‘After Millwall we didn’t throw ourselves in the Thames’: Stuart Webber reflects on Norwich City’s lowest Championship ebb
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City’s Championship transformation is the perfect response to early-season adversity. Cool heads were key for sporting director Stuart Webber, as Paddy Davitt discovers.
Stuart Webber has endured a crash course in the ecstasy and agony of following Norwich City.
The Canaries’ sporting director clocks up six months in his new post tomorrow but progress, by his own admission, on the pitch has been anything but serene.
Daniel Farke’s squad went into the international break seven games unbeaten, but the pain of some heavy early away defeats at Aston Villa and Millwall will continue to sharpen the focus.
“After Millwall we didn’t throw ourselves in the Thames and after Reading we didn’t go on a three-day bender celebrating.
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“This is the Championship. You play a lot of games, you win, you lose,” said Webber. “The key is can you see us going in the right direction? I might have been an idiot saying it after Millwall, but there had been a lot of progress in those first two months.
“People maybe didn’t see that in terms of results and I get why we are judged at 3pm on a Saturday, but there were a lot of seeds sown. We have seen them grow a bit in the last month. Can we grow them further now?
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“We haven’t seen Alex Pritchard play beyond a couple of pre-season games. Angus Gunn is 13 games into his professional career. Harrison Reed has not played a lot of professional football. James Husband played once last season. James Maddison had only played 14 minutes of Championship football prior to this season. Of course they are going to be out of rhythm at times.”
A sobering afternoon at The Den was a low point shared by Webber, City’s top brass and the travelling support.
“Not the easiest day of my life,” he said. “But it is in those moments you have two options, you scrap what you are trying to do and chuck it away or if you believe in it you work harder.
“We did the latter. That has been proven over the last month with the turnaround in results.
“The performance is not quite where we want it to be and we are certainly not settling for where we are now. I understand any supporter who was down after Millwall, but just as we don’t get too carried away now it was the same back then.
“We had played seven games. There will be other dips and in those periods we will remember to stick to the plan that we have invested in. It is not going to be a smooth road.
“Daniel and I speak after every game the following day and talk about it in detail.
“That didn’t happen any differently after Millwall than Sheffield United. We know what happened at Millwall was pretty bad. Daniel said it was unacceptable but they could have beaten Leeds three or four in their next league game. It is how we react to those days. We might have another Millwall at some point. That is life.”
Webber insists the ground work for City’s recent upturn has been laid at Colney.
“The work ethic at the training ground has gone through the roof. That is credit to the players who were here before and they have embraced it,” he said.
“If I look back six months ago did I think we could implement that culture as quickly as we have? Probably not.
“We still have a long way to go. We have made small steps but we are going in the right direction. The road will continue to be bumpy. We have made progress on the pitch and off it.
“People don’t tend to see that stuff but ultimately it will translate into what we do on the pitch.
“Short term it is about results but we want sustained success in the future.
“It feels a lot longer than six months. I think we have made a lot of progress and a lot of good decisions.
“We have made mistakes, of course, but if you look at the target when we first came in it was to find a coach who would implement a certain type of football philosophy that we can build a club on.
“I think we have achieved that. Daniel would be the first to say it is not perfect but we know what the culture is, to be open with the supporters.”