'We want to be more ambitious' - City chasing the top 17 dream

Norwich City sporting director Stuart Webber during a press conference at Carrow Road, Norwich. Pict

Norwich City sporting director Stuart Webber spoke to the media at Carrow Road - Credit: Simon Marper/PA Wire

The ‘top 26’ mantra is finished with at Norwich City and has been replaced by full focus on Premier League survival, Stuart Webber has assured supporters. 

As the Canaries have bounced between the top flight and Championship in recent years that previously stated ambition has become something of an easy subject of ridicule. 

Yet having spent big following promotion and changed head coach after a disappointing opening 11 matches, City's mantra now is to aim for a consistent position in the top 17 of English football.

“We’ve had three years of proving that we can be top 26, so like everything in life, you’re re-evaluating your objectives and what’s next for the club,” sporting director Webber explained. 

“As a club we are not just happy being in the top 26. If that’s what it ends up being, that’s what it ends up being, in life. But we want to be more ambitious than that. 

“That’s why we did the investment in the summer and the investment during the last three years around the infrastructure and the academy, to put those building blocks in place to try and become established as a Premier League club. 

“When you walk around the training ground, when you see the fanbase, the youth productivity and things like that – it's built to stay in the Premier League. 

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“It’s incredibly challenging, there’s a reason why it’s called the hardest league in the world and why it has the most money in the world.” 

The Welshman is out of contract at the end of the season but has suggested that would change soon, speaking in an interview before the decision to dismiss Daniel Farke and three members of his coaching team. 

As City fans await news on that front, Webber continues to focus on long-term planning and objectives. 

“Let’s hope we’re sat here in three or four years saying what’s next? That’s how we have to do it. We can’t just run the club on a day-to-day basis,” he continued. 

“When Daniel left, it’s like ‘I can’t believe you’ve done it after a win’, well why are we going to make the decision on one game? The referee could have given a horrendous decision, we lose 1-0 and hit the bar eight times, and they say ‘you need to get rid of someone’. 

“So it’s about constantly trying to think more forward than that, constantly trying to think of innovations, because if you haven’t got some of the financial resource that our competitors have got, then we’ve got to be more creative.” 

Norwich City Sporting Director Stuart Webber during the Lotus Training Centre and SoccerBot360 launc

Norwich City sporting director Stuart Webber at the Lotus Training Centre recently - Credit: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

City’s self-sustainable model is well-publicised but after a start to another campaign that has suggested millionaires will struggle to compete on the billionaires’ playground, Webber remains determined to defy the odds. 

Asked if there was a limit to a self-funded club’s capability in the Premier League, he responded: “I don’t know but if we go into that mindest then, let’s close football down, hey?!  

“We saw what happened six months ago with the so-called top six (and the Super League breakaway), when I’m sure you guys (journalist) were hammering them. 

“If we just go back to believing that money is the only way, then what is the point of football? Let’s get rid of all the little clubs and just have the big clubs in a top six, shall we? 

“You’ve got to believe. You’ve got to give your supporters, your staff, the community, the players and everyone around it, belief that you can achieve big things - otherwise, what’s the point?"

New Norwich City head coach, Dean Smith, at the press conference at Carrow Road, with Stuart Webber,

New Norwich City head coach Dean Smith alongside sporting director Stuart Webber, left, at Carrow Road - Credit: Denise Bradley

Webber had spoken out three weeks ago about unfair criticism from sections of the national media and isn’t bothered about whether replacing Farke with Dean Smith placates some of those noisier outlets. 

“The issue is lazy journalism when people don’t get their facts right, when people say we haven’t spent anything. Just Google it and you’ll find that. It’s not too difficult, I don’t think,” he added. 

“But I don’t think this decision has been born out of proving to anyone that we’re giving it a go. The decision has been born out of what is right for Norwich City Football Club, how do we give ourselves the best chance of staying in the Premier League not just for one year, because there are plenty of clubs who have stayed up for a year and are nowhere to be seen now, that can’t be us. 

“It’s got to be how can we stay up and how can we strive. If the worst happens, how do we get back and how do we strive next time? 

“That’s what this decision has been born out of. If it proves people wrong at the end, great, but we don’t really care about that noise. 

“A few weeks ago, it was to put a few facts on the table because there were too many lies, people actually going on radio stations and TV stations and lying. That was where I thought we had to say something back because we’re just going to be getting bullied. 

“When you’re getting bullied, you have to punch someone back or you just keep getting beaten up – and we weren’t willing to do that as a football club.” 

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