‘They’ve kept their nerve’ – City chief so proud of Farke’s team after challenging start to Premier League life
Sporting director Stuart Webber feels ‘immensely proud’ of the way Daniel Farke and his Norwich City players remained calm amid the injury crisis which hampered progress after promotion to the Premier League.
Webber joined the rest of the Canaries' board of directors for the club's annual general meeting at Carrow Road last night, where a wide range of topics were discussed with shareholders.
Financial improvement, the development of Carrow Road, the club's unpopular ticket membership scheme and Webber's intention to move on to a new challenge when his contract ends in 2022 were all in the mix.
Overall it was a positive atmosphere though, buoyed by Farke's team winning 2-0 at Everton on Saturday to move up to 18th in the table and get their chances of survival back on track.
That follows influential players including Christoph Zimmermann, Onel Hernandez and Mario Vrancic all returning to fitness, with several other injury issues disrupting the momentum of the reigning Championship champions.
"I'm immensely proud of Daniel, the players and the staff for how they've attacked the Premier League season, how they've kept their nerve in what's been some incredibly difficult situations in terms of who we've played, injuries, etcetera," Webber said following the AGM.
"I could go on with excuses but any team that has their first choice centre-half - which I think Zimmermann has proved to be in the last 18 months - would struggle. Look at Man City with how they talk about (injured defender) Aymeric Laporte.
"So I think how we've come through that makes us stronger, of course we're greedy and we would like more points, of course we would, but at the same time we have shown we can compete at this level and if that's enough to get us over the line, what an amazing achievement that will be. If not, we'll dust ourselves off.
"But yeah, immensely proud of how the boys have adapted so far. I still think there's growth for them to get better, we trust them so much, our players and staff, that we think we can achieve great things this season.
"We've had a third of the season, so I'm looking forward to the next two thirds because it's exciting, it's where we want to be, isn't it?
"If we don't want to embrace this challenge then let's go back to playing every three days at a level that we're a bit more comfortable with.
"But I don't think anybody wants that. We want to prove we can do it at this level and what a great challenge that is."
Webber also explained the financial situation surrounding potential investment in the January transfer window, assuring supporters again that money can be spent but not to expect huge fees to be forked out.
The Welshman emphasised that the mistakes of the January transfer window cannot be repeated though, when over £20m was spent to try and secure Premier League survival, with expensive contracts and deals subsequently contributing to the difficult financial situation Webber inherited in April 2017.
"We've got the potential to spend more money that we've ever spent in our time here, I'm talking about Daniel and I now, which is a really nice position to be in," he explained.
"It's nice to be sitting with Kieran Scott, our head of recruitment, and Daniel and talking about players that we could potentially go to buy - not try to steal on a free or whatever.
"So it's a nice position to be in but at the same time the player has got to be right we've got to be able to get them, January we know is traditionally a difficult window.
"Although you argue that we did sign Emi Buendia, Kenny McLean, Onel Hernandez and Dennis Srbeny all in the January window - so I'm probably contradicting myself a little bit there.
"The key thing is that if the right player is there we can do something but what we have to do is that it's got to be one that helps us in the short term, definitely, but also in the medium to long term.
"We can't just try and do something to stay up and then the worst happens because we could get bad luck and whatever, we get relegated and then it's like 'what do we do now?' and we've got this player sat on too much money and we're back in that horrible cycle again.
"If we do that then we've not learned from what happened last time and that would, to be honest, be unacceptable."
The Canaries return to action at Carrow Road when they host Arsenal on Sunday (2pm), with the Gunners losing 2-1 at home to Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League group stages on Thursday evening, piling further pressure on head coach Unai Emery - going seven games without a win in all competitions for the first time since 1992.
- You can watch our full interview with City's sporting director in the video above, covering more issues including succession planning for his own role, the club's improved financial situation and the potential for Carrow Road expansion