Time for the blood-letting to stop at Norwich City
- Credit: Huddersfield Examiner
Stuart Webber is tasked with plotting a footballing renaissance at Norwich City. But PADDY DAVITT argues his first major task is to help build bridges.
In the avalanche of words, soundbites and opinions since Stuart Webber was first linked with Norwich City one sentence stands out.
It was from Webber himself, contained in the final paragraph of the official club statement released yesterday announcing his departure from Huddersfield and his arrival in these parts.
Hours earlier, the squad Webber helped construct under a head coach he recruited dished out another Championship hammering to a rudderless group of young men in green and yellow.
The Terriers sealed a first league double over Norwich since 1968 with a devastating second half burst that brutally exposed the faultlines and the deficiencies woven into a squad he has now inherited.
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The lack of conviction, the chronic dearth of confidence and the sense of drift had been masked until Ryan Bennett failed again to deal with a probing ball from Tommy Smith and Elias Kachunga did the rest.
Bennett is not a scapegoat, he is a symptom of a wider malaise.
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Huddersfield, under David Wagner's astute leadership, appear a cohesive, well-organised entity. An amalgam of Premier League loan players, clever signings from untapped markets and the promotion of youth. There is an identity and a philosophy, in marked contrast to the discord and the disconnect between Alex Neil's former charges and those who follow with an increasing sense of duty rather than enjoyment.
Webber already appears to have sensed this. For all the football-related credentials that mark him out as the outstanding candidate for the club's top brass to head up a new era at Carrow Road, the 33-year-old clearly appears to possess a finely-attuned grasp of human nature.
'I can't wait to get started,' he said, as he ticked the obligatory boxes regarding the size of the opportunity presented by a club who still command respect as one of the biggest and best-supported brands in the top two tiers of English football. 'We've got a big job on our hands, which everyone knows, so let's stick together and get on with it.'
Stick together. Two simple words with so much meaning. A common purpose. A common goal. Strength in numbers, strength in a collective bond.
Norwich had it in the recent past. Paul Lambert was the chief architect as he melded a disparate group of unheralded players, forged a strong link with those on the terraces and took both on an unforgettable journey, underpinned by David McNally's no nonsense corporate pragmatism.
They re-discovered the same gene again when Alex Neil first arrived to galvanise an under-performing squad into a concerted promotion push that ended in a stunning Wembley success. But they have lost their way. As a club, as a management, as a squad.
Norwich have been caught and passed by progressive rivals such as Huddersfield Town, who might not carry the same burden of expectation, yet have performed far beyond what any unaware of the quiet revolution underway in West Yorkshire thought possible.
Webber faces some major challenges ahead. The head coach appointment is every bit as critical as the sporting director. The nuances of that relationship, the spheres of influence between the two roles will become clearer in the days and weeks ahead but it is vital the chemistry is right and the messaging is consistent.
There is a seismic summer of change ahead. Alan Irvine alluded to it when he sifted through the wreckage of another pummelling on the road. Russell Martin referenced it when he took one again for the rest of his team mates minutes after the final whistle. The winds of change need to blow hard.
City must be proactive and creative in re-shaping a squad; in finding the constituent parts to marry creative attacking potential with defensive resolve. Webber's ability to transport the formula that worked at Huddersfield, and before that Wolves, will dictate success or failure.
But perhaps of far greater consequence is repairing a damaged relationship that is the lifeblood of any football club. Between those who lead and those who follow. Both must share the same vision and chase the same dream.
Too often in the descent from the top of the mountain it has felt like a relationship enduring irreconcilable differences. Webber has tapped a vein in his first public statements. The healing process has to start from here.