Ian Clarke: Time to salute the man at the heart of City’s revolution
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
I loved standing at the end of Saturday’s game watching the amazing celebrations among the players and staff on the Carrow Road pitch.
Daniel Farke took his “ole’s” to all parts of the ground,
Tim Krul was like a choirmaster leading the singing perched on a hoarding in front of the Barclay and then there was THAT two-footed lunge from Mo Leitner on Alex Tettey!
Jamal Lewis’ tears were from a lad who just could not believe what was happening to him.
Todd Cantwell – yes, Dereham’s finest – was like a jack in the box dancing on every blade of grass. For him it really, really is a dream come true.
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There was a beautiful moment when Teemu Pukki found a fan to give his shirt to in the crowd and then one of the biggest cheers of the day came when the little boy in the number 23 shirt dribbled the ball half the length of the pitch before finishing in style in the River End goal.
They were scenes which encapsulated what fantastic times we are living in as Norwich City supporters.
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There was one man who I could not see amid all the joyous commotion.
Of all those who are rightly being lauded for the phenomenal success of the Canaries this season, he deserves as much credit as anyone.
He hasn’t scored any goals or provided a single assist or made a match-saving tackle or even been on the touchline barking instructions to the team.
And yet that man – yes, I mean sporting director Stuart Webber – has been at the very heart of this extraordinary renaissance which has seen us heading to English football’s top table.
It’s just over two years since the 35-year-old arrived from Huddersfield to take up a brand new role which I know many of us were somewhat sceptical about.
If it took us long enough to get used to football played other than in a 4-4-2 system with two out wide and two up top, re-adjusting to a continental style management structure wouldn’t happen overnight.
Webber found a mess at Carrow Road. In his words there was a “drastic situation”.
The club was in its final year of parachute payments, too many players were on long and expensive contracts and the hunger among too many had gone.
Webber is brutally honest – and told it how it was to City’s top brass.
“I said ‘I may have to call your baby ugly’” was how he summed up the message he needed to give the board.
If they didn’t want his style, they needed to look elsewhere. Fortunately, Delia and Michael and Co. plumped for him.
Webber had to begin a revolution and 24 months later we are seeing the incredible fruits of his labour.
He comes from a background of youth development and knows you have to give the kids a chance and stick with them.
That’s worked pretty well with the likes of Lewis, Max Aarons and Ben Godfrey, eh?!
Webber knew he needed to restructure the playing staff and had to let the likes of James Maddison and Josh Murphy go to begin to plug the black holes from too much profligacy in previous seasons.
He had to hunt around abroad to bring in lads who were affordable and hungry.
Signings needed to be made which would fit in to the new way of thinking.
The arrivals under Webber who were in Saturday’s squad are Grant Hanley (£3.5m), Onel Hernandez (£1.8m), Emi Buendia, Leitner and Stiepermann (all £1.5m), Mario Vrancic (£650k), Kenny McLean (£200k) and Krul, Pukki, Tom Trybull and Zimmermann (free).
That’s about £10.5m. And we can all name those who have arrived at Carra costing not a massive amount less than that on their own and made less than a spectacular impact (I’m being pretty charitable to them).
The sporting director recruited a virtually unknown head coach and stuck by him when so many were doubting whether it was the right move.
Webber has talked about City’s promotion being like climbing Everest.
He’s absolutely right and remember the Canaries are the least experienced Championship side to ever to go up.
Can Webber, Farke and the lads work another miracle next term? Only time will tell.
What encourages me is that Webber says he believes we are “strong enough to give it a good go”.
He believes we’ll need to reinforce the squad but not rip what we have apart. Absolutely.
Webber is realistic to know there will be times when we get a good hiding and learn harsh lessons. Definitely.
More about planning for the future in columns to come. Let’s enjoy continue to celebrate and salute those who have given us such a fantastic campaign.
Time to grow up?
Next week I’ll be 49 years old.
We have a debate in our family when middle age starts and being young ends and being old kicks in.
Age doesn’t bother me. I was never quick, so haven’t lost any pace when I play football.
And whether I’m right or wrong, I can’t help myself being like a kid when it comes to celebrating City’s success.
I have to climb on my seat at the top of the River End when we score key goals (I can’t wait for the moment when Pukki sweeps a winner in against Man City next season.....)
It was great on Saturday to be at the promotion clinching match with my son Tom and two good mates.
We decided after the game that we’d take a detour from the normal way home to Dereham and drive down Prince of Wales Road and Riverside to see the joyous celebrations.
And yes I confess, I couldn’t stop myself from hooting my horn all the way down and yelling out of the window.
One day I’ll grow up (Maybe)......
Give us some credit Danny
I’ve always quite liked Danny Baker. I know that’s controversial..
I used to enjoy his Own Goals And Gaffes videos, I find his Saturday morning 5Live show good fun and have thought as a Millwall fan, he has fought the corner for the Davids against footballing Goliaths.
So I was somewhat miffed that he decided to share this with his 501,000 Twitter followers – “Norwich return to the Premier League. The Championship, like all good parents, will keep their room just as they left it for when they come back home next year.”
Not surprisingly Baker got a barrage of replies from City supporters.
My question is why have such an attitude?
So many in the football world have heaped praise on the Canaries and saluted them for the incredible achievement.
Baker may be right.
But he may well be wrong.
At least give us the chance to give it a good go.