Stuart Webber unveils Norwich City's transfer blueprint
PUBLISHED: 06:45 09 May 2017 | UPDATED: 10:26 09 May 2017
Stuart Webber is working overtime to make sure Norwich City hit the ground running next season. Paddy Davitt hears his plans for a summer overhaul.
Hunger is at the heart of Stuart Webber’s summer transfer strategy to equip Norwich City for Championship combat.
Webber arrived on a ticket as an astute operator in the recruitment minefield at Huddersfield and the club’s sporting director has already signalled his intent to overhaul the existing squad at Carrow Road.
“We need real, hungry players,” he said. “I think the one thing we don’t talk about enough is we have some fantastic players here; players who are top-end Championship and bottom or middle Premier League clubs would take, if the opportunity was available. We need to build on that. We were joint top scorers in the division so we did a lot of things right but we have to fiddle around what didn’t work. Defensively as a team we have been criticised. It is too easy to pinpoint individuals for me because centre forwards have missed chances. That is football.
“The head coach has a lot to work with. We should be excited about that and we need to build around it. Under contract we only have Russell (Martin) and Timm (Klose) at centre backs so I would be silly to say we don’t need centre backs. We do. Left-back at the moment we have Harry Toffolo under contract, so whether that is Mitchell (Dijks) or somebody else we need to look at that part of the squad. Then I look in the forward areas and think maybe one more in that part of the pitch who is different to what we already have. The most important thing is to bring the right people, in terms of their mentality and desire and desperate to get into the Premier League.”
John Ruddy may have been a high profile casualty after bowing out following seven years at the club but Webber values experience.
“Listen, we have to get the age of the squad down, we had 13 over 30 at one point, but then it is keeping the great, experienced players like Russ and Wes Hoolahan to help any younger ones,” he said. “With the budget constraints we have got, we are not going to be able to have two fantastic right backs on excellent salaries. We might only be able to have one and back him up with a younger guy, whether from the academy or signing a young one who isn’t on a big salary, to keep our best players. The easiest thing to do is sell one of our top players but instead we have to be creative.”
Part of that need to juggle resources underpinned Webber’s decision to sanction Ruddy’s departure, along with six of his senior team mates.
“People have bandied about this idea it was an easy decision,” he said. “Of course, from a contractual situation it is easy to release lads out of contract. In terms of sitting opposite seven good guys and having to deliver the news that I am not keeping you is far from easy. Some were easier than others because they were fully expecting it. But John I have so much respect for him as a goalkeeper and a person and I have watched him for years, he was part of the England set-up, done unbelievably good things for this club. It is far from easy to sit opposite him and say, ‘listen, we probably can’t afford you in truth,’ and I am not going to sit and insult his intelligence by offering him a contract he feels might be taking the mickey. I think he appreciated that openness.
“We did it early so the fans could say goodbye and I thought it was fantastic for him and his family. People have told me here about Darren Huckerby and he never had that chance and I feel how sad is that for a player who has done so much for this club. We were conscious of that with John. It was difficult. I spoke to Alan about each of the players, I spoke to Dean Kiely, and it was a collective decision.”
Webber is unable to offer the same clarity to Alan Irvine and Frankie McAvoy, who must wait for the new head coach to arrive.
“We have been fortunate to have Alan to take the reins in a difficult situation. I was really honest with him and said the head coach will decide his fate from the club’s side,” he said. “Alan was equally honest and said it has to be right for him. I spoke to him Sunday night and reiterated that. He knows it will be two to three weeks down the line when he speaks to the new head coach. The same with Frankie. I have spoken to him on three occasions and unfortunately I can’t give him an answer. That is how it works in their position. In terms of the other staff, whether that is Dean, the sports science and physios, I spoke to them all on day one and said they work for the club and that doesn’t change. If we get down the line and for whatever reason the head coach comes in and doesn’t have a relationship with them and it doesn’t work for either party that is life. That is any business, not just football.”