To be fair to Stuart Webber, he was on a hiding to nothing.
Every word, phrase, pause, sign, and frown was going to be dissected to within an inch of its life. And it was.
This was, of course, a situation partly of his own making given that for some time, those tasked with interviewing him had been the victims of a one-sided stand-off.
Seldom has an interview with a Norwich City bigwig been more keenly anticipated so, of course, it was going to be pored all over by those on social media and people like me.
As ever in a Webber interview of some depth, it was a mix of the interesting, the disheartening, the uplifting, and the confusing. In his position, I suspect we’d all offer up a similar mix albeit with nothing like the same lucidity and punch.
What is clear is that there is still fire in the belly. Less clear is what now ignites that fire.
Where once he was driven to create a world-class training facility at Colney, it now appears that particular challenge is almost complete. When he departs the Fine City, that will be his legacy.
In addition to it being an impressive line on the CV, it will be something to be proud of. So too that he built two Championship-winning squads, the first in particular an exceptional blend of youth, raw talent, and nomads. That, for me, will always be his finest achievement.
It was a squad built and coached on a wing a prayer, and based on resources akin to those employed by Luton Town and Coventry City.
So, two outstanding seasons, one that was ‘meh’, and three disasters – two of the latter coming when we were competing at a level that for a ‘self-funded’ club is simply not, and never will be, doable.
Webber still claims otherwise. He says he believes that with the wind in the right direction, with the stars aligned, and with oodles and oodles of luck, this club can survive in the Premier League.
He says it. He has to. But I’m not sure he believes it.
In the same way, he talks proudly of this club living within its means – unlike every other single club in the top two divisions – but must know deep down that we swim against the tide for a reason.
Of course, it’s a noble and worthy ideal. But if we must persist down that route then the club has to manage expectations better than it does right now.
Webber, apparently, congratulated the staff in his end-of-season debrief for raising expectations to such a level that the fans kick off when we fail to at least make the playoffs.
That, to me, felt muddled.
We have not the resources, or access to resources, to compete with most of the Championship big-hitters, yet we still talk the talk.
Which brings us to Webber’s take on the pending share purchase by Mark Attanasio and his team.
We have already been well briefed on the fact that our friends from across the Pond will not be coming in splash the cash, but Webber took it down another notch by claiming that one of the attractions of Norwich City to these people is its self-funding ethos.
At this point, it’s worth noting that I’m sick to death of ‘self-funding’. 1) because it doesn’t do what it says on the tin and 2) it clearly doesn’t work for a football club of the size and supposed ambition of Norwich City.
I’m growing tired of hearing that we have to rely on additional expertise, doing things differently, and being “smarter” than the rest – something we’re evidently not.
Why can’t we try and acquire funding like other clubs? Why do we perceive ourselves as a special case?
To learn that Attanasio and co are just bringing more of the same was not what I wanted to hear.
When I said ‘disheartening’ that was what I meant. But, time will tell.
Anyway… I didn’t love the fact that Webber appeared so unwilling to look back at what went wrong in 2022-23. Found it a little odd. The man himself has spoken of the need to learn lessons but without looking back and spotting the mistakes, how can you?
I wasn’t keen either on being told that it’s time to draw a line under 2022-23 and move on.
Not sure you get to make that call for us, Stuart.
But, given that he’s still ignoring the noise, he’ll not know whether we have or haven’t. Just a pity he didn’t ignore it sufficiently when the lads of Archant and The Athletic said and wrote stuff that he didn’t like. His guard must have slipped for a short time otherwise he’d have been oblivious.
It was disappointing too not to learn what the new Norwich City way is going to be. He made a decent case for the abandonment of what we once knew as Farkeball but was less clear on what’s replacing it.
Maybe he doesn’t know and, to be fair, there were few clues in the last 11 games as to what it may look like.
And then of course there were the gaffes – those upon which some were waiting to pounce.
I’m sure he didn’t mean to liken the abuse he received from the Snake Pit to that of the racial variety directed at Darren Moore in the aftermath of Sheffield Wednesday’s 4-0 defeat in their playoff first leg, but he did.
It was clearly a mistake on his part but more the result of clumsy wording rather than anything more sinister.
Less forgivable, for me, was his dismissive take on his experience of women’s football, based on Norwich City WFC’s home game with Ashford Town.
That he had a negative view on the quality of that game and women’s football, in general, would have been fine, were he not the sporting director of an organisation that is straining every sinew to promote the women’s game through its own women’s team, which is now an integrated part of the club.
Professionalism and tact were required. He instead, wrongly, used a blunt instrument.
But overall, I suspect he sat back in his office chair on Friday afternoon thinking he’d negotiated a tricky day without setting alight any fires. And he’d have probably been right.
If he is still here this time next season, then let’s hope we’re not undergoing this same round of soul-searching and naval gazing. If we are, then he’ll have failed to match words with actions.
He’s run out of credits now.
But then again, so have our current owners.
Let’s not forget, it’s they who handed Webber this almost impossible task in the first place.
He’s not allowed to say it. But I can.
I would say that he laid out the issues with last season over the course of the interviews, particularly the RN one:
1) Dumb defensive mistakes
2) Not enough big chances created
3) Squad needed new blood for an emotional refresh post relegation/covid
4) Squad needed new/better senior leaders
He also suggested the first few games of Wagner’s tenure, as the ongoing blueprint, including ‘counterpressing’ and ‘high intensity with and without the ball’ as the goals, alongside more of an arsehole mentality.
Gary Gowers says
Fair play, Steve. Was basing my thoughts on his interview with Paddy.
You would think that that evaluation and ongoing plan would be front and centre of each of the interviews, but apparently it’s a fun puzzle to solve by superimposing 5 interviews together instead…
Kurt Fricker says
Dumb defensive mistakes cannot always be the excuse. Eventually you have to concede we do not have players who can defend or in the case of Attacking Midfielders create chances. For 3/4 read squad just not good enough. Webber just another in a long line of people through the revolving door, dreaming if he thinks he will leave a legacy now that Mr Chases legacy of Land is all gone. Without finance the infrastructure at Colney with be far more worthless than a flour mill. Thanks as always Gary for keeping me sane. I don’t want much just a team that can compete in a football match of a Saturday win lose or draw.
His point, which I think the eye test and stats back up, was that this season, we gave away a lot of goals whilst in possession. His words were something along the lines of “a lot of times, we weren’t actually broken down by the opponent, we just gifted them opportunities by losing the ball in our own third”
Sax yellow says
He chucks in the bits that get the headlines to hide the worrying bits. No one mentioned the loan. He said we are looking at more players like Barnes , when talking about selling players he said the money would probably go on paying wages of a player, he said we only need a few players. To me that sounds like a club with no money. I am sure we will need to sell for balancing the books . As you say nothing about the future of the club , for us to get excited by or believe in . Nothing will change atmosphere wise next season.
That he congratulated the players after the final game was enough for me to realise he’s a bigger clown than i originally thought!
Heacham Yellow says
He was never going to come out of these interviews pleasing everyone. There were some things that I agreed with and some things that I didn’t. But with reference to the Women’s team, he should not have even spoken about it. What he said about the quality, he was right. Regardless of whether you like hearing that or not, he was right. I was there, it was great entertainment but the quality was not high. I get that this will have disappointed a lot of people, it was not necessary for him to say it. If he had said he loved it he would have been lying and then people would have jumped on him for a different reason. Everyone wanted him to talk and now he has, people are not happy with with he said. He is someone who says what he thinks, not what he thinks people want to hear. No doubt this reply will get criticised but I guess that is social media/message boards for you.
Gary Gowers says
Fair comment HC. The point I was trying to make was that it’s OK for him to have that view but as sporting director of a club that is supposed to be promoting its women’s team (and women’s football in general) it was less than tactful. That’s all.
martin penney says
When he said something like *I don’t really have the time as I’m always watching football on duty, more football during downtime and other sports if I ever get the time* he was telling the truth and fair play to him for that.
He should have left it there but tact is not always Mr Webber’s long suit.
Mrs P and I thoroughly enjoyed the Euros but having said that if I had the time I would rather watch some GAA Hurling than a women’s football match.
It’s all down to personal choice and so it should be, Stuart Webber included.
He is never going to be tactful. When people are as arrogant as he is they never think they’re wrong
Dribs and Drags still coming out from his interview, EDP says that Webber told the Athletic a new coach and signing will soon be announced.
Could the signing be a 19-year-old RB from Motherwell who has had the grand tour of the City, Colney, and the Staduim ?
A new coach is that LUXURY Travel or someone that might be able to inspire this group of players.
On transfers he mentioned:
Aaron’s time has come to leave
Rashica has offer on the table and will leave
Sara again lots of interest
Andrew O turned down more money that they got for Godfrey in January
Giannoulis was mention but a couple of Moscow Mules or watch for a Greek bearing gifts
We all know player have a price so couple not mentioned could also depart, Gunn’s chance of joining the Yellow and Green’s at Rangers seem remote they’ve just signed Butland from Crystal Palace/Man U.
Just about every championship club have been watching Yates at Blackpool price range £2m to £4m even Ipswich have thrown their hat in the ring for the 15goal hit man along with WBA but no City involvement so to expensive.
Smoke and mirrors David Nixon or Tommy Cooper.
Mark Attanasio white or pink elephant in the room, is it legal matters for the delayed announcement, maybe he’s trying for a complete take over and the present owners want more than he’s will to pay or has he got coldfeet and the whole deal isn’t to his liking.
Webber said his time is coming to a natural end soon after 6 years, but said he’s heard nothing from other clubs Leeds, Wet Spam are both looking but either could be championship clubs next season and would they give him oodles to spend without it being over seen not sure.
Lots said and nothing said maybe he’s learning for a political career??
As far as Mark Attanasio is concerned Alex I’m sure he’s had cold and wet feet for sometime- as I’ve been mentioning here for months- but getting him onboard is no different to what we’ve had for the last 26 years, dear old Delia wouldn’t have it any other way, my disappointment is with Paddy in not asking the more pertinent questions to me Paddy was sucking up and just asking questions written by Webber himself, but man has he got skin as thick as a rhino and typical Welsh arrogance. Can I just add Gary’s articles get better and better and this was no less a great read, good on ya Gaz.
martin penney says
It might seem like *sucking up* but for Paddy and crew it’s very much a case of self preservation. I don’t think NewsQuest would publish anything derogatory right now anyway, but it’s unrealistic to expect them to write themselves out of their jobs!
To balance that I’ve had cold feet about the whole Mark Attanasio situation for quite a while now, but those more in the know than me have said on MFW that it’s all about adhering to the correct legal processes and that takes time.
I’ve no reason to doubt these guys. but it does seem to be taking a LOT of time 🙂
What did this interview achieve , just the same pig headedness you expect to hear. So expect plenty of the same he can’t except or address issues mainly with recruitment and seems to blame the fans for having expectations . The only good thing was to hear he will not be around much longer hallelujah music to my ears .
Smoke and mirrors
No one expected much out of this interview is as much as investment or transfers, people at other clubs would have just like city supporters poured of his comments.
In reality his message to every other clubs was make me an offer for said players and a deal can be done with city having the upper hand or so he thinks.
He’s even put himself in the shop window by saying his time at city is coming to an end plus no compo as his rolling contract hasn’t started it’s next cycle.
He also said he could be sacked who’s going to do that his wife I can’t see Smith and Jones doing it or nephew Tom.
Just wait Neil Adams could be our next Sports Director please NO
Jane Markland says
Hi Gary, you know my opinion of Webber and do far I’ve only listened to Paddy’s interview and read The Athletic debrief.
The main points are his reluctance to talk more on Attanasio. If they are another version of Delia and Michael, sorry it’s a complete waste of time. If NCFC have spent all Mr Foulger’s share money on running costs I suggest his wife needs to do an audit on said running costs.
I’m hoping there is a code of silence over a possible takeover, but not expecting one. Why on earth NCFC have never attracted anyone baffles me still. God I’m sick of the little old Norwich mentality.
Is it really all down to bad recruiting that Webber and the club were unable to buy players capable of playing Premier League? No mention of the money that must have been spent on paying up all those HC contracts.
I’m not at all surprised to learn Webber doesn’t watch women’s football. He doesn’t like anything he hasn’t dreamt up himself. Sure Colney is upgraded but what about the players? The stadium?
Most of all though is how has he stayed in the job so long. Insulting the fans he clearly despised. It’s our club Webber. We may all disagree on who should play and how but we all agree on how much we love NCFC. How Delia and Michael can sit back while the Webbers continue to dictate is beyond me. The old family club mantra is laid bare as an old fallacy. No family club, no club for the fans but a bizarre plaything for two power couples who continue to hiss at the supporters.
I sincerely hope he leaves soon.
Gary Gowers says
Very good point re the £10 million being spent on running costs, Jane. If we require injections of that ilk just to cover day-to-day costs then we’re further removed from being self financing than most of us realised.
Jane Markland says
When Mark Attanasio bought Michael Folger’s shares last September, there was also a £10million loan into the club. What has that gone towards?
It’s running costs. This business costs a lot of money to run. We’ve got 300 full-time staff.
From The Athletic interview.
I think it was Stewart or Gary that said all the money for Michael Foulger shares was a private deal between him and Attanasio and that none of that money will reach the city coffers.
The £10m C shares can be convertered into voting shares at a date agreed by both parties.
The 195k shares is money going into the coffers but for those shares to right of the Blackhole pending disaster each share needs a valuation of £300 plus.
If Attanasio has purchased said shares and becomes the majority share holder he is then obliged to offer the same price to every other shareholders the same figure.
But then he could just bide his time and offer a lesser amount in a few months being a non-listed company I’m lead to believe he’s not forced to buy out the others shares or make public the value of each share.
I hope someone can correct my comment if wrong
Alex I’m sure not being a public company he doesn’t have to make any offer at all, I’d like to see the back of the cook as much as most but I think with Attanasio it’ll be same old same old
It’s important to separate Mark Attanasio’s purchase of Michael Foulger’s shares, which didn’t put any extra cash into the Club, from his take-up of the new share issue which will. Something like £10m immediately – not a fortune, but a serious help.
As to future steps, we’ll have to see, It’s desirable for City to tap into two things: his expertise in sports management and marketing, and his money. I expect we’ll see some of both, though not in as dramatic a way as some fans would like.
We’ve not attracted anyone because the owners are not receptive to it. More than that i think they have actively deterred approaches for some time now. They may be receptive to minority investment without the investor having any control but nobody is ever going to invest the really serious money on that basis. Even with MA, there are a lot of assumptions that he may take over but no actually evidence that is happening.
Andrew Delf says
What the hell did people expect? Webber was never going to go down on bended knee asking for forgiveness. He answered a lot of the questions well, he answered some badly and some he probably shouldn’t have answered at all. The Radio Norfolk interview was good as was the pinkun interview. When you can see and hear an interview you get a better feel for context and the body language of the interviewee.
It did seem to me that the interviews were not combatative but probing.Perhaps the green shoots of a recovering relationship with the local press.
Michael Baileys interview on behalf of the Athletic seemed well balanced however I was disappointed that the ladies football question was the isolated into a separate article and published by the Athletic almost as a deliberate attempt to stir up controversy. I hope Michael wasn’t involved in that decision.
It’s a shocking comment from Webber. He should be lambasted more than he has been.
A Director of Football of a Championship team comes out and essentially demeans women’s football. One of the few bright spots of this season and a priority for the club.
He was unable to remove the foot from his mouth to say something so easy as
“The women’s team have done us proud this season and the match at Carrow Road was a huge success. Flo deserves the credit for their continued growth and I hope it continues.”
No form of personal abuse is more acceptable than any other. If you demotivate any member of the club through abuse you are being unfair to other supporters. We hated the abuse that Gilmour received from other fans but,when things were going wrong, thought it was ok to single him out for treatment.
Society has become very judgemental due to the media. Constructive criticism is ok but I prefer to take the word “supporter” literally and get behind the team as you would a family member or friend.
He made the best of a bad hand thanks to some tame questioning.
Obviously Attanasio was a sleight of hand to ensure we renewed our season tickets.
Basically he told us it was Delia’s social club and we should pay up and shut up.
Very lucky for the board this is taking place in over tolerant Norfolk!
Dorset Canary says
Read all the interviews and feel our club will be better off with him gone.
I cannot say I expected much else, he isn’t the type of person to admit to mistakes in detail, rather be very general and vague.
The Ladies’ football comment really struck me as out of order, how the Ladies’ squad, etc., feel about that coming from the man that runs the show for the badge, that is on their shirts too.
I fully acknowledge the good work he has done, Farke, Colney etc, but when it comes down to getting the right boys on the green stuff, that is a different matter altogether. Being in football will no doubt bring some form of criticism, and abuse which should not be a part of the game at all. But criticism has been in football since I can remember (first game 60 years ago.) It was worse then as no Political correctness or racism laws existed. Ask any player and manager about that., many men who have done greater and better things than Webber, still received criticism. Accepted and moved on, not make self important statements
I still feel he is far too arrogant. showing signs of Narcissism.
Surely the one of the most pertinent quotes is on the BBC web-site:-
“Then if we look at the model of our club, people rightly put up Brentford and Brighton on a pedestal. Brighton’s owners put £700m into that football club. Ours is at zero at the minute. Brentford’s is £150m in the last two years……
How can it ever be at zero if we want to compete at the highest level?
Yes, they loaned us money, but it’s all been paid back (possibly with interest??).
So it seems that over their tenure, Delia and Michael have actually put in less money than those who blindly renew their season tickets every year.
I cannot think of any other business which means so much to so many people, where the owners invest nothing!
(Or am I missing the point??)
O T B C
This is exactly the point. By stating the obvious about brentford and Brighton he is pointing the finger squarely towards Stowmarket. I thought that point had gone unseen amongst all the other stuff.
The stowmarket duo have taken their loans back in shares, further tightening their grip on the club. I said this at least 5 years ago, that fans have actually paid more into the club than they have done. Only to be shouted down.
Their earner… Ther Catering Business at the club with the restaurant, add the events staged . Must bring in A tidy living.
Just what have fans been believing all these years is dunkum
Much of what SW said didn’t come as any great surprise. But l did find it rather odd that SW said he congratulated the players at the end of the season for raising fan expectations. Sorry, SW, but those expectations were there before you came through the door and will still be there when you leave. And, rarely in business, does a leader praise a team for massively under achieving !
Mike Corbs says
Be proud ambitious and true or go with begging bowl to the nearest oligarch, or am I missing the point. Or maybe be the former and gradually introduce investment in keeping with our identity , sound familiar…,
They either prepped him for four interviews and thought “these answers are okay”, or they didn’t prep him.
Genuinely don’t know which is worse.
It’s perfectly fair to state that Webber was on a hiding to nothing Gary. He is a lightning rod or as he prefers, a human shield acting to deflect criticism from other softer areas.
In many ways, he is a highly effective sporting director. Seemingly with admirers within the wider game and with some significant successes on his cv. His abrasive manner, coupled with a propensity for aiming barbs at the paying customer indicate a lack of self awareness and a lack of respect that is out of step with running any business.
This isn’t an issue when he brings home the bacon but when the results and performances stink the house out for two years it leaves him skating on thin ice.
To be fair, Webber himself admits he isn’t worried about winning any popularity contests.
As you state Gary, the fire is still firmly in his belly, the question is whether the fire is determination to turn the club round or just a feeling of antagonism towards the support. Mentioning “divorcees” with such disdain to back up some rant isn’t going to earn him any leeway if an immediate and strong improvement next season isn’t forthcoming.
The current state of limbo Norwich City finds itself stuck in is the cause of much frustration and concern regarding the future direction of the club. None of the interviews did anything to assuage the feeling amongst the bulk of the clubs following that the need for positive and meaningful change throughout the club isn’t pressing and essential to avoid a catastrophe. More of the same garbage from top to bottom will cause acrimony and recrimination on a grand scale. It’s a shame that positive information was scarce.