On Wednesday, Sporting Director Stuart Webber and Academy Manager Steve Weaver addressed members of the local media to discuss the future of the Norwich City Academy.
A summary of the topics can be found below.
Webber on the importance of remaining a Category One academy
If we were to lose our status, it would be a chink in our armour because no other club in this location has got it. If we’re smart about our recruitment there are players out there who we can get.
We’ve got a one club approach now how we do it, whether that is recruitment, sports science, coaching, medical, whatever. We’ve got a recruitment team in place now from the first-team down that is very youth-focused and development-focused that we will maybe get into areas where people are fast-asleep and take the talents.
That’s where I think potentially for the academy, it could be an exciting time that we’re about to embark on.
Weaver on the advantage of being the only Category One academy in the area
The nearest one is probably 100 miles away so you need the level of football for the level of talent. I think it’s important, both for the football club and the area, to have a category one academy, so to be represented within the football structure. Otherwise, if you’ve got a guy whose level is category one, he may have to travel 100 miles to get there so I think it’s important for the area.
Webber on the recent changes at the Academy
We want to be a club that gets promoted but we have to understand where we are and the parameters we work within. If you have less money, you’ve got to be creative and you’ve got to work harder and it’s the same with the Academy. That’s reason we’ve brought in Steve [Weaver] and Dean [Wright, Assistant Academy Manager], and I’m sure there’ll be others in the future.
We actually think the productivity can improve and not only in our academy - this is a disease in academy football, I believe, in our country. We do so many things because other people do it. So it’s like: “We’ve got eight analysts because Derby or Leeds or West Brom has.” We need to strip it back.
One of the initiatives we’re starting at the moment is getting our best young talents every couple of weeks to come and train with the first-team staff. It might be from our best 15-year-old up to 18 and there might be a group of 10 who get to train with Eddie [Riemer] or Christian [Flüthmann] and have Daniel [Farke] watch it. They start to become part of our conversation.
Webber on giving local talent a chance
If there’s a Norfolk kid, we have to find a pathway for him if he’s good enough. We’re seeing it in a bizarre way with Angus [Gunn] but unfortunately he’s not our player. Football is about supporters, it’s an entertainment industry and it’s about supporters. As someone stood out there, you want to watch, first and foremost, one of your own, ideally, in a successful team.
We have a duty to provide that and if we can’t do that then we have to start looking further afield. The benefit of being category one is that does give us the opportunity to reach into wider areas and into London and the east Midlands. We can recruit from distance to maybe plug the gaps where the local ones [clubs] can’t fill it.
Webber on the players the Club wants to produce
We’re here to produce three types of players. We’re here to produce players like the Murphys who become starting players for our team in the Championship or Premier League who we can sell for money or they help us achieve our goals for the first-team. The second player is the player who can come into our squad and be, say, a fourth choice centre-back, rather than buying in a fourth choice centre-back for a few million quid and playing them £12,000 a week. The third player is the one we sell on that will give us money for the future. They're the three types of player we have to produce.
Weaver on the direction the Academy is heading
A lot of clubs go down the route of having a successful team at academy level but I think the model that Stuart is talking about is providing opportunities for young players and to see if they can seize it.
You don’t get an awful lot of players for your money now, even at first-team level. The money you spend on an academy now, whether its £1/£2/£3 million, if you were to spend that in the Premier League, what does it buy you? However, if you provide an opportunity for a young player, that turns itself around. It’s important for every football club to not be afraid of giving opportunities for young players. Sometimes you have to provide little openings for them to walk through.