David Hannant: Latest Colney plans show club's meticulous approach

Stuart Webber admits the exits of Alex Tettey and Mario Vrancic is a sad day for Norwich City

Stuart Webber's 'leave no stone unturned' approach never ceases to impress me - Credit: Tony Thrussell/Archant

So much has impressed me about the Stuart Webber regime at Carrow Road since he first came into the club four years ago.

Sure, not everything has been plain sailing and the last Premier League campaign ended up in relegation, but the way the club dusted itself down and picked itself up afterwards speaks volumes.

When I look at Stuart Webber, I see somebody I would desperately not ever wish to play chess with. Besides the fact that I am awful at chess, he seems like somebody who would have my king over a barrel before I've even thought about castling.

Overhead CGI view of the Lotus Training Ground recovery hub

Overhead CGI view of the Lotus Training Ground recovery hub - Credit: LSI Architects

The latest example of this is plans that have been lodged for the Lotus Training Centre, which I reported on earlier this week.

The vision will see a new 'recovery hub' built at the Colney site, specifically designed to aid players in their comebacks from injury.


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Now, looking back at the relegation season of 2019/20, one of the very main things I think tripped us up was injuries.

I know it's by no means as simple as "if everyone was fit we'd have stayed up", clearly it was far more complex than that, but it was a huge part of City's early-season momentum dwindling.

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I suspect some sporting directors would look at things like this and think "what rotten luck" or wrongfully labelling people as injury-prone or beyond held. Not Stuart Webber.

CGI of what the recovery hub could look like at the Lotus Training Ground

CGI of what the recovery hub could look like at the Lotus Training Ground - Credit: LSI Architects

From the outside looking in, it certainly seems to me that Webber and his team look at, see a problem and not only identify it but look for a solution.

Injuries are always going to happen in football, so investing in the recovery process is a more than prudent approach to take.

The proof will evidently be in the pudding when it's up and running, but helping players recover not only quicker, but stronger, is the kind of meticulous approach that has become almost a trademark of the straight-talking Welshman.

CGI view of what the Lotus Training Ground could look like in the next phase of its revamp

CGI view of what the Lotus Training Ground could look like in the next phase of its revamp - Credit: LSI Architects

Or take investing in the Soccerbot 360 - yes the club invested roughly the same amount it paid for Darren Huckerby on the kit, but players come and go, this is an investment that could help the many players that use it for many years.

Given we will clearly never be a side that can wave a magic cash wand like one of the giants, Webber has to think creatively and make every marginal gain he can.

He has to be sharp, he has to plan for the short, long and medium term and he has to be meticulous - and that takes some mind.

Each investment off the pitch and each development has appeared to have razor sharp focus on addressing one area of weakness or issue of the past.

In years gone by, the club has found transfer targets looking at Colney, turning their nose up and saying no thank you to the prospect of joining.

Now when they arrive they will see a place on the up, a distant cry from the fairly shambolic look the place had in years gone by.

And while some might argue how can having a top range training facility make that much of a difference, they are not taking into account one important thing.

Yes the results all rely on 90 minutes on a Saturday (or whenever) but that's all we see as supporters.

For the staff and players, the Lotus Training Ground is where they spend the majority of their time - it's their second home, their workplace and their office.

While no everyday workplace is comparable to being a professional footballer, clearly working environment is important whatever you do.

Say, for example, you work in a general office job. Would you be as productive if you have to sit on a rickety chair, with a computer still running on Windows 95 and shoddy lighting? Of course, you wouldn't.

Making sure the club gets the very best out of its training ground is a key step towards also getting the best out of its players on match days.

And likewise, if we are recruited from countries where the facilities aren't as sharp as our own, that will go a long way towards dazzling them into joining a club they potentially will know nothing about.

The training ground is not only the workplace of the players, it's also the club's shop window and when it comes to selling the club it's vitally important it stands up to the competition.

Likewise, another key part of our recruitment model is gaining the trust of big clubs to loan us their aspiring talent for us to mould, just as we did with Oliver Skipp - unfortunately now a starter for Tottenham Hotspur.

These clubs need to know their players will be looked after when they arrive here - and while you might argue a slum-style home would be character building, a comfortable and advanced environment is far better in general.

Time and time again Stuart Webber and his team have proven themselves to be forward-thinking, meticulous and with a razor sharp attention to detail. This development will be the latest example of that and I applaud it.

Here we go again with VAR

For the first few games of the season, I actually thought I'd noticed a difference with how VAR was being used.

It does appear to some extent that a lighter touch is being used with the technology, which is more than welcome after the shambles we saw in the maiden season of it.

But in the Leicester game, in my books we saw that the teething problems of two years ago are very much still there.

I'll confess, in real time I actually thought the penalty City were awarded was a little soft and wasn't crying blue murder when it wasn't given.

Once I watched the replay though I took that all back - it was a stonewaller. And yet the length of time it took to be given left us with about five minutes of stoppage time at the end of the half.

Surely it shouldn't have taken that long and if every decision takes that long to get right, I think I'd prefer the error.

I was as guilty as anyone for clamouring for technology to help the game - but not at the cost of the overall enjoyment of the game.

Let the new boys prove themselves

The late arrivals of Mathias Normann and Ozan Kabak certainly brought a fair bit of excitement ahead of the international break.

I've heard great things about both of them and in terms of positions, they are exactly the areas we needed to strengthen.

However, while it is great to be excited about new signings, it's also so important that we don't get carried away.

It's possible they will take time to settle in and it is possible they may prove to be a little different to what we expect.

Therefore, we can't go into things expecting them to immediately turn our fortunes around and prove almighty saviours.

And likewise, we have to be understanding of the settling in period they may well need.

Lukas Rupp is a fine example of how people appear to have made their minds up about him straight away and have totally written him off.

Rupp is proving a fine player, I hope the newbies do as well - but let's switch off all expectations, let them do their thing and judge them once it's fair to do so.


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