City chief on why it is not promotion or bust
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Stuart Webber insists the ongoing financial impact of the pandemic does not mean it is imperative Norwich City seal Premier League promotion.
Webber concedes the landscape has shifted dramatically due to the continued shortfall from supporters not being able to attend games at Carrow Road in large numbers since February 2020.
City’s last set of published accounts detailed a £12.7m hit, in terms of rebates to fans and broadcasters, along with the cost of safety measures. This current financial year could result in a similar hole to fill, but it is not promotion or bust for the club’s sporting director in the coming months.
“Our aim is to get promoted. Full stop. We feel we have a squad and a top manager who gives us the best opportunity,” he said. “It is not the pressure of we have to get promoted.
"The finances is a disaster, because this has had a damaging effect for most businesses right across the country. What upsets me the most with our club is that slows down some of the progress we would like to be making.
"We sell players last summer for an unbelievable amount of money and that goes down a black hole which has been created by Covid and no supporters, and rebates for fans or broadcasters.
“At the same time we have to take pride we haven’t had a Covid-related redundancy. We have not had to beg or borrow money, we are managing our way through it. But is it annoying and does it hurt? Definitely. But it is life. Let’s be fortunate we have a business not just standing, but thriving.
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"If it ends up in promotion this season, brilliant, if not, we know who we are. We know we have no divine right. There is no added pressure on myself or Daniel or the players from the financial point of view. The pressure is what we put on ourselves. If not, we dust ourselves off and go again.”
Webber feels the work that has gone in during these past 12 months behind the scenes on a professional and a personal level should not be overlooked.
“When you see at a football club from the outside perhaps you don’t consider that human element,” he said. “Both myself and my wife work full time and we have a little boy that we are trying to home school and we have to juggle that.
"Football is treated as being on some island with vast wealth and the people inside it don’t lead normal lives.
"It is the same for the players who have children. They are home schooling before and after training or playing. You have to try and share the burden and we know we are lucky in that we can still work but this is something the whole world is going through. It is a daily challenge.
“As a club we have had some Covid cases, and what comes with that in terms of the panic around whether football should continue. I am actually very proud that to this point we have not had a game called off due to Covid.
"It would have been easy to call Bristol or Cardiff off because we had enough cases, and then an investigation would have followed as per the guidelines from the Football League, but we battled through and the government has given football the option to continue.
"Fair play to all the people here who have set up the protocols and made it as safe as it can be. We just need to get through the next three months of this season and you hope the world in general then starts to get back to normal.”
Set against such a backdrop, Webber is not finding it hard to place City’s current issues over the last three Championship games in context.
“When you win three on the bounce you shouldn’t be walking around patting yourself on the back. Likewise, when you have three or four games when the results have gone the other way you cannot be going around with a rope and trying to hang yourself,” he said. “The Championship is brutal.
"Leave the FA Cup game out of it. Middlesbrough was never going to be easy, especially when you go down to 10 men for 30 minutes. In the end we take the point. Millwall, away, I challenge anyway to say that is an easy game going there in midweek on a pitch that is shot to bits. We get a point and at Swansea we made two mistakes and didn’t do enough.
"Overall, if you look at the 28 games and someone had offered us that we would have all taken it.
"If you compare our direct rivals, which is Watford and Bournemouth, the two other clubs who came down with us, they would both swap places, both have had to change managers. Look at how Daniel (Farke) and the staff have done an incredible job. Not just managing through a pandemic but a brutal relegation.
"Let’s be honest, it was death by a thousand cuts. To pick ourselves up as a staff and players is incredible. We are grateful and proud as a club to them.
“The benefit of having experience is we understand you will not win every game. Not in this league. Manchester United lose to Sheffield United and the world has ended and they put nine on a team and they are now the best side in the world again.
"Liverpool is now bang average and Jurgen Klopp the worst manager but six months ago he is the greatest manager to ever set foot in England.
"We are lucky. We are realistic. We know this league. Only one team has ever got over 100 points. Every point is a good one.
"I am sure all our competitors have had or will have sticky patches but we are playing alright. Yes, we’d like to create more but we are not a million miles away.”