Norwich have got their man for the Sporting Director role. Hurray. So, what does a Sporting Director actually do, and who the flip is Stuart Webber? Rich spoke to friend of the LYBP, Danny of HTFC-World, to find out.
Rich: Even though we're playing you on Wednesday, I don't want to talk about the football ok? Don't make me. So, lets' talk Stuart Webber instead. He was bought in from Wolves in the summer of 2015 I believe. How big a part has he played in your success since then?
Danny: Huge. He's the man responsible for bringing David Wagner here so he takes credit for that. To be honest, early signs weren't great. Before Wagner joined in November 2015, the summer signings we'd made under Webber/Powell weren't very good but it's rumoured we were already looking to replace Chris Powell at that point so maybe we'd held back. Wagner certainly seems to have had more financial backing than Powell got.
It's difficult to say who's responsible for most of the overseas signings given that Wagner must've known them from his Dortmund days but they're the ones proving to be the biggest successes rather than the signings from the UK.
Rich: In terms of his remit, how wide-ranging is it at Town? Is it simply recruitment/working with the head coach or has he set up a framework for the club from youth level to first team?
Danny: I think the previous man in his role, Ross Wilson, who left for Southampton, put much of the framework in place. But Webber was the one who wanted a different approach from management so he targeted Wagner. Wagner then seems to be the one who's changed things like the training structure and details such as floodlights down at the training ground so I guess they sort of go hand-in-hand. One area we have tried to change is the academy which hasn't really produced the quality we need, but that is still a work in progress.
It's difficult to say from the outside who was responsible for what exactly, much as with the signings. I guess Webber brought in Wagner realising that he'd bring a change in philosophy and approach and supported him along with the chairman Dean Hoyle.
Rich: So very much part of a team pulling in the same direction, which comes from the top down by the sounds of it.
Danny: Yes, there is a definite positive vibe at the club now which Webber helped introduce along with several others but he's certainly responsible for kick-starting it, I'd say. Ross Wilson talked of signing players and developing them as well as bringing them through the academy and selling them on to make a profit, then rinse and repeat. There was a lot of talk about 'pathways' but the signings under him rarely matched those parameters. Webber brought a new approach with the foreign players/coaches. There was less talk of selling players/survival and more of a positive approach, IMO, rather than feeling sorry for ourselves about not having the resources of other clubs at this level.
Rich: That does sound like the kind of culture change we need. I was so impressed by Town when you beat us at Carrow Road, it was such a great team performance and showed us up for the collection of overpaid individuals we are. Part of the reason for that is our transfer policy and lack of structure regarding transfers, so it's encouraging that he changed your approach there.
That relationship between the DoF/SD and the head coach is crucial, is it a close one between Webber and Wagner?
Danny: It seems so, although I think that was much down to Webber/Hoyle allowing Wagner to come in and make the changes he wanted to. I think Webber sold Wagner to Hoyle and then Wagner was allowed to go about his business without many restrictions which he may well have had at other clubs. They must all have a mutual respect and trust of each other for those changes, such as the training ground modifications and foreign transfers, to be made. As far as transfers go, the signings we've made all seem to have been good value. The likes of Schindler, Hefele and Kachunga from Germany would've cost at least twice as much had they come from these shores. But again, how much of that is down to Wagner or Webber, I can't be entirely sure. I presume Wagner identified them and Webber sorted the deals out so credit to both (and the chairman). Like I said earlier, I guess Webber didn't have much confidence in Powell as when he was here we signed Jordy Hiwula from Man City and Kyle Dempsey from Carlisle, neither of whom were played much by Powell and both are now on loan in League 1. But our finances and scouting set-up were such that we were having to take a punt on players from the UK we thought we could develop.
Rich: Well. As sorry as I am to nick him off you of all clubs, Webber sounds just the ticket for what we need. Thanks for the chat and background info on him Danny, and here's hoping you'll be in the Premier League next year, it would be great to see. If not, we may come back for Wagner! ;)
Danny: You're welcome. I heard Webber was lining up Nathan Jones of Luton or Brentford's Dean Smith should Wagner have left earlier this year, so maybe you could stick with them? ;)
Rich was speaking to Danny of htfc-world.com. Check out the site, a must see for the cartoon match reports alone (the Leeds one is just *kisses fingers like a chef*), and follow them on @HTFCWorld