Sitting here listening to Stuart Webber lay out his blunt response to questions about the post-mortem of a season, has caused me to reflect on what it is to be a football fan in 2023.
As a cock-a-hoop Coventry fan in Paddy Davitt got the chance to explore the thinking of the man who seemingly holds our aspirations in his hands, what I heard was a man talking about stats, percentages, budgets and spreadsheets; and I was left wondering where ‘the end of a cycle’ and the ‘third team he’s built’ leaves us as supporters.
I’m naturally a pragmatist, and I’ve ridden the roller-coaster for too long to get a little too high or a little too low (to use a Farkeism) when things don’t go right, but to be honest, I’ve ridden out the deflating end of the season by keeping my own counsel and not getting caught up in the angst that rightly followed a dismal realisation that we’d fallen short of what we believed we were entitled to.
Today confirmed that a lot of the noise has been heard but ignored, but maybe at least comms channels are open again.
The interview covered Reasons to be Cheerful – let’s hope the eternal optimists among us are happy but my main takeaway was wondering how much family silver we’ll have to sell to turn us around.
It’s obvious this squad and several key players have reached an endpoint at the club and the time is right to let them go at the right price. Let’s just hope the sales start early and we don’t end up in September with an increased credit card balance and without having improved our cash flow.
With no talk of a huge cash injection from the Milwaukee direction, we’re back to the self-funding model and player sales to push us on – and a summer of ITK kids telling us who we’re selling and who we think we’re buying and stupid prices.
Buckle up kids, because Mr Webber isn’t for turning and we’re in his hands to monetise what we have and to build another squad from whatever we can raise.
So that’s our reality: Noble, but Skint.
So what of Death & Glory?
I’ve looked at what we know and where we sit in the grand scheme of things, and I have to say I’m no clearer on what the footballing future holds for us.
Maybe at the end of the summer window and after a few pre-season friendlies all will become clear about a playing style and any change of ethos.
We know we’ll be facing Southampton with their ethos of young talented players, and one from Leicester, Leeds, Everton, and Forest.
All will have deeper pockets than us and, apart from Leicester who might be a complete basket case, any would be expected to have a better-than-average chance of climbing back up the greasy pole.
Boro will be there again (oh dear, how sad), but appear to be on the up. Sunderland might have also finally turned a corner.
Luton and Coventry will share a fairytale chance at Wembley, and we’re all amazed at how two clubs with their respective back stories could be on the brink of promotion.
Luton will have a choice whether to extend themselves or stick to their off-field stadium plans, but if they don’t go up, maybe they’ll replicate a push next year.
Coventry, variously skint or without a stadium simply can’t be ready for the Premier League, but their story personifies the ultimate fans’ dream – the football pyramid is after all a democracy where anyone has a chance and I wouldn’t begrudge them a second of it if they make it… even if they get smashed as we did.
And I won’t mention that lot down the road.
Watching Luton and Coventry enjoy their huge moments untainted by the crushing depression of being destroyed in the Big League is a joy to behold. Seeing Sheffield Wednesday and Peterborough play out an absolute calamity of a second leg epitomises everything it means to be a fan – agony, ecstasy, and unbridled disbelief all rolled up into a game of football.
As for us, after listening to Mr Webber in his stone-hearted way spell out our realities, I’m interested in what a summer of change will bring without setting my hopes very high.
Equally, I’ll be there again in August watching and hoping that the magic dust has been found and believing that this year will be our year.
Truthfully, it all looks very difficult.
Life is too short to lock horns with the likes of Webber because he’s driven by self-belief way beyond most of us. Also, getting angry or depressed about the state of the football club is self-destructive.
Farke is gone, along with all the happy days in the sun. I know we like to harp on about what happened when etc, but the whole club and fanbase need to focus on the togetherness that drove us forward before when starting from a low base.
Maybe the big changes Mr Wagner speaks of will be worth waiting for. It’s all we have as fans.
So, time to reset – switch off the summer rumour mill and refresh your yellow and green hearts. Prepare to come back in August believing in what we can.
As fans, belief is all we’ve ever had, and if strategists like Webber, or wealthy investors can’t make it work, save your energy: you’ll be angry for a long time.
Come back with the same attitude as Luton or Coventry and park your entitlements to one side – punch above your weight and hope you get lucky with a knockout blow.
MYSTIC KEV says
Hi David not surprised to hear that no money is being put in by the American yet but if Luton and Coventry can achieve success without pumping millions into it why can’t we . For me the right manager is needed who can pump them up for the fight like Luton Tuesday night as I feel we could had success with players we’ve got but they’re did look up for it that’s down to manager not millions .
Jane Markland says
You’re easier to please than me Dave. I dare not listen to the man yet (I have a lovely day tomorrow I don’t wish to spoil watching my granddaughter play football) and will wait to hear Webber’s latest diatribe about the fans. Self belief is fine if you’re well rewarded and never scrutinised by those above.
I’m willing to see what Wagner and the players do in close and pre season but in the back of my mind the knowledge that the club sees us fans as at best gullible and at worst an irritant is not going to bring togetherness. Only Webber’s departure and a robust board without nepotism can do that.
This is light years away from Farke, and sorry to disappoint you but until we get anything half as good I’ll be judging Webber who threw it all away.
Dave Cole says
I’ve decided not to be angry – at least until the season starts 😉
I’m with you all the way Jane, too many Happy Clappers
I’m afraid he was asked a series of closed questions that were easy to bat away.
The only thing to deduce from this exercise in damage limitation was that life would be a lot easier if we had owners who could afford to finance a championship club.
It looks as though we can discount Attanasio with regard substantial new investment.
If Webber thinks recent recruitment is fine under the circumstances I don’t hold out a lot of hope for next year.
Very disappointing as it indicates more of the same next season.
The interview had a few interesting comments from Webber
1) Andrew O had a larger offer coming into the club than that received for Gidfrey
2) Rachica offers received and a few clubs interested
3) Sara we have some big offers but think he needs another year
4) Nunez should come back refreshed after 18months of continuous football.
Maybe Wagner can with a few good recruits make a silk purse out of a pigs ear only time will tell.
But as you say Webber isn’t for turning he did say his time was coming to an end is Leeds the big job on the horizon ??
Jane Markland says
Let’s hope so. He won’t get an easy time there with the fans.
martin penney says
An excellent, restrained synopsis of events today – had I have written on this topic I would probably have been unable to hide much of the long-term anger you speak of!
*Park your entitlements to one side – punch above your weight and hope you get lucky with a knockout blow* is a worthy mantra but we got suckered so many times in 2022-23 some regular batterings have left us on the canvas.
The question now, as SW knows all too well, is: How quickly can we get off the floor?*
And start to land some killer blows of our own.
Hi Dave, having the same name is our only similarity as I couldn’t disagree with you more. I’ve commented here many times this past season not to count on Attanasio, so where is this share issue going? Webber is all smoke and mirrors nothings changed and what this latest offering confirms is we’re in for more of the same, the self funding continues, worse the same management and even worse the same bloody owners, so this wreck of a club and it’s band of Happy Clappers will continue it’s slippery slide down to div 1 to the delight of the tracker boys down the road. I’m in my eighties and I’ve never felt so despondent about our footy club as now and it’s made more unbearable by it’s acceptance of a big section of supporters (The Happy Clappers brigade) for gods sake stand up and demand ambition, shake off this ‘ little ole Norwich’ attitude and get into the 21st century. For a quarter of a century we’ve had owners dragging this club down for their own glorification Wattling would be turning in his grave how much longer are you going to allow this shambolic self righteous management continue? enough is enough and I’ve just about had enough myself.
martin penney says
I said [above] that I’m glad I didn’t have to write on this topic – but you’ve kind of done it for me in a way so a surreptitious *thanks* for commenting thus!
Sir Geoffrey made it very plain [but unfortunately never in writing] that he didn’t ever again [after Chase] want to see any one person own over 49% of the shares. Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones did nothing wrong legally, but if me and many others knew Mr Watling’s wishes they most certainly must have done and by combining both their holdings to act as one they flew right in the face of the wishes of Sir Geoffrey.
There are some of us still [I’m guessing I’m about 20 years younger than you] who think that his role in the saving of the club was al least as important as that of Delia and MWJ.
Well said David C , I think 90% share your opinion .
Jane Markland says
Dave C I couldn’t agree more. My main concern is rewarding Webber for failure – as if there’s no alternative. I also feel Wagner is damned by association, if we don’t start well the same old, same old. Changing a HC during the season and clinging onto that overworked phrase “they’re not his own players”.
I’m also fed up hearing how world class Colney is. Yet. We the fan base are constantly derided. The whole club needs sorting out.
Worse still rewarding Delia for failure by giving her cheap loans in the form of a bond every time there is a need for capital expenditure.
Just listened to the radio Norfolk interview. Hopefully this is signals a thaw in club / media/ fan relations and his comments included a lot of positive titbits but glossed over the big player and managerial mistakes like a media trained politician defending his record and pushing blame subtlety elsewhere including the zero investment from the owners
1 Norfolk is laid back and if he had presided over the last 2 seasons at a club like Leeds he would really know what abuse was like – Norfolk people aren’t hot heads but once their mind is made up they don’t like the wool being pulled over their eyes
2 the investment at Conley in playing facilities is excellent and there are a lot of people employed there but once the parachute payments go there might have to be a lot of redundancies too
3 the parachute payments this year and next should have given us an advantage but the poor signings in previous windows destroyed it yes if we had won the last 2 games ….. but 68 points for the play offs underpins how poor the league below Burnley was this year and a squandered opportunity
Same feeling from the fans as after Farke’s first season in charge but with added sense of entitlement.
When someone can come up with a sensible alternative – rather than some unknown crazy philanthropist – we could argue for a change, in the meantime we have management at the club who have been successful previously. I’m sure my life would improve by winning the lottery but I’m not going to get angry with the newsagent for not selling me the winning ticket.
This man is extremely arrogant and actually re football knowledge very limited. I could only watch opening minutes of interview before I felt sick 🤢. Paddy asked a question and he just came out with meandering ‘managerial’ bullshit.
He said that post-season and ‘before their holidays’ he congratulated the present squad of players –
(just for a moment take that on board. 🙄🧐🤔😂😂😂😂) –
for raising the expectations of fans (or should that be us fee-paying peasants?) to such an extent that they think the Club should challenge for a place in the EPL.
He talks about criticism and scrutiny but no where does he say who he is accountable to. Because while his wife continues to be both on the executive board and the board of directors there is none; and even if there were the conflict of interest is so obvious as to make any objective judgement meaningless.
He has fooled us all and continues to do so.
I think everyone very politely has skipped around a very important part of the interview.
He said the abuse Darren Moore got was headline news yet the abuse a 39year old white man gets was.
When will everyone please stop using the word Racial colour doesn’t define you as a different Race just that you are different we are all human beings and all have differences, Eye and Hair colour so should that define you as a different Race.
Abuse is Abuse no matter what as a 72year old white man I’ve had name calling from both side of the colour devide.
I’ve been in stadium where black supporters are giving as much abuse to black players on the opposition team as white players are getting from them isn’t that still classed as abuse Racial or other wise.
Again if I’ve upset any one I will apologise by my options are just that options we are all the same no matter colour or religion so I agree sadly with Webber ABUSE no matter what has to stop
Bob D says
Whether it”s Attanasio or someone else, the fact is Norwich City needs new owners or at the very least substantial new investment because if that doesn’t happen then we could be in real trouble, of the kind we were led to believe would never happen under the “self-financing” model.
I regard the noise around Webber as largely a sideshow to the main issue, namely that it’s extremely difficult to fund even a sustainable mid-table Championship club with owners who invest £0.
“Self-financing” was, perhaps, a nice idea, and we got so far with it for so long. But look at the situation now. Two short years after promotion to the Premier League, having been led to believe that things would be different this time, we have just finished in the bottom half of the Championship and are tens of millions of pounds in debt.
We have saleable assets. But what happens if the current ownership continues and we don’t go up next season? More debt, which would have to be covered by player sales. Except, will we have anyone decent to sell? And how much money would there be to spend on new players?
Objectively, the situation at Norwich City is not as bad as when we were relegated to league 1 in 2009. Except-that relegation had been coming for 3-4 years, due to inability to invest much in the player budget, absurd managerial appointments, and poor recruitment.
Looking at it optimistically, I hope that, behind the scenes, the little clique that runs the club has realised it’s time for major changes at the very top. I don’t think any Norwich City fan is saying we have to be challenging Manchester City soon. Rather, we need a clearly articulated, and flexible, plan with appropriate, attainable ambition for a club of our size, which in my opinion is promotion to the Premier League and staying there for a few years. An exciting vision for the club which we can all buy in to.
Totally agree. Webber described himself as a human shield.
He is taking the heat off the ownership and the infernal self funding model. He is enabling people who cannot afford to own a championship football Club to remain in situ.
Bob I concur with every word.
The problem with the club is the owners.
Webber is a side show who’s performance reflects the owners inability to properly finance a club at our level.
Having heard nothing from the club for such a long while, the chance to devour the sudden glut of information and content felt like a veritable feast.
Not surprisingly I eagerly did just that. I found it fascinating in spite of the heavy amount of spin added to every answer, it was probably about as honest and forthrite as we could expect from webber.
Interlaced with a few digs, he clearly can’t help himself, and some deflections were some pearls of information and insight.
The attanasio question appears to be on the back burner, if it ever was on the burner in the first place. It would appear that most of our best playing assets are destined for the sacrificial altar of self funding. Big money for omobamidele, aarons being prised out of the door, Sara unlikely to be around. It all sounds grimly familiar.
The sale of our best players in order to fund the signings of inferior replacements seems.counter intuitive unless the aspiration is purely survival.
As ever, the lack of input from our majority shareholders is wheeled out to explain the lack of competitiveness, formerly at premier league level now at championship level.
This is the problem. Those that defend the smiths to the hilt whenever their lack of financial input is criticised flatly refuse to acknowledge the answer to the pitiful backing is the removal and replacement of the individuals responsible for imposing this rigid straitjacket on webber and tge club.
Webber himself admitted as much. Recently an executive at Leeds mentioned webber during a discussion regarding their vacant sporting director role. He spoke of the excellent job webber was doing against a backdrop of chronic underfunding.
That’s how the football world sees City. Webber knows it, those of us with any sense know it
It would appear that we will need a sporting miracle next season if the proposed fire sale decimates the aqua further.. its not looking good.
I can see how Webber acts a human shield for the Smiths but it is worth remembering that the Club authorised around £60 million spend on players during the last EPL season. Our present squad contains most of those players, either still with us or on loan. The players brought to our Club were either poor (or injured) or seriously under performed or both. Who was responsible for that?
Now Webber tells us (reported in the PinkUn today)
he believes the lack of onus on Attanasio to consistently invest was part of what attracted him to the club.
Yes, new ownership, but Webber must also be accountable.
I totally agree that when taken in isolation, webbers performance in the transfer market is sub standard.
We do need to remember that the big spend last summer was funded by the sale of our best player, which was a suicidal act on our part, made necessary by self funding.
While Webber is by no means without his share of the blame he is taking the bulk of criticism which could and should be directed elsewhere.