Pain and anguish but never a lack of belief for Canaries' chief
- Credit: PA
From scapegoat to saviour. Stuart Webber is well versed by now in the turbulent life and times of Norwich City.
Webber and Daniel Farke are the chief architects behind two Championship titles, two promotions and a relegation since arriving in 2017. But that last statistic left some scars on the club’s sporting director, who offered himself as the fall guy last year for any supporters bitter at the manner of City’s top flight exit.
No-one hurt as much as the person responsible for leading from the front.
“When you are relegated it becomes a lonely place. None more so than when you are sat in my chair,” he said. “I'll never forget we played Manchester City in the last game. The final whistle goes and I look around and there's just Zoe, my wife, and I left sat in the stand. There's no one else there.
"And I was like, ‘okay, we're alone at this point,’ so it's then about resolving to work hard, stick together, build momentum and belief again in what we're doing, with the people that matter, and making sure we got back on it.
"There is a saying success has a thousand fathers and failure is an orphan. Last summer I was an orphan for sure. This summer a lot of people want to be my father again.
“There's not one part of me from the minute we got relegated didn't think we'd get promoted. That never even got close to entering my head, because I know what we've got here.
"It's like when you have a car and you know what's under the bonnet. I knew what was under ours. And it was it was very, very good.
- 1 Stay at Chelsea instead of joining a ‘lesser team’ - Souness advice to Gilmour
- 2 Norwich City transfer rumours: Barcelona want to sell forward
- 3 Andy Hughes to link up with City coaching team for pre-season
- 4 'Champions League' quality Rashica is a coup for City
- 5 Posh talent 'over the moon' to seal Canaries switch
- 6 City cool interest in Ajer
- 7 Canaries linked with Newcastle youngster
- 8 Norwich City transfer rumours: Midfielder wants clarity from French champions
- 9 Ex-City keeper signs new Wolves deal
- 10 Jayden Bogle not in City's sights
"At that point it is all about managing people, keeping people together, shutting the noise away, giving people trust and giving people a bit of love to know that, ‘we're all right, don't worry. I know which direction we're going in’. But of course it's tough.”
Farke, his players and support staff went on to deliver a season that stands alone in the club’s long history.
“I think it's an incredible achievement and it's one that Daniel, the players and all the staff should be incredibly proud of,” said Webber. “This season has put some of the players and staff up there with the greats.
"People will look back in 10 or 15 years and go, actually, what a team that was, and what an achievement that was to break the record number of points. And in the end by four points, so pretty convincingly. It's extraordinary to do it off the back of a relegation and a quick turnaround.
"If I am honest, I find it easier to speak about these things off the back of relegation than on the back of promotion. What we had to do 12 months ago, or what I needed to do, was shut the noise away. We had a lot of young players who had been relegated for the first time.
"A lot of staff had been relegated for the first time and it's incredibly hard and incredibly difficult to get over if you let it linger. At that point, I believed it was the right decision to take that pressure away from people.
"All I asked of Daniel, the staff and the players was to make sure we come back with the attitude of winning the league and getting promoted again. Don't come back lingering about what has or hasn't happened.
"Let's be honest, they over delivered on that. They absolutely smashed it.”
Webber attributes City’s latest Championship triumph to a culture of hard work.
“I see every day how hard people work, how hard Daniel works, how hard the staff work, how hard our players work,” he said. “I still love coming here on a Sunday and at three o'clock in the afternoon you've got players in the gym, doing extras, when they could be sat at home eating a roast dinner or doing whatever. I love that mentality.
"People who do that deserve to be successful.
“That's probably what hurt the most last year, when we got relegated I thought, ‘you know what, this group of people don't deserve this’. Obviously, we got what we deserved as a club; when you get relegated you are not good enough in the same way if you win the league you are the best.
"But I see the other side of what they do and how hard they work and how much people care. And that's why it is so important at that point when you are relegated to protect people and look after them because I knew that we'd be successful.”