Paddy Davitt verdict: Stuart Webber means business at Norwich City
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Ambition burns brightly around Stuart Webber. Life at Norwich City this summer will not be dull.
Digest the soundbites of the new sporting director. Study his accelerated career path and this is a 33-year-old unwilling to settle for the status quo. Webber has carved out a reputation as one of the best, most promising exponents of a new breed of football leader by challenging those around him. Players, fans, boards have to fully commit and proceed at the same pace. Nothing in his early weeks at Norwich has smacked of allowing the tried and trusted to continue.
Failure has been endemic, a staleness has gripped the football club. Alex Neil departed before Webber arrived but one of his first tasks was to dismantle the recruitment structure and address the strategy Neil left behind. Ricky Martin's exit sent a clear signal to those inside and outside the football club. This is a new path and loyalty will have to be earned on Webber's watch.
There is a ruthless edge to Huddersfield's former head of football operations that was evident again in the brutally candid manner he spoke to supporters prior to Friday's Brighton league game. There will be change and it will be radical over the close season. Webber may have already formed opinions on many of the options at Alan Irvine's disposal prior to his arrival in Norfolk. Those will have hardened now with each fresh setback and more evidence of defensive vulnerability.
The 33-year-old was even prepared to put a round number on who is to remain beyond a summer cull, if he is able to achieve the levels of success in the hazardous world of football player recruitment that he produced at Huddersfield.
Only '12 to 15' of the current senior roster will form part of the future. That is a savage cut to supposedly one of the best squads in the second tier before a ball was kicked in August. That was the hype. Reality has provided an alternative outcome, albeit City's relatively close proximity to the play-off pack after this weekend's latest round of Championship fixtures illustrates they had the raw material to contest the battle for Premier League spots.
Instead, Norwich City were reduced to the role of reluctant guests at Brighton's Championship promotion party.
The Seagulls' support broke into a spontaneous chorus of 'We are Premier League' within moments of the kick-off. Norwich used to know what that felt like. It may only be 12 months since they were part of the most exclusive club in world football but it feels a long road back.
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Brighton's elevation this season has been constructed on cavalier assurance Norwich, in the crucial moments, look inhibited. The scale of Brighton's promotion celebrations may have partly explained their sluggish display at Carrow Road, but that was an anomaly. Chris Hughton appears to have melded a group who can engage in cut and thrust and grind out tough wins in uncompromising outposts. His former club possess some of the same core elements, but the whole package eludes this current squad.
Spare a thought for Alex Neil, as he watched the action from the television studio perched high above the pitch at Carrow Road.
Neil revealed in the last few days his one big regret was not the manner of his exit or the failure to plot a second promotion push but misplaced loyalty; too many of the old timers had to be jettisoned following relegation from the Premier League.
In that assessment there appears common ground between the old and new. Webber is now tasked with managing regime change and a cultural shift.
The identity of his preferred head coach will be revealed in the coming weeks. Then the rebuild can begin in earnest. Brighton, under the measured Hughton, have shown the value of a clear set of values and a common sense of purpose. Webber appears to exude both.
Norwich should resist the temptation to cast envious glances as Brighton prepare for a great leap forward. Life is about to get very interesting in Norfolk again.