Webber considering long-term future outside football after abuse

Left: in the dugout at Carrow Road. Right: in front of a wall showing the homegrown players who have made first-team appearances for Norwich.

Left: in the dugout at Carrow Road. Right: in front of a wall showing the homegrown players who have made first-team appearances for Norwich.

NORWICH CITY Sporting Director Stuart Webber admits his long-term future may not lie in football after revealing the abuse he has experienced from some sections of the club’s fanbase in the last year.

Webber was appointed as Norwich’s first Sporting Director in April 2017 and has led them to two promotions to the Premier League, as well as overseeing the transformation of the club’s Colney training ground.

However, in the last year he has come in for criticism from some sections of both the local media and fanbase after the Canaries were relegated back to the Championship. They currently sit in seventh place, one off the play-offs places.

The 38-year-old has been specifically criticised for taking on a series of mountain challenges that will culminate in a climb up Everest later this year. Last April the Eastern Daily Press ran a front page questioning the Welshman’s commitment to the club.

Speaking on the Training Ground Guru Podcast, the 38-year-old was asked about his personal ambitions for the future.

He said: “If you had asked me that five years ago, I would probably have had a real clear, ‘I want to work in Spain or Germany or do this or that.’ There’s still part of me that wants to work abroad, but I have definitely gone more away from being obsessed with being in football all my life.

“I think my future might be away from that. I love Formula One. Is there an avenue I could work in there? Is it in business? Because, if anything the last year has probably taught me is do I want to be getting abused in the street when I’m 60?

“I’m not sure I want to be doing that. This game, I love it, but there’s a flip side of it, which I think is getting worse and worse now, of what people deem as acceptable to say to you.

“The worst thing is if you’re with your son and your wife, or one of them. It’s like there’s a grown man there calling me the c-word in front of a six-year-old. I don’t think that’s ok. But if you get in a confrontation you’re probably being filmed by his mate, so you can’t win. You just have to walk along.

“That’s disappointing if that’s what society has come to now. I don’t think anybody should have to go to work and put up with that. Don’t get me wrong, if I was going to a pub every Saturday night in the middle of the city, you’re almost asking for it.

“It still isn’t right, but you’re in an environment where everyone is drunk, probably coked up, you’re going to get a bit of that. I don’t, I have a very very quiet life. It’s in and around the stadium, stuff like that.

“I don’t like it, I don’t think it’s right, but it also helps teach you, ‘I’m not sure I want to do that forever, I think there’s got to be something else.’ Because what I won’t let it do is kill my love and enthusiasm for the game.

“Because one thing I definitely know I want to do when I’m 60 is to be watching football, with my son, with my family, with my friends, and loving the game. The day I ever stop doing that would definitely be the day I leave, because I’m not letting my little kid of how I have always see football being tarnished by anyone to be honest.”

Webber has not spoken to the Eastern Daily Press since the front page about him last April.

He said: “The local paper didn’t help when they did some headline, ‘Do you want this job’ or something and it was like, excuse me? For five years I had given the local paper all of my time. Any time they rang, messaged - on the record, off the record - I was there to answer, through difficult periods, through good periods.

“I didn’t think I deserved a headline like that to be honest. That has ended in the breakdown between me and them, which I think is very different from between the club and them.”

Webber also said he stood by his decision to take on the mountain challenges, with money raised going to help young people in the Norfolk area to achieve their potential, via The Summit Foundation he has set up with his wife Zoe, Norwich’s Executive Director.

“People try and have a dig now - ‘you’re more interested in climbing mountains mate,’” Webber said. “I might go and climb a mountain in June instead of going on holiday with my family. My family are probably the ones who should have the bigger issue with that, not the club.

“I’m not doing anything which hasn’t had the blessing of the owners. I’ve never been away at business-critical times. I also think with the level of staff we’ve got here, its an insult to them if I can’t be away for a week climbing Mont Blanc, where I still have phone signal every day. You don’t get up at 5am and climb until five at night, it’s often short windows.

“And I’m not embarrassed to say I want to have a hobby. When you’ve given six years (of) everything to the club, missing holidays, missing son’s birthdays, mother’s important birthdays, I’m not embarrassed to admit I’m going to take the odd week off to go climbing, to achieve a dream I’ve had since I was a little child, with the club’s blessing.”

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