'We've got to go and attack it' – City will stay on the front foot if they seal promotion to the Premier League
Stuart Webber believes Norwich City must stick to their attacking principles, if Daniel Farke’s team can finish the job and seal promotion to the Premier League.
The Canaries’ sporting director was tempted into discussing a possible approach to a top-flight campaign when talking to fans at an informative and often jovial Q&A session organised by the Canaries Trust. Speaking at Carrow Road on Thursday, ahead of the 2-1 victory at Rotherham which pushed City five points clear of third-placed Leeds with eight games remaining, Webber said: “If we get there, we’ve got to go and attack it.
“Along the way we’ll get battered, look what Manchester City did to Schalke (thrashing the German side 7-0 in the Champions League). They did it to Chelsea (6-0 in February), so they can certainly do it to us!
“So it’s about not being scared of that, that can happen. Look at Liverpool-Watford the other week, Liverpool put five on them and it could have been 10 when Watford were eighth in the league or whatever they were then.
“So it’s going in there and trying to attack it but it’s about being realistic and it’s about putting messages out about ‘this is what we are, this is what we do’.
“Yeah, we might get relegated, but hopefully you’ll watch a team who will at least try to win games of football as opposed to just survive.”
On an evening featuring a wide range of subjects – from the Carrow Road atmosphere, to transfers and a visit to Formula One team Red Bull Racing to exchange ideas – Webber spoke honestly about the future.
Against a background of promotion still very much being in the balance, the City chief stressed that promotion wouldn’t necessarily allow for big money to be spent in the transfer market and that sticking with the core of the current successful squad would be most likely, in an effort to maintain the strong spirit which has sparked a title chase.
Webber continued: “If you go in with a negative mindset of ‘we’re just here to survive’, I think you’ll get relegated. You’ve got to have the mindset of being the best you can be and if we do still finish 20th, that’s life.
“What we have to do – if we are fortunate enough to get there – is if we get there and do come down, is not to do what the club has done in the past and put ourselves in the situation of massive financial mismanagement, which could basically bankrupt the club unless you’ve got an unbelievable asset to sell like a James Maddison.
“So that’s where we have to be smart and honest with supporters, about ‘this is what we’re doing, back us and if it’s not good enough then we learn from it’.
“What we can’t do is be naïve and start talking about finishing 17th. We want to finish as high as we can, if we finish 17th then great – I’m sure all of us here would sign for that now – but we’ve got to go there and be the best we can be, if we get there.”
Part of that faith in the current group is due to the man in charge as well, as demonstrated by the new contracts until 2022 for Farke and his coaching staff which were signed last week.
Webber added: “Emi Buendia’s got better over the season for sure, Onel Hernandez when we signed him we knew when he had the ball he was really good and his pace would cause big problems but at no time in his career has he ever had a great end product.
“So with him, he knew that Daniel would really back him and make him a better footballer – and I think he is.
“That’s of a 26-year-old. People think coaching stops at 16, but you can make Alex Tettey a better footballer still, you can make Marco Stiepermann understand the game more, because you coach them, that’s your job.
“It’s about creating that environment where we can find that raw product, put them into a great environment where they can learn, with a coach who he trusts and a club that trusts him.
“Let’s not forget, Emi at the start made a lot of square passes which were getting intercepted and there’s lots of managers who I’ve worked with who are like ‘can’t play him, can’t trust him’ but you have to trust him for him to learn from that mistake.”
But it’s clear Webber is a huge fan of Buendia, also saying: “I remember Luton away in pre-season was his first game for us, and he only played 45 minutes because he started pre-season later and I thought ‘my God, the positions he takes up on the pitch are absolutely frightening’.
“He’s the most talented player I’ve ever worked with. Steve Weaver, the academy manager, I’ve known for 15 years and he said to me ‘Stuart this is the only player in 15 years I’ve ever seen you excited about!’.
“And I was like ‘I’m telling you, Kieran (Scott, head of recruitment) and the guys have found someone special’, not because of his technical level, everyone can see that. It’s his unbelievable levels of intelligence and the positions he picks up.
“I was talking to a centre-half who we played against recently in a back three for one of our competitors, who I’ve known for a little bit, and I said ‘go on then, tell me a bit about Buendia’.
“And he goes ‘he’s impossible to play against because he takes you into areas that you don’t know exist on the pitch’ because he’s that bright, he’ll pop up in places where they’re like ‘who’s picking him up?’ – because he’s just off-the-scale intelligent.”