‘Our young players will run through a brick wall for this club’ – Stuart Webber
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Stuart Webber says Norwich City’s young guns have formed an irresistible alliance with the club’s fans on the march towards Championship promotion.
City’s sporting director and head coach Daniel Farke have prioritised the development of youth players like Max Aarons, Jamal Lewis and Ben Godfrey from the playing fields of Colney – and seen their policy pay off in sensational fashion.
“As a fan, nothing connects you to the club like seeing your own boys playing, that’s just a fact,” said Webber.
“Our young players will run through a brick wall for this club because they feel like they owe something back, whereas senior players might walk around the wall or walk the other way.
“The youngsters bring an enthusiasm to training every day. Hopefully, they know now that they will get a chance and they will get a chance at a big club in front of big crowds.”
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In an interview with Sky Sports ahead of Friday night’s televised game at home to Swansea City, Webber explains how, on his arrival in April 2017, it was clear that changes needed to be made to the youth development system.
“There were players here who thought they should be in the Premier League and had maybe lost a bit of the hunger,” Webber said. “So when I came in the attitude was to make the academy work. We have a category one academy and we invest a lot of money in it. But when I came, what were we getting from it?
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“The Murphy brothers (Jacob and Joshua) were regulars but I think Chris Martin was the only regular prior to that. What were we doing with it? What was the plan? It was about joining it up. People talk about the role of a sporting director and how it undermines the manager but there has to be someone creating that bridge for these players to walk over.
“The problem is that if you ask any manager in the world whether they want an 18-year-old kid or a 28-year-old striker who has won promotion four times they are going to go for the 28-year-old striker. Why wouldn’t they? If you are a manager it’s your head on the block so you’re going to go for the safe option. That’s just what happens.”
City sold Josh Murphy and top scorer James Maddison last summer, leaving some to question the club’s direction – a question which has now been answered.
“We lost some big names and everyone gets fixated on Murphy and Maddison,” said Webber. “I understand that because we lost 25 goals in a team that wasn’t scoring enough goals. I completely get it.
“I am big on clarity with supporters because they pay their money so I wanted to tell them the truth that we needed to invest in youth and balance things up. It is all stuff that people are happy to hear but they want to win as well. So it was hard but we were confident that people would start to see progress this season. You just need a bit of time.”