Stuart Webber - the builder in a hurry at Norwich City
- Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021
When Stuart Webber arrived at Norwich City, he discovered a club with a desperate desire to head in a different direction.
The board of directors had become frustrated with the unequal hierarchy that often saw the power shared between two principal people; the chief executive and football manager.
The omnipotency of those positions meant the football club lurched between styles, players and were unable to build anything capable of enduring the everchanging nature of football.
Webber was headhunted after a body of work at Huddersfield Town that had impressed City's decision-makers - who were tracking his progress prior to his eventual appointment at Carrow Road.
Conversations with Damien Comolli and a series of others in football saw Webber top a shortlist for the newly created role of sporting director. He would become the leading figure of the club's sporting department and responsible for overseeing the long-term outlook of the club.
It's worth remembering the environment in which he inherited.
Norwich had no head coach. No real assets in their first-team. A gym that was shoehorned into a conservatory. An ageing squad. Portacabins aplenty at Colney and, most pressingly, a football team that was critically underperforming.
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His first task was to recruit a new head coach capable of implementing a football philosophy that would boast success, be open-minded in the transfer market and provide an opportunity to the wealth of talented young players that were in the academy.
Enter Daniel Farke.
City's first ever coach from outside the UK & Ireland was handpicked after extensive conversations. Externally, this looked like Webber hoping to repeat the magic trick that helped his former employers reach the Premier League under David Wagner.
It was anything but. Farke's credentials and understanding of the project saw him switch the Signal Iduna Park for Carrow Road.
Farke was the unknown man tasked with implementing the blueprint that Webber carried into Colney.
Although the first year of the project was painful and a transition, City had created one of the hottest properties in English football in James Maddison and had reduced the average age of the starting XI.
The wave of fresh arrivals began - Mario Vrancic, Marco Stiepermann and Onel Hernandez were all signed during the first year.
Off the pitch, work began to upgrade Colney and bring their training facilities into the 21st century. A League Cup game against Arsenal paid for new floodlights, a supporters bond funded the new academy building and gym.
Webber had helped construct a football team that has managed to achieve promotion to the Premier League, improved standards around the club and helped invest in the infrastructure.
These changes were radical but given City's self-funding model, essential if they were to continue being sustainable.
Even minor details at Colney were improved - staff members were introduced to the canteen to help visitors and be an additional friendly face. Players were urged to be polite and it is a rarity to see anyone in Norwich City uniform that doesn't say hello when present at their training base.
There was a need to build a bridge between the academy to provide chances for players but there was also a financial necessity as well. Norwich have been forced to sell their stars throughout Webber's reign in order to strengthen collectively.
He is tough in the transfer market. He does not suffer fools gladly.
Webber's transparency after the eras of Jez Moxey and wider reluctance to share information in football was welcomed by supporters, his straight-talking seen as a strength.
Internally, he has focused minds and revamped departments - that included a cull of staff after his arrival, City legend Darren Huckerby was one of a number of people to lose their jobs.
He is a man in a hurry. Someone with grand plans that go wider than merely football.
Webber has had admirers inside the game since he joined Norwich, those are growing by the year.
He is a builder of football clubs. His desire to leave the Canaries in a healthy position has fuelled the work we've all witnessed throughout the last four and a half years.
His detail extends to his obsession with pitches. Norwich have vastly improved their playing surfaces at both Colney and Carrow Road to match with the latest technology.
There are questions that are still being asked of him.
As successful as his recruitment has been in the Championship, he has thus far failed to reproduce that on the biggest stage. Norwich are still bouncing around the divisions and there's still uncertainty around whether they will be good enough this time around.
That is what made the decision to dispense with Farke and appoint Dean Smith so fascinating.
The brutality of the dismissal - merely hours after a victory against Brentford - shocked City supporters but this was a pre-meditated move that had been coming since a 7-0 drubbing against Chelsea.
To that point, the debate had been surrounding whether Farke was underachieving as a Premier League head coach - in which case, he was to blame for their meek start.
Or, whether it was the recruitment of the players, in which case the blame would have laid at Webber's door.
City's sporting director has taken the view of the former. Make no mistake, this was the biggest decision of his career to date.
If Smith improves performances and keeps City in the Premier League, then Webber's decision will be justified. If he doesn't, then many will begin to point to those who arrived at the club during the summer.
The Premier League may be the biggest stage for players to impress, but the same is true for sporting directors.
Above all, it is designed to quieten the noise surrounding his contractual status. In reality, it will merely raise more questions.
A rolling contract does offer increased stability for Norwich, but not to the extent his three-year deal did previously. Webber has always maintained he is not going to leave the club in the lurch when the day does arrive for him to depart the football club.
He is the architect of this current iteration of Norwich City.
Webber set the culture, shaped the squad and appointed the head coach. The version of the club standing today is the one he has constructed from the wreckage of what has gone before.
He is somebody who drags people and clubs forward very quickly but there is also an acceptable from himself that the intensity of his work may be a turn off to some in the long-term.
Webber may be playing the infinite game at Norwich City but he is not somebody who watches clock and lets time pass him by.
It is undeniably in a healthier state than when he arrived - but Webber will be looking at the job as incomplete.
No builder leaves the house when the roof has not been put on. Webber will feel the same about Norwich City - hence the decision to put pen to paper on a new contract.