best players and then reinvested some of it. We rebuilt last year with 60 million, we shouldn’t be doing it again.
Jerry R says
While I dislike Webber and his MO I do concede that he is working within ridiculous parameters, constrained by budgetary necessity, and in his mind is being creative and “thinking out of the box”. He feels forced to look for the next Buendia to fill the financial hole that self-funding causes. Rather than signing players that will help the team in the short to mid-term who may not have a resale value.
As for David Wagner, perhaps we were initially blindsided by the early goal-drenched away wins and the almost unchartered territory of 3 consecutive wins at Csrrow Road. His recent form over the last half dozen matches, largely against weaker sides would see us firmly in the relegation mire if extrapolated over the whole season.
The continuing use of Sorensen as a centre-half and the lack of well-thought-out substitutes is an ongoing concern. Most of all, however, is his defence of the aforementioned Webber. Surely nailing your flag to Webber’s mast when he is under massive scrutiny for his actions and performance is a failure to read the room? Or a Dean Smith’s “sack me” plea?
The amateurish and unprofessional way the club is run comes from the very top. To be frank, its a joke. Whether or not its the case, the overriding impression one gets from attending g a match day at Carrow Road is one of going through the motions, and not just from the shambles that takes to the pitch in green and yellow.
We know Delia Smith despises the Premier League, we know she has no money to spend and no will to do so either, we know that in spite of the gushing soundbites from time to time that she and her cohorts and many senior employees hold the supporting contempt. So why on earth doesn’t she just go?
Does she believe she’s adding value? Does she get pleasure from putting her name to this shite? Is she clinging on in order to hand her dynasty over to her nephew? Who knows what the motivation is?
All bar the zealots now agree that self-funding must die. The hypocrisy of stiffing supporters for what is in truth some of the most expensive tickets in the whole of English football while blowing smoke up their collective arses is phenomenal. How egalitarian.
Anyone with common sense can see unless things change in the summer they are going to get a whole lot worse. What remains of this season should be used to let those in power know that.
With all the accuracy of a Gabriel Sara Corner and the clarity of a David wagner half time team talk I’ve replied to the wrong article.
Points still stand though
Mark Gathergood says
I concur with everything thing written in this article.
My position for the last few years that responsibility rests with DS & MWJ. This obviously became more complicated with a second married duo. The silence on the recent share issue is deafening!
The club needs to be clear with the supporters what is happening to enable the club to heal the harm of the last few years.
Personally I believe a clean break is needed and that MA, with his team needs to take over. Some may not like change but it needs to happen. Will it improve the malaise we are all currently feeling? Only time will tell.
Unfortunately I believe Teemu final game for us will be overshadowed by actions or lack of by the boardroom. So I would like to go go on record to thank Teemu for his service and professionalism. Especially the last two years with a lack of service.
Probably the only person who can convince Delia her time is up is Foulger. He’s cashed in his chips and should tell her to do the same while we still have a club that’s just about solvent provided there is a fresh injection of cash from new owners.
Webber did have a restricted budget, but it was wasted and thats soley down to him.Round pegs in square holes is what hes given his head coaches to play with,too many lightweight players,no defensive midfielders bought,we needed Grant Holt,Bradley Johnson, Duncan Forbes type players,instead Webber choosed powder puff players and no leaders,thats why its all down to him.
Hiya Gary. Another great piece – as you say this is the lowest of the low since project restart and fans returned back to grounds.
Just want to say how we missed big Grant – you know how much I rate him the first and third goals would not have happened if he was the marker. That idiot no 4 is not good enough, too weak, not got a brain and gets too involved with things he should not be anywhere near.
Point 2 – Swansea and how they defended corners two men up wide a double out ball. How many time have me and Barry said keep Pukki up as an outball – it worked like a gem win the header from corner 15 secs they have a corner or on the attack.
Major overhaul in the summer needed.
Bernard Owen says
Just that I keep reading but Webber got the Buendia signing right.
Just that I keep hearing Kieran Scott had to fight Webber for that one.
Tim Ball says
Oh dear Gary that was bad. Really bad.
And actually being there to see it in all it’s glory was not a pretty sight.
For ten minutes we were okayish. But after their first goal and Sarge’s awful miss we went to piece’s…. literally. And how many times has that happened this season.
Here’s a question who was actually playing defensive midfield yesterday? it looked like there was an element of job sharing, the whole midfield looked all over the place.
Time and again Swansea played possession based football and added the element of playing the ball over our full backs time and again. Good god are we missing Hanley and I would venture to say after that Ben Gibson.
The sending off made the rest of the match a cake walk for Swansea.
It is time for Stuart Webber to go, but just as Farke and Smith before him it would be another of Delia’s scapegoats in many ways, not addressing the biggest problem we have, her reluctance to go in the interests of Norwich City FC.
MYSTIC KEV says
Dreadful performance and its been just as bad with the injured trio players in so that said massive clearout needed clearly most are bog standard and propyl wagner too on recent evidence can’t fire them up costs nothing to show passion we can’t blame Delia and Co for that .
What more or how many ways can the same things be said ? Yesterday seemingly bringing another all time low. I simply fell asleep just after half time and woke up 2 minutes after the final whistle. I believe that if I had been there to witness that much spreading show, I would have been on the 3.50 bus back to Dereham.
I said a couple comments ago .. “They (Stowmarker Duo) must take responsibility, allowing other people to run the club, some can applaud that position as they are clearly lacking the skill set to do. But to stand back and give what looks like the reins to another married couple. You can be forgiven for thinking that Mrs. Webber is the only voice in Carrow Rd.
She will, of course, fight her husband’s position at the board level, I would expect nothing else.”
Only a husband & wife team who hold far too much authority in the club. the real problem lay with the other husband & wife team, who will not let go of their plaything and limelight, holding the club back because of a lack of finance along with a pie-in-the-sky notion.”
Nothing will get done until a month or so’s time, thank god the games will be finished by then, The situation will arise If My Husband Leaves so will I , Will Smith & Jones bow to that ? Two major people leaving, the two who have been running (supposed) the club and the only voice of the club.
I getting tired of hearing that Webber found Emi and Teemu and overseen promotions. He has also found more duds and injury stricken players, overseen relegations and sold Emi. all in the past, all done with. It is the now this season must go down as another failure .
A caller of the wireless said yesterday Farke’s sacking was a big mistake, at one time I would have disagreed strongly, but what we have had since make the caller’s thinking not so far off the mark.
As this season comes to an end (thank the gods) it is becoming clearer that all the blame cannot be placed on Smudger’s shoulders, now Wagner looks to be having the same problems, how to get this bunch playing as a team. Two coaches who have different styles and neither are working, what does that leave ? A comparison, would be Warnock style, how many supporters would have welcomed that ? With recent victories over Watford and Middlesbro, only a 1-0 against yesterdays victors, plus now out of the relegation zone. Certainly more than what we have witnessed, hard to argue with that recent record. Not sure I could have handled that for long.
Delia & Michael you should go to specsavers if you cannot see the bloody huge writing thats on the wall.
Jon B says
My son and and I chose to let my brother and nephew go instead with our tickets yesterday, I’ve had to apologise to them !
Credit to Onel for earning more time at the club but as alluded to above, this plus McLean getting a three year dear ( don’t me wrong he works hard ) and Idah a five year deal ( sorry Adam, just can’t see it ) you know the clubs ambition.
I don’t understand why we have only got two experienced centre backs, they always get injured, it happens every year. I think we would definitely be in the playoffs with experienced centre backs. The loan system is a mess, Andrew “Hitman” Hughes thought it was a great success that we sold Saxon Early. Going out on loan is not developing any of our youth products.
I like Hernandez but, like Aarons he does all the hard work then gives it away cheaply- as does Dowell. I’d be interested to hear what Cantwell has to say, there is a lack of motivation amongst the players.
Everyone mention the two married couples running the club and all forget Tom Smith and his wife are both senior members of the board.
Ed Balls once said the Tom Smith was the ideas man that convinced the board to adopt the system of a football director and after due diligence found Webber to be the best man for the job ?
Now I wonder as his wife was already at senior management level in the city system how much that influenced him being offered said position.
Mrs Webber had already worked with him at Liverpool and tried to get him to Fulham where she was in senior management, but once at city she has made herself Delia’s shadow and indispensable to her so again how much influence has this woman got.
Sadly Mark-A could have a tough time removing both if he finally gets his hands on the club or could he just leave them to run the club with a couple of his family on the board, whereas some overseas owners are at every home game Attanasio seems to be an absentee rarely seen in and around the city.
Yesterday’s game was the final nail in the promotion coffin unless you arean optimist so is our investors bidding their time to make their move or has Delia purchased the majority of the 195k shares to strengthen her hold on the club.
Will the club open up soon about the issues that concern the supporters not sure but it seem Mrs Webber has had two articles in recent months one stating due diligence on the share issue had been done and that the final report would be forth coming, then another hit the headlines saying how clubs like city self financing would struggle in the premiership is this her way of sending out the message that there’s no changes on the horizon??
Over to you Gary and Stay Healthy and Safe
Alex – I wonder if you’re a little confused. There’s certainly a Norwich director called Tom Smith, and he’s a thoughtful man. But I don’t believe his wife has ever held a position at the club, let alone as a Board member.
Typo I did mean Tom and a while back I read somewhere that his wife was co-oped onto the board, so I apologise if my facts are incorrect
Thanks for noticing my error.
Jon B says
Player of the Season article Gary or anyone !
Final home games of a season can be awfully hollow when there is little to play, ours on the horizon even more so, mixed with unfortunately bags of negatively and so much drained belief. That said, paying homage to Pukki will hold plenty of importance for many, myself included.
Gary, the only thing that will influence the City Boardroom is empty seats. I was a season ticket holder for nigh on 20 years but gave up due to ill health, I kept going through good times and bad and that‘s the problem, we are too loyal, we kept shelling out, we are part of the problem. But not in the way the club see‘s it, pay up and shut up is their mantra. Or no pay no say. Recently I and others supporters I know have been offered free tickets or the chance to borrow season tickets and we have declined, strange, supporters with free admission but no thanks. So maybe things are about to change, perhaps attendances will decline along with the Club‘s decline, the value of the Club will also decline, tough times ahead for fans and the owners, Delia will not be remembered well and Webber will become a footnote in the Club‘s history.
Couldn’t agree more…..I had ST’s on and off for nearly 50 years, but surrendered after last season because I wasn’t being entertained, nor (in my humble opinion) getting value for money.
However, what absolutely amazes me is that (according to the club), 20,000 have renewed ST’s for next season.
Over the last 8 games we’ve seen a taster of what next season could well be…..
We all know Pukki is off, and from what little I’ve seen, and a lot I’ve listened to, where is this re-set coming from, and more pertinently, how is it to be funded?
We’ve already spent the parachute money; it seems we’ll have to cut our losses on some of Webber’s signed for the future players……and the youngsters we’re bringing through just are not up to the job.
Given what’s happening at the southern end of the A140, I can’t say that I’m looking forward to renewing that particular rivalry next season!
O T B C
If you haven’t done already you must watch Connor Southwell’s eloquent, passionate and excoriating post match piece on You Tube. Brilliant journalism from the heart of a fan who loves his club.
Webber has to go on 3 grounds
1 he has failed badly this year – he had one of the top 2 budgets in Championship in terms of transfers and wages and has failed again to build a strong competitive and coherent squad, signing after signing since 2018 have been very poor
2 his ego is currently bigger than the club – this is a regional community club and the supporters deserve to be valued and respected not treated like mushrooms 🍄 left in the dark and covered in the smelly stuff
3 without sellable assets (caused by previous poor signings) last Summer he has already gambled the future parachute payments for next season on the hope to get promoted this year hence we are in a bigger financial hole this Summer still without sellable assets because the likes of Sargeant, Tzolis, Omabamidele, Giannoulis, Aarons, McCallum, Idah, Gibbs, Sara have not impressed and developed and have gone the way of Cantwell rather than blossomed likeBuendia and Maddison
Ps the evil empire South of the border on on the rise
Amazing what driving out a stale divisive owner does when it comes to reinvigorating a club isn’t it.
Tim N says
I don’t really buy the story that it’s just the players. You have to have a good management team in place in any business for it to succeed. You have to have a good vision that this management team is able to communicate to those whose responsiblity it is to impliment that vision. All aspects of a team need to function for it to win. If one area is not working then the team does not succeed. What we have at Norwich is none of the areas are working. The management, the vision, the recuritment, the players and the owners. It is just a mess from top to bottom.
It will be sad to see Teemu Pukki go Gary, he may not have had the best season with us this time, but he always seems to put maximum effort in for the club. I’d personally rank him alongside the other folkloric strikers I’ve seen on the pitch in yellow and green, Channon, Curran, Fleck, Sutton, Holt et als!
I think the best thing Wagner can do for both these last two games is say what he probably said to the squad when he started…
‘For these games lads, play the way you played when I arrived’.
Oh, and make Pukki skipper for both games!
Thereafter, we’ll just have to wait and see what transpires. I, like many, am in favour of a big reboot.
I don’t personally blame the players, there is talent in the squad but the season has been so poor it has been difficult to name many times when the whole side produced a galvanised, sustained effort which took games away from the opposition.
Go out in a blaze of glory. I like that. Another preston or Coventry would give us all a little boost I think.
Oh, wouldn’t it just, Chris, and a great way to say thanks to Teemu as well!
Also, if just one player produces that blaze of glory you refer to, others would probably join in!
Spirit of Fleck says
The current state of affairs at our club, on and off the pitch, has been eloquently articulated in this article and responses. Well said guys, if sad and sobering.
Reading the above has made me think hard about what makes great memories and entertainment at Carra. 3 thoughts. 1 Atmosphere, it’s so important, and the mood in the ground feeds off what happens on the pitch. 2. The company you keep – football has always been the focus that brings family and friends together.. 3 Heroes – my sweetest City memories usually revolve around a hero. Pukki, Holt, Huckerby, Hoolahan, Forbes, Crook, Boyer, MacDougall, Roberts, Bruce, Watson O’Neil, Keelan, Gunn. Heroes, and plenty more.
But right now, what’s missing is a hero. Despite the valid calls for changes at the top I suspect no one is going anywhere. So if that’s the case please, please work hard this Summer to find us a hero. Or maybe two.
Good words Flecky, so many great names there – I always think people overlook what Dave Watson brought to the team.
Here’s hoping for a few fireworks before the end!
John Prest says
If our current owners and the Webbers stay this is just going to get worse – think about it, £60m plus debts, few saleable assets, divided fan base, no new investment – not a picture that fills me with any confidence. L1 beckons again under these owners and this time it won’t be so easy to get back even to the championship