Norwich City move is perfect for Stuart Webber, says former Tottenham and Liverpool director Damien Comolli
PUBLISHED: 08:00 12 April 2017 | UPDATED: 12:25 12 April 2017
Damien Comolli’s verdict on Stuart Webber counts. The 33-year-old was unveiled as Norwich City’s new sporting director last week. STUART HODGE spoke to the football guru to get the inside track.
Stuart Webber’s former boss Damien Comolli is adamant that the Canaries’ new sporting director is the perfect man to build Norwich City into an established Premier League club.
And Comolli knows what he’s talking about, having previously operated in a similar role with Premier League giants Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool – where he worked with Webber when the Welshman was head of academy recruitment between 2009 and 2012.
The Frenchman says he identified similarities between himself and Webber right away and has not been surprised by his protege’s subsequent success.
“I remember the first time I met him,” says Comolli. “I had just arrived at Liverpool and I went to visit the academy facility and he gave me a lift back to the first team training ground and said: ‘I’ve never had anybody in my car from the first team environment and have never had the chance to talk to anybody working with them since I’ve been at Liverpool.’
“So I said to him, ‘Well I hope you’ve enjoyed it because you’re going to see my face and hear my voice a lot because that’s how I work.’
“He told me that was perfect and tied in with exactly what he wanted to do with the academy so we are quite similar in that respect and I have to say from that day forward he was absolutely brilliant.
“As well as being very bright and hard-working, he’s a likeable guy. I’m delighted because in terms of the size of the club and the passion of the fanbase it’s definitely a good move for him.”
After turning around the fortunes of Huddersfield Town, a club with far more modest expectations than Norwich, Webber is about to undertake an altogether bigger challenge with the Canaries.
His appointment of the relatively unknown David Wagner to the head coach post at Huddersfield has proven to be as successful as it was imaginative and many are hoping that the 33-year-old might make a similarly bold and eye-catching move at Carrow Road.
Much has been made of the fact City have never had a foreign manager and a number of people are now expecting Webber to plump for a candidate from abroad.
Comolli says this season shows that nationality is no barrier to how successful a manager can be in the Championship and admits it would be remiss of any sporting director not to keep their options open.
“Every sporting director has always got four or five targets in mind as a potential manager or head coach,” explains the 44-year-old, who has also worked at Arsenal under Arsene Wenger and St Etienne in his homeland. Comolli spent seven seasons as a European scout with the Gunners and was credited with bringing the likes of Kolo Touré, Emmanuel Eboué and Gaël Clichy to north London.
“Even if things are going well at the club, you always have to be on your toes and have a shortlist in mind just in case something happens.
“That’s part of the job, part of the industry, you don’t have any other choice other than to be constantly prepared because a manager can leave for a bigger club or be sacked at any moment so you always have to have it in mind.
“I’m sure he’s got in his mind a shortlist for Norwich, but whether he will recommend to the board somebody who is foreign or British, I really don’t know.
“What I do know is there is this thing in English football, and it’s a type of self-protection mode, where people say, ‘In the Championship, you need a British manager’. But if you look at the three of the top four clubs in the Championship right now you have Spanish, German and Dutch coaches in charge of those clubs. You have the managers of Fulham and Sheffield Wednesday who are both foreign as well.
“So I think people need to broaden their horizons massively. This common thinking that ‘you cannot succeed if you don’t have a British manager’, is wrong – and what’s happening this season has just served to convince me even more that anybody who is good can be successful, regardless of their nationality.”