‘I am going to have to sack you’ - City coach reflects on Webber’s key role in transforming Canaries
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Norwich City Under-23s chief David Wright has given a revealing insight into the high standards Stuart Webber demands to bring success to the Canaries.
On Webber’s watch, City have reached the Premier League and blooded a crop of exciting youngsters, transformed the facilities at the training ground, while dealing with the huge financial challenges of losing parachute payments.
But that excellence applies to the on going work in the academy to produce more talent like Max Aarons, Ben Godfrey, Todd Cantwell and Jamal Lewis.
Wright replaced Matt Gill as under-23s boss and he insists Webber has revolutionised the culture at Carrow Road and Colney.
“It is not all kisses and cuddles. Stuart is very good at his job, one of the reasons he is, is because he has to make some real, tough decisions,” he said. “I had just taken over the 23s, we had Exeter at home in the Premier League Cup and we got battered. We were awful and we had a coaches’ meeting a couple of weeks later and Stuart is there, Steve Weaver (academy manager) is there and he said,
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‘That performance was unacceptable. It was so far away from the values and beliefs and how I want us to play.
‘I drove away from that game and in my head I was thinking I am going to have to sack you’.
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“But he said when he got home he changed his mind. It shows you have to have a ruthless side in what he is trying to achieve.
“That is the only environment I know so it is not a great shock to me. But on the other side when a boy from the academy makes his first team debut there are emails and text messages going around, he is so appreciative of our hard work. We played Aston Villa at home, played really well and he sent me a text message saying he loved it, well done.
“But he is like that with the fans as well. From the moment he came here he has been so transparent, in terms of the financial difficulties he inherited.
“There shouldn’t be any surprises. That communication and clarity of where this club is going is so important.”
Wright, interviewed on the latest edition of the ‘It’s just football development’ webinar, admitted every member of staff know what is required.
“Stu came in and he has a vision of how the club should play football, how the staff and the players should be on and off the pitch. He brought people in who share his vision,” he said. “Delia and Michael are absolutely brilliant as well. They share Stu’s vision and vice versa. Stu has found a head coach who ticks the boxes of how he wants to play.
“Daniel (Farke) has been brilliant for the football club. From top to bottom it has been a pleasure to be part of. From where it was when I walked in on day one to where it is now, the training ground has changed, the culture, the environment, the people have changed. It is a pleasure to come to work every day.
“We have values instilled here.
“I have been to other clubs or other businesses and you walk in and they have something up on the wall, but we actually have values and standards of behaviour, and we will be made accountable if we fall below those.
“We have to work in a manner like that.
“One of the values is commitment. If I go for a review then I have to show an example of where I have shown commitment. It is not just a token gesture.
“That sense of belonging, which Delia and Michael and Stuart have created, means you turn up every day wanting to do your best, you want to go that extra mile. You feel valued.”
Wright also outlined how much value Farke and his coaching staff place on forging that link to the under-23s.
“To train with the first team squad they really have to earn the right. Once they move across to training with tje first team that is it and this season we have seen that with Adam Idah and Josh Martin,” he said.
“You can speak to Daniel and his assistant, Eddie (Reimer), any time.
“We had an issue with the 23s during a period of the season in terms of playing through the thirds. We were very good until we got to the final third so I spoke to Daniel and he said come across and we sat down with one of the analysts and I put some clips together to show Daniel, rather than me trying to explain it to him.
“All the first team coaches were in this room and we just sat talking football for ages and we looked at the issue and then some sessions I could put on to address it.
“That conversation flow is constant.”
Wright has the unenviable job of trying to win development games while losing his best talent, like Idah or Martin to the first team pool, or the growing number who head out on loan. But that is not a source of frustration.
I wouldn’t say frustration but when I moved up I thought I knew what the job would entail. I didn’t,” he said. “At 18s it is a very stable group of players but with 23s it is constantly evolving. Players joining the first team, first team players dropping down, lads going out on loan, 18s coming up. It took me a while to get my head around it but now I understand it.
“This 23s is not a team who are put together to win a league.
“We don’t do that. I think the oldest team sheet I wrote out this season had an average age of 19. We are prepping these lads for different things. Of course winning games is important. That is the next step but it is about them as individuals.
“The key for me is to get to know them as a person. If you buy into them, they will buy into you.
“For me the most important thing in the past 12 months asa coach in my role is that two of my squad have come up to me and said they were struggling with mental health issues, they hadn’t told anyone else, they felt they could talk to me. That is the best thing I have ever done in coaching because if I have created a relationship where they are comfortable to come and ask for help that the most powerful thing I can do.”