The BBC’s political editor Chris Mason wrote an article last week about what it’s like to interview a prime minister.  

It included the following sentence. “Coaching in how to come across in public can mould and tweak how a politician might appear, but their authentic character will always be clear.”  

I read that the day after spending an hour in the BBC Radio Norfolk studios at The Forum with Norwich City’s sporting director Stuart Webber.  

Let’s not pretend his round of local media interviews was important enough to justify being called prime ministerial but a state of the Canary nation address was something that supporters needed to hear. Whether or not they liked it, agreed with much of it or cheered every word, it was better than a stony silence.  

From this side of the microphone these interviews are always a challenge.  

Webber doesn’t put himself before the media all that often. The fast-moving world of football, and Norwich City in particular, means that there is always so much to catch-up on when he does. Which are the subjects that fans most want to hear him talk about? What does he need challenging on? What requires some explanation? Which themes can we afford to let slide?  

A whole season’s worth of issues to unblock in one go always makes these occasions feel like the broadcasting equivalent of Dyno-Rod.  

Whether Webber should speak more often is a moot point. In years gone by former chief executive Neil Doncaster wrote a regular column in this newspaper and often stood out on Carrow Road before games.  

He was left in no doubt as to what people felt about his performance and got no extra slack when things went wrong. There is certainly a balance. Those in charge of steering the yellow and green ship towards its bigger picture have a duty to keep supporters informed.  

Webber asked for fans to ‘meet us halfway’ when the new look Norwich takes to the field next season. Plotting the course publicly and explaining the policy as well as the possible pitfalls on the way is crucial in securing that support.  

It’s similar to interviewing a manager after a match.  

The quest is to draw out an honest explanation as to what went right or wrong. The debates are going to happen on phone-ins, social media and pubs anyway so it’s better if they are fully informed.  

It’s an opportunity for those who are usually the subject of the discussion to explain what they are actually trying to do. It is vital to any hope of retaining a connection between the club and its fans.  

The questions were not pre-arranged, approved or submitted to the club in advance. It’s important that anyone in a position of responsibility is prepared to be interviewed by those outside of their own organisation to retain integrity.  

Webber’s character always shines through in these exchanges. He is often bullish and tends to fight fire with fire. It will be a shock if there isn’t a chant at Carrow Road revolving around “divorcees in the Snakepit” next season.  

Those sort of soundbites have been a feature of his six years at Carrow Road. He said something similar at a fans’ forum when the team was top of The Championship under Daniel Farke.  

The Pink Un: David McNally questioned by the media during his time as Norwich City's chief executiveDavid McNally questioned by the media during his time as Norwich City's chief executive (Image: Newsquest)

Webber, like David McNally before him, always makes me realise that I wouldn’t last five minutes working in football. It’s such a different environment to most other jobs. If Norwich City are to succeed in The Championship some element of ruthlessness is required. 

Displaying this sharp edge for supporters to see relies on results being good on the pitch. As 2022/23 at Carrow Road underlined, when the team performs below expectations, those making the big calls will find themselves short of sympathy.  

If Norwich play well next season the approach will be applauded. If they don’t it’ll be more than just The Snakepit wanting a divorce and it could be a messy one.  



New backbone  

It’s now 10 years since Grant Holt’s glittering Norwich City career came to an end.  

He scored on his final appearance, a 3-2 win at Manchester City, back in May 2013. It’s a blow that Man City just about seem to have recovered from.  

The following summer I interviewed manager Chris Hughton about his new-look squad which included the likes of Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Leroy Fer. “I’m not sure we’ve got enough devilment,” he said.   

The Pink Un: Norwich City legend Grant HoltNorwich City legend Grant Holt (Image: PA)

I’ll be honest now and say I can’t remember whether he actually said that on tape or before we had started recording. But it’s a whole decade ago now so he shouldn’t be too offended if it was meant to be off the record. Especially as he was absolutely right to be concerned. The comment stayed with me because ‘devilment’ seemed such an alien concept to Hughton who was often described as the nicest man in football.  

It's certainly a quote I reflected on during last season. All too often the modern day Norwich City were brushed aside with ease. A more gritty Canaries outfit is an absolute must for next season.  

The signing of Ashley Barnes, and Stuart Webber’s comments on the transfer plans for the summer, were telling. David Wagner hasn’t just asked for a new spine for his team, he wants a much stronger backbone.  

Carrow Road has been crying out for a cult hero since fans returned after lockdown. Whether it's Barnes or one of the other new recruits a bit of the old Grant Holt spirit would certainly be an asset.