Somebody once divided the lead male characters in literature into “Sincere Man” and “Authentic Man”.
“Sincere Man” is sensitive, responsible, respectful – the kind of man you’d be happy for your daughter to bring home.
“Authentic Man” is rather different – a force of nature in whom sensitivity and politeness come a distant second to uncompromising candour and being true to himself.
Sincere Man might be Edward Cullen from Twilight – setting aside for a moment that he’s a vampire – or almost any character played by Tom Hanks. The classic Authentic Man is Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights.
It works in other contexts too. Paul McCartney was always Sincere Man, Mick Jagger Authentic Man.
In football, Chris Hughton or Russell Martin might exemplify Sincere Man; Jose Mourinho or Eric Cantona Authentic Man.
Authentic Man is more exciting, with an unconstrained energy and a certain animal magnetism (somewhat frustrating to those of us who are more like Sincere Man). Counterbalancing that, he does and says things which are inconvenient and often offensive.
You’ve probably guessed where this is going. For better or worse, Stuart Webber is clearly Authentic Man. Anyone who didn’t appreciate it before his interviews at the end of last week probably knows it now.
On the plus side, no-one can hear those interviews and doubt his honesty or commitment to getting things right at Norwich City. And his directness underlines a number of valid points, not least:
- He’s worked at a big financial disadvantage compared to many clubs around us in the league.
- His spending decisions have been balanced between short-term and long-term, when it would have been easier and more popular to focus on the visible and short-term.
- Criticism of him is fair, abuse isn’t.
He repeatedly accepted his share of responsibility for the team’s recent failures, and exonerated the fans from blame.
Why, then, has there been so much negative reaction?
In some cases, it’s prejudice. Some were set against him before the interviews and prefer to distort his words, or pick on specific oddities, rather than give him a fair hearing.
But that’s not the full story. Authentic Man is prone to saying gratuitous and insensitive things. Stuart’s interviews included some examples which have caused understandable upset to reasonable people.
Two obvious illustrations are women’s football and his abusers.
I’m sure Stuart recognises the virtues of promoting women’s football, and the excitement created by the Norwich team last season. He should have acknowledged that, and left it there. Adding his personal disinterest in women’s football was unnecessary, and worse: it took away from the efforts and achievements of many dedicated people in and around the Norwich set-up.
Similar with his abusers. He’d have had the sympathy of most listeners and readers if he’d said “I won’t be driven out by a minority chanting obscenities at me”. But his gratuitous description of divorcés in the Snake Pit will have both alienated a segment of fans and weakened his otherwise fair point.
Another blind spot for Authentic Man is tone of voice. In last week’s interviews, Stuart repeatedly acknowledged failure in the last two years and accepted his share of blame for it. I’m not sure that came across as clearly as it should, though, because he rarely alters his tone of voice – a tone well described by Chris Goreham as “bullish”.
Contrition requires a tone, as well as words.
So what can be done for the future? We can’t expect Stuart to morph into Russell Martin and suddenly become a master of diplomacy. Indeed, maybe we shouldn’t want that: if it came at the expense of diluting his drive and passion, a softening of his rough edges wouldn’t necessarily be good for Norwich City.
Reflecting on his interview, Chris Goreham noted: “Webber, like David McNally before him, always makes me realise I wouldn’t last five minutes working in football”. It’s tough, and that’s what we need Stuart to be.
As Authentic Man, Stuart’s attitude tends to be “This is me – take it or leave it”. In fairness, I think there’s quite a lot we should be prepared to take.
Given the failures and question marks of the past year, though, I hope he wouldn’t be averse to some help to get his messages across in the most engaging and effective way.
That help could come from a much-maligned source. Communications advisers – I’d better declare an interest, having been one – tend to be associated spin and gloss. And with some reason.
If they’re worth their salt, though, they have a more positive function: helping clients to understand their audiences and communicate in a relevant way, making valid points effectively and avoiding unnecessary offence.
I could dwell on communications (body language is worth an article in its own right). But let’s remember there’s something of greater importance here. Stuart believes he can meet the challenge of this summer and – together with David Wagner – turn the tide and bring fresh success to City.
He also knows it’s make-or-break – he’ll be judged, definitively, on next season.
He should have no complaints about it, and he won’t. For all his faults, Authentic Man doesn’t seek credit that he hasn’t earned.
Authentic man claims he has made a transfer profit of £80 million. Add the £60 million borrowed from the next two parachute payments and you have £140 million.
Somebody please ask him whether we have anything of value to show for this vast amount of money.
The Club accounts answer much of your question. When Stuart arrived in 2017, the Club was losing money to such an extent that Administration was a genuine threat. He achieved the “double” of stabilising the finances and assembling two promotion teams for Daniel Farke.
No-one can pretend the past two years’ dealings and performance have been anything like as good.
It’s the last two years that he needs to be judged on.
I think most of the £80 million transfer profit was a result of Kieran Scott being in charge of recruitment.
David Bowers says
Oh Stewart you little revisionist you.
For accuracy, here’s Stewart denying such administration risk at the time: https://norwichcity.myfootballwriter.com/2017/12/14/guest-blog-in-transition-patience-the-key-or-is-the-simple-truth-were-out-of-money-and-out-of-time/
He also slams me for being so negative and saying if we just sold one of Pritchard (or Maddison) we’d be fine. All untrue. We had a firesale that season.
My 2 year prediction was only 0.5M out BTW.
Webber did not stabilize the finances, that’s a fantasy. He covered our always outrageous Championship costs by selling players he didn’t sign. If our finances were stabilized we wouldn’t be taking out 60M quid loans and asking Americans for 10M cash injections. “Self-funding”, “balanced the books”, all useless buzzwords that should be ignored.
Webber has sold one player (that he signed) for any decent amount of cash. One, in six years. That is a dreadful record. Any profits from Buendia have surely been wiped away by our yearly failing in the loan markets.
Of course Webber in the recent interviews took credit for selling a lot of players he didn’t sign.
I imagine it was clear to most readers that player sales were a key part of his stabilising the finances, and that I wasn’t suggesting anything different.
The fact is he inherited an overpaid mid-table squad, and assembled a promotion-winning one while making a big surplus on transfer dealings.
As part of that, he signed Tim Krul and Teemu Pukki on free transfers. If you’re criticising him for the fact that we haven’t made an extra profit on them, in addition to all they’ve contributed to us, I think that says everything we need to know about your view.
Everyone knows the limitations of our self-funding model – anyone else in Stuart’s position, I suspect, would have reminded us of it every five minutes rather than once in two years.
Meanwhile, Delia and Michael have instigated a share issue that will end their majority ownership. Most of us hope Mark Attanasio is taking it up. Stuart rightly pointed out that the investment he (Stuart) has made in the Club’s infrastructure will add to the appeal for the Attanasios.
If the share issue take-up is confirmed as expected, it will put £10m into the Club. No-one will pretend – or want to – that it’s not a departure from self-funding. That’s the whole point.
I think Buendia was down to Kieran Scott.
This seems to have become conventional wisdom. It’s not consistent with what I’ve heard, but happy to acknowledge that my sources may not be right.
Honestly: I don’t know and am open to being convinced.
Maybe we have the Authentic Woman as in Mrs Webber
Here are seven traits that set her apart from all the rest.
❝ 1. She doesn’t strive for perfection, but instead owns her flaws.
An authentic woman knows that “perfect” is subjective, and trying to mold herself to society or other people’s unrealistic expectations is not only difficult, but unhealthy.
“Imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together.” — Brené Brown
Everyone is going to have parts of themselves they wish were different. But the difference is that a woman who knows her worth accepts her flaws as a part of who she is, rather than focusing on them as things that lessen her value.
She may have stretch marks, sun spots, or wrinkles, but accepts them as realities of the human body. Little flecks of imperfect beauty, in their own ways.
Her confidence comes from within, rather than relying on outside validation.
People are drawn to this because the human body is flawed, and being able to embrace it, especially in today’s harsh society, is a rare trait. And it’s one we all wish we had.
Her self-assurance is inspiring, and we want to be around it in the hopes that it will seep into our own personalities too.
2. She prioritizes taking care of herself first, and encourages others to do it, too.
This includes saying “no” as often as she needs to, perhaps even more often than she says “yes”. The world has a tendency to spread us thin if we let it, and she knows how quickly that can have a negative effect on her life — and the lives of those around her.
She doesn’t let herself get pushed into things she doesn’t want to do. She’ll be honest when she needs some time for herself, and by setting boundaries, you find that the time you do spend with her is more genuine and has deeper meaning.
When her cup is filled, she can better make you a priority and give you her full attention.
And it shows.
She makes you feel heard, understood, and known.
3. She’s not afraid to admit she was wrong, and isn’t afraid to apologize for it, either.
Confidence is attractive. Arrogance can be sexy at times, but eventually a turn-off. And ego is usually a red flag right from the start.
Authenticity comes from being honest.
“We’re often afraid of looking at our shadow because we want to avoid the shame or embarrassment that comes along with admitting mistakes.” — Marianne Williamson
Being able to admit fault and apologize is a quality that is sadly, sometimes rare. But doing so shows that she listens, and she understands. It shows that she cares enough to hear you, hear other perspectives, and not let the need to be right trump what actually is right.
To her, it’s clear that not everything needs to be a battle.
4. She values experiences and people more than material things.
An authentic woman may indulge in expensive things if she wants to, but doesn’t allow them to become her priority. Time on earth is limited. She knows that relationships and time spent out living life are what is most important.
She’ll make a point of being there for a friend when they need her, not hesitating to say “I love you” when she means it, and taking advantage of the time she has to spend with the ones she cares about most.
While she recognizes the value of money and material items, she knows that the things that last and truly make an impact in life are understanding and love.
Time well spent with a loved one will be time she looks back on with absolutely no regrets.
5. She recognizes that she’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and that she will never be able to please everybody.
Nobody likes criticism, but it’s a part of life. A woman who can accept that not everyone is going to like her, despite how smart or beautiful or successful or funny she is, is someone we all want to be around.
“Anyone who tries to keep all the people happy all the time will never fulfill their destiny.” — Joyce Meyer
Negativity and criticism may sting, but a woman who is confident in who she is knows she doesn’t have to please everyone, and uses it to become stronger. She isn’t deterred from being herself or doing what she needs to do.
Not everyone is going to be on her side. Those people who criticize her, aren’t her people. And she lets them go, because it’s their loss.
6. She knows who she is, and doesn’t try to mold herself to fit into what’s popular.
This applies to everything from what she wears, to what music she listens to, to her stance on social issues. Although she may be open-minded and isn’t afraid to admit she was wrong, an authentic woman is clear on her values — and her limits.
She listens to whatever she wants, without fear of judgement. Again, not everyone is going to agree with her taste, so why try to please them?
She wears what’s comfortable and makes her feel beautiful, not whatever society or other people tell her is acceptable.
And whether it’s overalls or a ballgown, she wears it like a queen.
And her confidence is radiant.
She knows what she believes in, and even if it doesn’t fit into what’s expected or trending or deemed acceptable, she isn’t interested in betraying her morals.
7. She hasn’t let the world dull her shine.
She has undoubtedly had her fair share of pain, but it hasn’t stopped her from living her life openly. Somehow she finds a way to keep smiling and seeing hope.
She laughs at things that are funny and smiles at things that are beautiful. Life is full of pain, but it’s also full of beauty and mystery, too. She allows herself to feel all the emotions, because tears are a part of being human, but comes out the other side even brighter.
The world throws her lemons, and she uses them to make spiked lemonade. And then she shares it with the rest of us.
Because to her, nobody should have to go through life alone.
It’s a glorious sight to behold.
A woman like this is irresistible because she makes you feel better about the world simply by being herself. We all want to be with her. She’s charming, comfortable, and confident — and shares that energy with the people around her. She’s a hero in her own right, and may not even know it.
This woman is flawed and imperfect, and knows it. She has strengths and weaknesses, and keeps moving forward anyway. She continues to laugh, cry, speak her mind, and provide comfort and encouragement to those who need it.
She knows how to listen, and she knows how to learn. She’s a wonder, and we are lucky to have her in the world.
Maybe she raised you, or you are raising her.
Maybe you’ve met her. Maybe you know her. Maybe you’re with her.
Maybe she’s you.❞
Just checking. Can you substitute him for her and he for she in this post….and it still makes good sense.?
(Never willingly politically incorrect!)
Hi Nick isn’t that the opening to I am A Walrus
Followed by we are all together I think 😂😂😂
This is posted leaving aside the issues he seems to have conveniently swerved regarding his complete ineptitude in terms of recruitment in the last 2 seasons and on the assumption that he appears bullet proof and here to stay. But it seems to me that the rift between the fanbase and the club will not be fully healed until the “echo chamber” that exists between the Smiths and the Webbers is broken up.
Admittedly our owners have many good points but it has been evident in their statements, and particularly some of their more unguarded moments overt the years (Times interview in particular) that they have increasingly come to regard any criticism from the supporters as down to the fans being a bunch of ungrateful moaners who have unrealistic expectations at times. The Webbers are cut from the same cloth it appears and now we learn that gaining promotion from the championship is regarded by the leadership group as “100% overperformance” there is perhaps a clue as to why. I genuinely think that in the boardroom there is an overriding attitude of “they are never happy are they” or that any complaints are a small minority of moaners which is perpetuated by the two key power couples being of like mind. We also saw this filtering down to the finance director when he spoke a while back. A cynic would say it suits them all because with this mindset they are able to present promotion as “success” rather than what it should be which is an important step on the road to success., They also are able to take seasoin ticket renewals as justification for continuing with their delusion,
As for Webber himself, he as always talked some sense in his recent interviews but then as always he can’t help chucking in half a dozen bombs just to show us how hard he is or how he can “take it.” Whether its saying he’d like to punch fans in the face, suggesting they choose another team if they dont like watching a 0-0 v Bolton at home, dismissing his critics as “divorcees” as if that makes their views less worthwhile or again in this round of interviews suggesting he would fight fans if they approached him he continues to build this “them v us” atmosphere that permeates almost everything these days at the club. His comments about the women’s game also don’t help. It may well be his opinion and he is entitled to it. However, when in a position of seniority at a club trying to promote the womens game just don’t say it in some attempt to prove how much of a straight talking, no nonsense guy you are.
So yes I agree they need better PR advice, but it goes deeper than that. That echo chamber needs breaking up by someone with a different perpective on matters. They also need to understand that you get back what you give out and every time Webber does interviews with comments like that he hardens the divide rather than bridges it. His view that there is more connection between the fans and the club now than when he joined is almost as wilfully deluded as him continually ignoring that we’d spent 4 or the 6 season before he came in the top flight (as well as a large chunk of the last 35 years), had already got most of the academy players he’s benefitted from and were not quite the pathetic basket case that he likes to make out.
Jane Markland says
Brilliant summary Jim. I’m sick of this ‘we should be gratefu’ stuff. For what exactly? Webber doesn’t try to hide his contempt for us. I’ll give him that, but he’s deluded if he thinks we should owe him anything including respect.
The quip re the trophies – we did manage to get promoted before his arrival and he’s wasted money just like his predecessor..
Of course he and Delia and Co can go in congratulating each other while we descend further down the league.
It’s a fan base we are far too nice. Last season was rubbish. What do they expect , no goals at home since February and football to test insomniacs before that – all they got were a few boos.
It’s about time someone told the owners and board a few hime truths. Re self funding. – and they’d all do well to remember we’re going to be here long after they’ve all gone.
martin penney says
Hi Stew – that was a good and original read 🙂
Back in the day there was the concept of Renaissance Man.
n the 16th Century all the upper classes in society [in those days the landowners, senior clergy, titled gentlemen and embryonic politicos – same as today, really] were encouraged to turn their male offspring into just what the world needed – Renaissance Man.
He would be expected to joust to tournament standard, be devilishly skilful in swordplay, to bear arms while still of GCSE age and to deal with any revolting peasants who got in his way with appropriate levels of contempt and disdain, which was considered fitting in those days. Same as today, really.
But Renaissance Man was expected to be much more than this. He had to be a poet, a musician, a courtly lover and a proto-scientist and above all else a diplomat.
Henry VIII was considered the epitome of Renaissance Man, as was his counterpart Francis I of, erm, France. Their meeting on the Field of the Cloth of Gold was stuffed full of enough pageantry to keep a fan of 21st Century Eurovision happy and it did not come cheap.
Renaissance Man could not afford to suffer from poor scripts, failing autocues or bad camera angles. If nothing else, the peasants needed to be impressed and what better than in a late medieval version of Harry Enfield in character as Loadsamoney displaying his wad.
There is no real modern equivalent. A few members of the football community tick some boxes, however. Gareth Ainsworth can sing and play guitar, Terry Venables wrote a few novels and Gary Lineker speaks fluent Spanish.
There is a lengthy list of entertainers who could have made footballers at maybe League One or Two level. Robbie Williams, Serge Kisnorbo, Rod Stewart, Mark Wright of TOWIE and Louis Tomlinson of One Direction are all valid examples of this.
But there is no such thing as Renaissance Man in 2023. He has gone awol alongside The Saint and the Urban Spaceman I am afraid.
Stuart Webber certainly falls into your category of *Authentic Man*.
If only the qualifying traits of lacking sensitivity and politeness could take a back seat sometimes I think many NCFC supporters would be more than a touch thankful.
Cor blimey. Has MFW turned into the Guardian opinion page, with similarly stylish comments?
Some of these purple prose sections could well turned up in KS2 SATS !
martin penney says
No we haven’t morphed into the opinion page, but I do follow non-televised cricket involving unsocial hours on the Guardian Cricket Live OBO and subscribe to both The Spin and Guardian Football Daily if that’s of any help? 🙂
Sadly the fruit sell from Leicester also speaks fluent Japanese from his days with Wenger at Granpus8
Thanks for all the comments – impressive in a number of different ways!
If we judge Stuart Webber only on the past two years, as John F suggests, the verdict will of course be negative. If we take a wider view, including how he twice met a challenge similar to this summer’s (at Huddersfield, then Norwich), it will surely be more nuanced.
Entirely fair to say, though, that the jury’s out.
If you come 33rd and you set yourself a target of 26th you have failed. Why did Farke have to go for being 20th?
Perhaps because, having won promotion to the Prem, even his record (W0, D2, L8, Goals scored 3, Goals conceded 25) couldn’t put us lower than 20th.
In terms of resource and wealth of owners, being in the country’s 26 is an ambitious aim for Norwich City. Except for his first and most recent seasons, Webber’s consistently achieved it.
But I think we’re all agreed next season is make-or-break.
When I raised this very point previously, I was told that the Messiah (AKA SW) had recalibrated this to read “Top 17 club”. Which is it?