David Hannant: Why I'm begging for a Stuart Webber U-turn

Sporting director Stuart Webber celebrating with the Championship trophy during Norwich City's title

Sporting director Stuart Webber celebrating with the Championship trophy during Norwich City's title celebrations at Villa Park last season Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Norwich City's rampant 7-0 humbling of Huddersfield Town was significant for so many reasons.

Most crucially, it was obviously the most emphatic of statements at a time when City's promotion rivals are starting to stutter.

But pertinently, it also happened to fall on the anniversary of sporting director Stuart Webber's arrival at Carrow Road, ironically enough, from Huddersfield.

As Connor Southwell pointed out in his excellent piece ahead of the game, City's last game before Webber's arrival was actually a 3-0 defeat to the very same Yorkshire side.

The anniversary being marked by the clearest display of the gulf in class between the two sides imaginable almost feels like the stuff of fiction.

Ahead of Webber's arrival, Huddersfield were very much a side on the rise, while City were a ship without a compass, bobbing around aimlessly without any real focus or direction.

But it is almost as if Webber trading the North for the East was a Sliding Doors moment for both clubs, reversing the fortunes and sending them both in the opposite trajectories.

Few things can make such a literal statement as a 10-goal swing between two sides - and that shows the Stuart Webber effect.

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I can't claim to know too much about the inner workings of the Terriers, but judging by the contrasting fortunes of our two clubs, losing Webber harmed Huddersfield as much as it benefited Norwich.

Of course, there needs to be a great deal of credit to Daniel Farke, his backroom staff and obviously the players themselves, but to say Stuart Webber has been a revelation is a wee bit of an understatement for me.

Just take a look at Colney for example.

Before Webber arrived, it would be fair to say that quite a few aspects of the training ground left a bit to be desired.

Now, it has been transformed and the club is investing in the most cutting edge of technologies to advance it even more.

In the past few years we have seen more and more youngsters break through into the first team and there appears to be a real succession plan in place.

Everything just seems so meticulous about the way the club is run, each little feature designed to give City marginal gains, no matter how marginal they are.

Nothing about the Stuart Webber regime cries out slapdash or ill-thought-out - from the biggest of overhauls to the tiniest of details, everything seems to have been planned with the cunningness of a fox who graduated from cunning university with a Masters in cunning.

Last season's relegation was the one blot on the record book of the Stuart Webber era, but this season's reaction to that speaks volumes in itself.

After the fairly questionable time of Jez Moxey, Webber has been an utter breath of fresh air. 

He's ruthless, he's meticulous, but he's also straight-talking, honest and open.

But the way he appears to be a man of principles also makes me wonder if he is the type that is prone to U-turns.

And at this point, there is one thing I am asking of City's sporting director - and that's  a U-turn.

On signing a new contract in 2019, Webber stated that once it expires in summer 2022, he planned to move on.

It seems like only a few weeks ago that he penned this new contract, but we are now fast closing in on his final 12 months at the club, if this remains the case.

Clearly, he's an ambitious man he wants to work at the highest level he can, but my plea to him is this: take us with you.

Football can change very quickly, as we all know, and there is no doubt in my mind he will leave the club in a better state than he found it, but selfishly I don't want to lose him.

What is interesting to consider though is, if we do only have one more year of Stuart Webber left, what will he be doing?

The easy thing for him to do would be to carry on regardless, do what he's doing, without having an eye on what is next for Norwich City.

However, he doesn't strike me as that sort of character, so I'm sure he will be working on laying foundations for whoever picks up the reins from him.

It will certainly prove fascinating to hear about in years to come and if he does decide to move on, it's imperative he is given the final say on who succeeds him - but that isn't something I want to think about personally.

I wrote in this column at the time that I was a bit apprehensive about the sporting director model, but I have never been more delighted to admit I was wrong.

Norwich City sporting director Stuart Webber, back left, alongside business and project director Zoe

Norwich City sporting director Stuart Webber, back left, alongside business and project director Zoe Ward during the recent draw at Wigan, with majority shareholders Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones, front left Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

A funny thing happened On Tuesday afternoon - I saw a City fan had shared the club's announcement of Webber's arrival with a comment on the anniversary.

At a first glance, the words "club statement", "Stuart Webber" and "immediate effect" leapt out and I had a borderline panic attack - before I actually read it. Thanks for that @Ian_M1!

But that snap reaction told me I'm clearly not ready to say farewell to our sporting director - and I doubt I will be in a year's time.

Here's hoping he makes a rare U-turn and decides to stick around beyond 2022 - with him behind the scenes the sky is the limit.

Few things can make you yearn to be back inside a packed Carrow Road than a 7-0 win to all but secure promotion back to the Premier League at first time of asking.

It has been the strangest of campaigns to be a season ticket holder for and while there can't be many supporters who have grown accustomed to the life of an armchair fan,  it has seemed less alien as the season goes on.

Of course, the euphoria of the results do ease the pain of being kept away, the sheer dominance of Tuesday night's victory did hammer home just what you are missing.

With City's biggest promotion rivals all dropping points the day before, even the anticipation and buzz leading up to the game would have been worth the ticket price alone - there would have been a real atmosphere heading to NR1 even before the rout began.

And in a high stakes game, the roar of an early goal to settle the nerves would have sent shivers down the spine - just as Marco Stiepermann's early opener did against Blackburn Rovers two years ago.

For a supporter who hasn't been on the terraces in more than a year, I'd take being there for a cagey 1-0 win, but - to quote one of Chris Goreham's most famous moments of commentary - that takes the biscuit.

What we saw, albeit from our armchairs, was beyond the sublime and certainly beyond the ridiculous.

The way Daniel Farke sets out to play, there is always the likelihood games like these will occur, but on this occasion, eventing just fell into place. It was a joy to behold, even from the sofa.

One piece of BBC Radio Norfolk's commentary stuck with me - in the midst of an age-long sequence of passing either Chris or Grant Holt pointed out that a packed Carrow Road would probably be breathless from the shouting "olé" so much. It really was total football.

But while it goes without saying that I would probably have rather had the 27,000-odd other canaries for company than the one cat and disinterested partner I did have, it was still a game I will remember for a long time.