'That was a huge reason that we appointed him' – Farke integral to City's plans for academy modernisation
Ahead of the Canaries Bond opening, David Freezer digs deeper into sporting director Stuart Webber’s thoughts on the scheme to revolutionise Colney.
Evidence of a clear pathway to the first team for young players is integral, if investors are going to help Norwich City raise £3.5million for new academy facilities at Colney.
The much-discussed Canaries Bond opens on Wednesday, with a minimum threshold of £2m and a maximum of £5m.
Investors able to put in increments of £500 which will pay 5pc gross interest annually, an additional 3pc gross in club credit and a one-off 25pc bonus if City are promoted to the Premier League.
The Canaries hierarchy hope this will spread the cost of funding much-needed improvements to Colney, without affecting the first-team budget as life outside the riches of the Premier League continues.
A new academy base, gym building, dressing rooms and improvements to pitches will bring the training complex up to modern standards, with the full £5m being attracted potentially even bringing floodlights and a stand for the academy pitch.
Sporting director Stuart Webber explained that the idea started after receiving unbudgeted money from a League Cup fourth round tie at Arsenal back in October.
“We then took it to board level and said we want to develop Colney,” he explains. “We appreciate we haven’t got the money from the Premier League any more but we want to get away from that excuse.
“Let’s try and do something rather than sitting around moaning.
“So that’s when we got to the point of this bond and it was actually Tom Smith who had the idea of (sports investment firm) Tifosy as he’d seen that in action with the Stevenage stand project.
“Then it really built as a group, with myself, Steve Stone (managing director), Zoe Ward (director of player admin), Jon Leggett (director of operations) and Ben Dack (director of finance and company secretary) as a group really focusing in and it grew really quickly to the point where five months later and we were joking that it went from a chat about how we could get floodlights at Colney, to now hopefully getting this building done – if we can raise the money in a way that hopefully makes sense for the club and the people who want to invest in it.
“Rather than just begging for money or just sat here waiting and saying ‘if we get to the Premier League we’ll do it’ but then when we get to the Premier League spend it on a striker, get relegated and say ‘oh, next time’ and then 10 years down the line Colney is still no better.”
However, Webber acknowledges there is little point in chasing such improvements to the Colney facilities unless the first team will benefit from the talent the system produces.
City are actually 95 games deep into a run of successive matches in which an academy product has played, with former manager Alex Neil deserving some of the credit for that for bringing through the Murphy twins last season and current head coach Daniel Farke continuing that with Jamal Lewis, Josh Murphy, Angus Gunn and Todd Cantwell this season.
Webber continued: “We’re really fortunate here that we’ve got a guy in Daniel and with Jamal Lewis, people forget, when Daniel gave Jamal his debut away at Birmingham if we had lost that game we could have gone four points off relegation and then we’d have been in a relegation fight, let’s be frank, at that point.
“And he’s chucked a 19-year-old kid in for his first start, after playing 20 minutes or whatever against Brentford four days earlier, and I think that shows the quality of Daniel and what he is in terms of buying into the club’s ethos.
“That was a huge reason that we appointed him, if you think right back to when we appointed him, what were the reasons? It was that we needed to look at opportunities in the transfer market, someone who is open-minded to foreign players, the style of play is not there yet but people can see it and are starting to get the idea.
“But the third thing was giving young players a chance and no-one can argue that, not only our academy players, but guys like Christoph Zimmermann and Tom Trybull who most people had never heard of.
“So in terms of Daniel, he’s a key component to this and when we sat down to talk about ideas for asking for this money, we knew we could have a high level of confidence because the guy at the top who is the most important – who picks the 11 players for the first team games – who also believes in it and will back it and if there’s a young player who’s good enough, he’ll play him.
“Because if not, we may as well not have the facilities.”
• For full details and terms for investing in the bond, go to tifosy.com/canaries