Change must be justified as Webber brings in new broom
PUBLISHED: 10:00 08 April 2017
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Parking space: Tick. List of players (pro and others): tick. Norfolk road map: tick. Little black book: tick.
Stuart Webber is, finally, out of the garden and into his new office as Norwich City’s sporting director. Let battle begin.
That’s what it is: a battle.
City face it on a number of fronts: they need a pincer movement to win back credibility among their Championship peers and respectability among supporters who have watched as a big chunk of their season has effectively been forfeited for the sake of structural reconstruction.
Webber comes in with the natives, if not restless, then certainly fidgety. Axing the traditional managerial system for a sporting director+head coach model has helped ease the frustration a little, given that many have got what they demanded: wholesale change. Wholesale as in “not the owners”.
The assumption is that Webber and the new coach will have a clear-out of a squad that has perhaps been together too long. Remember what managers spout during transfer windows, that they want to bring in new faces, fresh blood? City need to do that.
By the way, as something of an aside, they might also reacquaint themselves with the loans (incoming) system, which has been dreadfully under-used at Carrow Road.
Mitchell Dijks remains the only loanee to come in this season. No one wants a Glenn Roeder-style loan policy, but surely a little more business might have helped the cause?
Anyway, recruitment... it will be interesting to hear from Webber as to his exact brief: does he, with his team, do all the recruiting or does the coach have a say? A couple of years ago, at Huddersfield, Webber said: “It should go without saying that the club will never, ever sign a player that the manager doesn’t want...”
Getting the recruitment right is absolutely vital. At Celtic, John Moss, another rumoured candidate, summed it up by saying: “Although we can only spend approximately £2.5m we are still seeking players who can compete against some of the best teams in Europe in Champions League games and also have the potential to be sold to the Premier League or other top European teams within 1-2 years.”
Norwich are in a position where they have to buy cheap, nurture and improve, and then sell. It’s a playing model and an economic model too.
Then there is a question of bravery: promising young players have come and gone over the years without troubling the first team. The scouting network and the Academy has been blamed, but when they see talent go out of the door, perhaps the blame lies with reluctant managers rather than poor development.
Apart from the Murphys, no one has really ever been given a chance – James Maddison and Ben Godfrey spring to mind.
And the timing of these changes? City were within sight of the top six when Alex Neil was sacked a month ago. They have played four games since, winning four points out of a possible 12. They are nine points off the play-offs. Apart from the fact they let Neil hang on too long, why was there a restructure following his sacking rather than a line of succession which gave City the best chance possible of making the top six? City weren’t in the worst position when Neil departed, but any momentum was lost.
Players have been performing for someone who doesn’t even want the job, for a coaching staff who perhaps know their future isn’t at Norwich and, in some cases, getting some damning criticism for their performances because of it.
Yes, a few have let the fans down, but it’s hardly an ideal working environment. Perhaps continuity wasn’t possible; perhaps they wouldn’t have been able to get their man in the summer and the short-term was sacrificed for the long-term good. Who knows? It just seems an awful shame that the final 10 games of a 46-game season are being played out under interim management rather than something more solid that might have extended the interest a little longer.
If Webber’s arrival and the subsequent head coach appointment arrests the slide to mediocrity, then perhaps we can forgive the clumsy way the process has been handled.
But if there is one certainty, it is that supporters will very soon tire of run-of-the-mill football with nothing to fight for (or against).
They don’t want Suffolk-sized egg on their faces and applause after 15 minutes of another interminable derby.
Change has been made, drastic change, and that must mean a drastic change in fortunes.
Any danger of some help for Mr Stroud?
No great surprise referee Keith Stroud has been stood down for this weekend’s games following his midweek clanger at Newcastle.
Stroud sent Magpies boss Rafa Benitez into near apoplexy when, after disallowing a Newcastle penalty because a player had infringed in the penalty area, instead of ordering a retake he gave opponents Burton a free-kick.
Everyone in the ground knew Stroud got it wrong. Except him, his assistant referees Matthew McGrath and David Avent and fourth official Tony Harrington.
Fortunately, the ‘scorer’ Matt Ritchie went on to score a worldy as Newcastle won Burton 1-0, but it could have been very different.
I’m not suggesting Stroud be stripped of his whistle and spray can, but surely one of his helpers could have intervened. Or did Stroud ignore them?
If he did, well, a few weekends off wouldn’t do him any harm.