Tampa Tour: Stuart Webber on the challenges ahead to keep Norwich City flying high
Following the arrival of the Championship leaders Norwich City at their warm weather camp in Florida, David Freezer caught up with sporting director Stuart Webber for his thoughts on the club's rise.
Much praise for youth development may have been earned by Norwich City so far this season but it is the experience within the squad which Stuart Webber hopes will keep the Canaries on track this season.
City are flying high at the top of the table after 17 games of the Championship campaign, having won an excellent nine of their last 11 league games after Saturday’s drama-filled 4-3 win over Millwall at a jubilant Carrow Road.
While that has sparked hopes that promotion could be a possibility this season, the message coming out of the Canaries’ camp as a warm weather break in Florida begins is Daniel Farke’s players are not getting carried away with recent success.
Sporting director Webber – speaking before a report linking him with Southampton had surfaced – points to the experience of internationals such as Tim Krul, Timm Klose, Alex Tettey and Teemu Pukki as examples of players who will know full well that nothing is won in November.
“We’ve got a lot of young players but we’ve also got a lot of experienced players, players who have been promoted, who have been relegated, who have played in the World Cup, played for their countries and all sorts of things,” said Webber after arriving in the US on Monday evening.
“So they’re not a group that’s going to get carried away and interestingly after the game on Saturday some of them were pretty annoyed at the manner of how we conceded the second goal rather than getting too overawed with winning and the manner we did, it was more that we shouldn’t have had to have done that really – which is also a good sign.
“I think we’ve built a good dressing room here, take ability aside because we’ve got good players, but I think overall it’s a really good group of players, their feet are on the ground, they know there’s a lot of competition for places.
“Look at the guys who can’t get in at the moment, look at some of the guys who are coming back from injury and I think they’ve got no choice but to keep their feet on the ground because if not, there will be someone there ready to take their place.”
Tampa Tour: Stuart Webber keen to play it cool
Among those players looking to return soon are defender Grant Hanley, who is part of the touring squad and back in full training, while the fit-again Ben Marshall has remained on the fringes and Kenny McLean is due to return to training.
Webber continued: “Even last year’s captain Ivo Pinto hasn’t been getting in the squad. Felix Passlack, who most people will recognise as a good player, hasn’t been getting in the squad.
McLean, Hanley, these haven’t even got in the 18 yet, which hopefully bodes pretty well that the depth in the squad is good.
“It’s important we keep our key players fit, there’s no doubt about that, and it’s important that when we have a bad spell the fans stick together – because that will happen in this league.
“Look at Leeds United the other night. Everyone has been raving about them and then they go and get hammered (4-1 at West Brom) on Saturday, that can happen in this league.
“So we have to just keep going and keep doing what we’ve been doing.”
One of the things the Canaries have been doing this season is shooting towards the Barclay during the second half of home games, where possible, with the late drama against Millwall the latest example of that proving successful.
Webber knows that is only a small part of the success the team is enjoying, but a symbol of the stronger links being forged with supporters – which could prove so important when a wobble in form does inevitably materialise.
“Whether it makes too much difference or not, these are the small gains that we talk about,” City’s chief added. “If that helped in that one moment in the season (against Millwall) then that’s three points that we could be looking back on as an unbelievably crucial win.
“I think what’s been more pleasing has been the interaction with the fans recently. If you take the Stoke game, the reaction after that was incredible.
“If you look at the away fans, who always travel with us to be fair, the Forest game, what they were like that day – Villa half-time at home when we were getting beat, Brentford half-time at home when we’d missed the penalty and it was a bit nervy.
“But the fans reacted and I think they really feel a connection.
“If little things like shooting towards the Barclay second half have helped, then that was the idea, brilliant.
“We’ll never know for sure the difference it’s made because those differences are kind of unmeasurable but they’re all marginal gains which hopefully.”