Steve Weaver's departure from Norwich City is the latest sign that a new era is on the horizon at Carrow Road. 

His scheduled departure at the end of the current campaign was announced on Wednesday afternoon and ends a seven-year spell in Norfolk for the former Wolves, Blackburn and Manchester City man. 

The departure of another long-serving department head is the latest sign in several in recent months that change is afoot at Carrow Road. The size, scale and pace of it remains to be seen. Weaver will leave with warm regards from those inside the club. 

As Weaver was appointed, replacing Richard Money in 2017, Stuart Webber had to quash rumours that Norwich would follow in the footsteps of Brentford and Huddersfield, among others, in shutting down their academy. 

The fact supporters are now acutely aware of its value and want to see more youth prospects handed first-team opportunities is a testament to the work done in altering the image and productivity the academy. 

In terms of numbers, 24 players have made senior debuts since Weaver's arrival in 2017. The productivity and structure of the academy have been improved dramatically. 

Weaver's remit was to help reconnect the youth pathway with the first team. A lot of those that were pushed through were brought in by Gregg Broughton and Jay Marshall, among others, but there was still a need to create a structure that enabled them to move into senior football. 

Plus, it requires a head coach willing to do that. Daniel Farke was certainly that in the initial iteration of the project spearheaded by Webber. 

The Pink Un: Daniel Farke was key to Norwich City's use of youth players.Daniel Farke was key to Norwich City's use of youth players. (Image: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd)

Weaver made brutal and, for some, unpopular decisions to cull staff, blow up the previous operating structures and shift the mentality to an individual development-based culture where winning wasn't the priority. 

Playing youth team football was part of the process designed to develop talent - not the end goal for a lot of those within it. The pursuit of winning ended. Loans became a bigger part of the strategy and a trust between Weaver, Webber and Farke that was intrinsic to the way it functioned. 

When Weaver pushed a player up the chain, there was confidence that they were ready. That was the case with Andrew Omobamidele, Max Aarons and Adam Idah. 

Weaver joined as academy manager in 2017. That role was then split with Jennifer Rice taking on the administrative side in 2021, and the 51-year-old became solely responsible for football development. 

Joe Shulberg has subsequently taken on Rice's role and is highly thought of inside Colney. His rise has seen him step up from an academy coach in 2017 through various roles in the academy such as youth development phase lead coach, head of academy coaching and eventually into his current position. 

Under Dean Smith, Weaver's role was incorporated more with the first team. That has been stripped back since David Wagner took over in January 2023. 

Weaver has been an incredibly influential figure during his time at the club. He has achieved the goal of reconnecting the academy to the first team—the next stage of his legacy will be about the talent recruited under his watch and whether they can graduate through the ranks. Time will tell on that front. 

He hasn't been popular with everyone. When you make decisions on the future of players' careers and staffing structure, that is inevitable. But it is hard to argue with his record when he eventually departs Colney. The foundations have been laid for his successor. 

Weaver's relationship with Webber is long-standing. He was in charge at Wrexham when the ex-City sporting director sought a first coaching opportunity whilst a groundsman. They have renewed their relationship subsequently at Wolves, Huddersfield and then Norwich. 

Given Weaver is a Webber-ite in every sense, there is perhaps an inevitability about his departure. Most expect them to link up again whenever the ex-City football chief takes on a new challenge in the game. 

There is also a feeling from some that the opportunity for a fresh pair of eyes and a new direction is required. Seven years in football is a lifetime - and there is a school of thought that this cycle of the academy, like in other areas, is in need of rejuvenation. 

The Pink Un: Steve Weaver helped oversee a fruitful spell for Norwich City's academy.Steve Weaver helped oversee a fruitful spell for Norwich City's academy. (Image: Norwich City Football Club)

It shouldn't be underestimated the significance of the role that Weaver is set to vacate, especially at a club like Norwich. 

Given the emphasis on developing young talent for the first team, alignment with the style of play that is selected and knowledge of when to push players higher up the food chain is pivotal. Alongside the head coach and head of recruitment, it is among the most significant roles in the football department. 

For Ben Knapper, this is the first opportunity to make a hire in a role that will help shape his Norwich City vision. That is something he has been reluctant to alter elsewhere in his opening months in charge. 

This is his first opening for alignment. To hire someone who shares his vision and is in a positon to execute that brief. Knapper is passionate about bringing youth players through at Norwich - hence some of the decisions made in January to open up pathways. 

There will be frustration that only Ken Aboh and Finley Welch have featured for a combined 12 minutes despite being with the first-team squad since February. That has felt more about making up numbers rather than a genuine belief they can make a difference. 

Everyone is acutely aware that Norwich's reliance on player trading to survive requires a functioning and fruitful youth programme. 

Since Jon Rowe in 2021, no player has gone on to feature regularly after graduating through the club's academy. As Webber said upon his arrival, there has to be a strategy and a collective willingness to do just that - it isn't solely bestowed on the head coach of the day. 

You can have talent and be pushing players through - but if the head coach doesn't trust them enough to play or vice versa - the whole model is futile. 

That mentality of development first, results second has been tested in recent seasons also - City's U21s have lost eight of their last 10 league matches. The U18s have won four of 20 matches this season. 

City's U18s have won 11 league matches in 67 since the start of the 2021/22 campaign. That is not an environment conducive to development, even if winning isn't the primary objective. 

The Pink Un: Norwich City sporting director Ben Knapper has a chance to stamp his mark on a key department at the club.Norwich City sporting director Ben Knapper has a chance to stamp his mark on a key department at the club. (Image: Focus Images)

Opportunity and testing youngsters in this environment is beneficial and worthy of prioritising - but the feeling of winning and the confidence it provides is also vital. Perhaps achieving a better balance between those elements is the key moving forwards. 

There is also a feeling that below the current age groups, the pool of talent is somewhat smaller. This is always different to gauge, but it is something to monitor in the seasons ahead. 

Ultimately, this is an opportunity for Knapper to stamp his mark on a major part of the club as he seeks to implement his footballing blueprint. The question is over the extent of the change across the football department and how many departments it is witnessed within. 

Weaver's experience, expertise and consistency will be missed - but a new direction may be timely for the Canaries.