Webber: Norwich approach will stay the same in Premier League

Webber cited Jamal Lewis as an example of the Norwich approach to youth 

Webber cited Jamal Lewis as an example of the Norwich approach to youth 

SPORTING DIRECTOR Stuart Webber insists Norwich City will stick to their values despite being promoted to the “millionaires’ league”.

The Canaries returned to the Premier League after a three-year absence by winning the Championship last season. However, Webber, who joined from Huddersfield in April 2017, said they would not now be dramatically changing course.

This would be in stark contrast to Fulham, who were promoted in 2017/18 and then embarked on a spending spree that saw them sign 12 new players at a cost of more than £100 million before going straight back down.

Speaking at TGG’s Youth Development Conference in Manchester on Wednesday, Webber said: “We have to keep developing our young players, we have to keep making smart recruitment decisions, we have to keep developing our environment, our culture, our togetherness, our connection with the fans.

“That can’t stop just because we’re now in the millionaires’ league. It’s really hard not to do that, because you’re getting offered players who could break your wage structure that you think, ‘what a fantastic player he could be for us’.

“We have to be strong and ignore the noise when the pressure comes on and Gary Neville or whoever is on Sky on a Monday night slagging us off. That’s when we’ve have to say, ‘you know what, this is what we do’. And if that’s not enough to keep us in the Premier League, that’s alright, we’ll come again.

“This promotion has enabled us to pay for the training ground, so already we’re better off than the last few promotions. So if we do end up back in the Championship, we’ll have a ridiculous amount of assets on the pitch and a fantastic training ground, so you’re like, ‘we’re stronger and ready to go again’.”

At the Youth Development Conference, Webber delivered a presentation titled ‘How to create a development pathway while remaining successful on the pitch.’ Homegrown players Max Aarons, Todd Cantwell, Ben Godfrey and Jamal Lewis all played important roles in Norwich’s title-winning campaign.

Webber used the example of left-back Lewis to demonstrate how important opportunity is in developing young players. The defender, who was signed as a 16-year-old from Luton Town in 2014, was a mainstay under Head Coach Daniel Farke last season, making 46 appearances.

He made his debut as a substitute against Brentford on December 23rd 2017 and his first start on Boxing Day against Birmingham.

Lewis ended 2018/19 as the club’s young player of the year, a full international for Northern Ireland and has now played more than 70 games for the Canaries.

“If you watch Jamal Lewis now, you wouldn’t believe it, but he’s actually not much different to two years ago, other than that he’s bulked a bit,” Webber said.

“He’s an unbelievable athlete. On day one of pre-season (in 2017/18), he won every race against the first team. Straight away you’re like, ‘he’s a Premier League athlete.’ Tick.

“Mentality? Unbelievable. Everyone’s like, ‘oh, yeah, he’s always the last one here, he’s always working on his game.’ Big tick.

“Technically proficient. Not top, but proficient, for sure. And he’s our best one v one defender. So you’re like ‘we’re not Real Madrid with the greatest of respect, we’re Norwich City in the Championship and have just finished ninth, so let’s give this guy a chance.’

“He probably summed the club up a little bit.”

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