Well, he has spoken.
It’s been dissected by everyone in the days following (including by me in this piece), with every phrase and nuance under the microscope, as we look to gain some sort of insight into the mind of Webber on all things Norwich City past, present, and future.
So what have we learned?
Honestly, my takeaway from the hours of content consumed is that I now find myself in a chasm of doubt and hope for where the club is heading, both on and off the pitch.
In the back of my mind while reading and watching Webber speak, I was constantly having to remind myself of the somewhat impossible situation he finds himself in, but also questioning whether that ‘impossible’ mindset is part of the club’s current problem.
What struck me straight away was the reflection, or lack thereof, with regard to 2022-23. It gave me flashbacks to his in-house interview when he reflected on the 2021-22 relegation, and where when questioned on the dreadful summer transfer window, his only response was ‘it was alright’ before once again lapsing back into the cycle of re-explaining the nature of us being self-funded and lacking the necessary finances to effectively compete.
The only reflection on 2022-23 was an overtly surface-level, positive outlook that we were still in with a chance of the playoffs until the second to last game of the season. A very frustrating view in all honesty, as I think if Stuart was truthful he would agree the issues were so much more complex and layered.
Being still in with a chance of getting into the playoffs wasn’t a positive indication of how our season had gone. Instead, it was a damning indictment of the numerous missed opportunities in the second half of the season. Nothing is more damning than one win in eleven games in the run-in.
The complexity lies in the nature of the performances; such abject and pitiful showings week after week, with a stark lack of identity across the pitch. A lack of cohesion in possession and player movement, defensive errors, and lack of adequate cover in certain positions, all combined with our errors-leading-to-goals being the highest in the division.
This was followed up by a revelation from Webber that he actually praised his squad and staff at the end-of-season debrief for raising the expectations of the club from what it was previously as a result of their two title wins in the last five years.
This really got to me as the whole reason for Webber’s appointment and restructuring of the club behind the scenes was because fan expectations were not matching those running the club on a day-to-day basis, hence the mid-table finish 2016-17, the dilapidated training facilities at Colney and the dire financial situation in the summer of 2017 following his arrival.
It felt like an honest and critical reflection would have been the best way to re-establish the connection with the fans, instead of just telling us to ‘give the lads a chance’ next season, while trying to move on to other questions with blunt answers.
David Wagner has come under fair scrutiny due to the dreadful form shown during the run-in – not scoring in five consecutive home games and winning one in eleven.
When questioned, once again Webber went for the surface-level-analysis approach, seemingly attributing the astronomical dip in form to the injuries to Grant Hanley, Ben Gibson, Kenny McLean, and Kieran Dowell. He even went as far as comparing losing those four to Manchester City losing the likes of Erling Haaland, Kevin De-Bruyne etc ahead of their Champions League final.
An interesting take.
However, my biggest concerns for the future came in the form of his constant reminders of how little finances we have, as well as the continued lack of investment. This isn’t really news to anyone, as basically at every end-of-season review we are told the same thing – namely that we are ‘self-funded’ and have very little in the kitty in all its various forms.
It’s starting to feel to me that this whole notion of ‘not having a lot’ or working against the financial tide of those around us is starting to become an annual excuse for the senior officials at the club.
Then came the Attanasios, and Webber essentially confirmed to us that our compatriots from across the Pond won’t be coming in and giving a big cash injection to try and push us to that next level.
Webber felt the ‘self-funded’ nature was an attraction for the Brewers’ owners, who favours the step-by-step approach.
What he did feel they would bring would be their innovation with regard to data analysis, the opening up of commercial opportunities, as well as the sharing and developing of new information between both the club and the Brewers. For example, the sports science departments already work together – seemingly going for the marginal gains approach in the short term hoping for longer-term, sustained success.
It was probably not what the fans were hoping to hear when they initially heard about the possibility of overseas investment. In summary, there won’t be much of that for a little while yet.
What we did get from Webber were some short-term future plans, with a clear outline being described by the Sporting Director in terms of the style he feels the squad will adopt at the beginning of next season.
He aims to see the fittest squad in the league, with an intense full pre-season planned and having a squad with a mix of young developing players paired with some older, more experienced heads to guide them.
To Webber’s credit, he did admit that he didn’t refresh the squad enough post-relegation and felt the majority of the existing group was emotionally scarred from that damning Premier League plight.
He also confirmed that he expects a new signing in the next week as well as a new coach being added to Wagner’s ranks. Reports have surfaced in the last 24 hours that indicate Narcis Pelach of Huddersfield Town is set to be that man.
Finally, it was confirmed that the new recovery hub is set to be completed by the end of the year, taking the Lotus Training Centre into, in Webber’s view, the top six in the country. This, in all fairness, can only be a positive for the club.
In conclusion, I’ve been left slightly confused about the future of Norwich City both off and on the pitch.
However, what is clear to see is that the fire is still burning inside Webber to get this club back into the Premier League.