‘There were moments where I questioned myself’ - Webber opens up about difficult first campaign with City
Amid the promotion joys and Premier League planning of the off-season, sporting director Stuart Webber has opened up on the ‘dark times’ that had him doubting his methods at Norwich City.
The former Huddersfield chief worked closely with head coach Daniel Farke to engineer an unexpected Championship title success last season but that followed a difficult first campaign in charge.
Amid drastic cost cutting and huge change on and off the pitch, as Webber and Farke made their impact, a disappointing 2017-18 campaign finished in 14th place - below bitter rivals Ipswich in the table.
"I'll be honest with you, I don't mind admitting it, I had moments during the first year that were dark moments," Webber reflected, when speaking to Talk Norwich City.
"I was convinced it was going to work and I never went away from that, because I truly believe in what we do and how we do it, and I was watching all the work every day.
"The bit that was messing with my head a little bit was that I thought there would be more signs by now.
"It's a bit like preparing a field, to sow it and grow the grass, it was like, where are the shoots? I want to see some shoots. There was too much of, 'flipping heck, this isn't growing here' and you're giving it more water and more fertiliser or whatever.
"So there were moments where I questioned myself and thought, maybe I was just majorly wrong here, maybe Huddersfield was just luck? Maybe it wasn't a plan, maybe we were just the luckiest people ever?
"There were times when I was low, in my own head. People would never have known it from working with me but when I went home or took my dog for a walk or went on a long drive or whatever, my closest people, I'd be saying 'maybe I'm just rubbish (sic)? Is it me?'."
Of course all those worries eventually faded away as City tore up the Championship in style to return to the Premier League - and Webber said he was thankful to majority shareholders Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones, and the rest of the club's bored, for sticking with him.
He continued: "The hardest thing was in that period Delia and Michael, and the rest of the board to be fair, their support was unbelievable and even the supporters you could sense that everyone just wanted it to work.
"It was so hard and I was looking at those faces that were upset, on days like QPR away (a 4-1 loss on Easter Monday) and I'm looking at the 1,500 people behind the goal as the fourth goal went in and I'm just thinking 'sorry'.
"I'm driving home and seeing them in the services and thinking I need the toilet but I can't stop because I'm actually embarrassed.
"I'm embarrassed because I'm part of us letting you down and I know you all want us to do well, so that was where it was really hard.
"So when it turned round, firstly it was relief, to be honest, that was the first feeling for sure, and secondly it was like thank God that everyone who has followed it, supported it and stuck with it are now getting a great summer of partying and enjoying themselves - because it was tough, I have to say."
In a wide-ranging conversation with Jack Reeve and Chris Reeve, hosts of online fan channel Talk Norwich City, Webber discussed his City spell so far at length.
That included a few lighter moments, talking about the famous pink away dressing room at Carrow Road, the importance of the correct brand of tea at Colney and jokingly comparing Todd Cantwell to Take That's lead singer Gary Barlow.
Full focus of course remains on the Premier League now though, with Webber again emphasising to supporters that survival will be difficult on such a small financial budget.
"It's difficult, I'm confident we'll give it an unbelievably good go," he concluded "That's one thing you know with Daniel, the players and everyone at the club, the supporters as well, is that we'll go and give it a proper good go.
"I'm enjoying that all the experts are telling us we need to spend this, or you need to do this, it's brilliant, I love it, because it's the same stuff we've been hearing last year about 'this is what you need to get out of the Championship'.
"So let's go and prove people wrong, embrace it, let's enjoy it. And what I've said from the start is that if we did get relegated, we'll come back stronger and we'll go again, it is what it is.
"We've just got to all stick together through it and it's going to be hard, of course it is, but it's through those periods that we've got to stick together."
- Webber featured on the latest podcast of Talk Norwich City, you can watch the full interview above or at YouTube.Com/TalkNorwichCity