By Chris Dunlavy
DANNY Webb had one major drawback as a player – he spent the vast majority of his career in the wrong position.
Fans of Southend, Hull and Brighton remember a plodding striker, dogged and diligent but lacking the instincts to truly frighten defenders.
A record of nine goals in 109 games – the vast majority of them as a substitute – explain why Webb’s days as a Football League marksman ended the day Cambridge were relegated to the Conference in 2005.
Also, why his eclectic CV includes 12 permanent clubs, four more on loan and a stint in Malta with Brian Talbot’s Marsaxlokk.
Strikers are judged on goals and, for all the selfless dogwork, Webb never delivered enough to warrant a contract extension.
Yet later, at Wimbledon, Bath and Salisbury, he blossomed as a defender, a man described by Adie Britton as a natural at centre-half.
“When Danny moved into the back four he did really well,” said Britton, who signed Webb for Bath City in 2010.
“He was a quality centre-half, as anybody who has watched him regularly will tell you. A ball-winner, an organiser, good strength and pace.
“For me, it was his best position without a doubt.”
If Webb’s career was stymied by identity crisis, it was also doomed to be defined by his famous father.
Webb Snr made 299 appearances for Chelsea and scored an impressive 33 goals from full-back, including that legendary extra-time winner against Don Revie’s Leeds in 1970.
Like his son, he was no stranger to multi-tasking.
He once scored a hat-trick against Ipswich as an emergency centre-forward and famously kept a clean sheet against the same opponents after regular stopper Peter Bonetti was caught in traffic.
He was already a hard act to follow, and matters weren’t helped when Webb Snr spent £10,000 of Southend’s money to sign his son from Southampton’s academy, then gave him a debut at 17.
“I was playing in a team that weren’t doing very well,” Webb recalled in 2011. “If you are a fan who pays your money and are looking for someone to have a go at, it’s going to be the manager’s son.
“There was some hardcore abuse, a few people waiting for me outside grounds. I was 17, straight out of school. You don’t expect that and I found it tough to take.”
Tales of his father’s heroics were omnipresent, from taxi drivers outside Stamford Bridge to the journalists who descended every time Webb had a Cup run.
Yet he never resented the comparisons or the advice.
“Dad still watches me every game and gives me pointers as to how I can improve,” he said in 2011. “Why wouldn’t I listen? He has been there and knows what he is talking about.” Another major influence in Webb’s early career was Peter Taylor, the former England manager who signed the young striker for Brighton and then Hull.
“Danny’s got a great attitude,” said Taylor in 2003. “He works incredibly hard for the team and that can often go unnoticed, but not by me.”
Though rarely a starter, Webb won promotion at both clubs.
A further promotion with Wimbledon followed in 2008, this time from the Ryman Premier under Terry Brown.
“We got him from Brian Talbot in Malta,” recalled Brown. “He always gave 100 per cent and was a pleasure to work with.
“Punctual, professional, popular in the dressing room – a lovely boy.
“Brian told me he’d played him at centre-half and I remember thinking how handy it would be to have a player who could do two positions. He did equally well in both.”
In a strange quirk of fate, Webb returned to Kingsmeadow the following year with Salisbury and, like his father, ended up in goal.
“I remember him getting a tremendous amount of stick off the Wombles,” laughs Brown. “I think they were inferring he was a better keeper than he was a player, but it was all in jest. He was a very popular character there.”
Now those parallels have come full circle, with Webb replacing Andy Edwards as manager of Leyton Orient, the club where his old man kicked off his playing career way back in 1963.
At 33, Webb is the second-youngest manager in the EFL, yet he has been coaching in some capacity for more than six years.
If his playing days were defined by – in Webb’s words – “rash decisions”, his arrival in the dugout is the result of a much steadier climb.
First came Orient’s Under-14s, then a Category Three Cup final victory with the Os Under-16s in 2014.
Later, he would lead the Under-18s to a Merit League Two title, going unbeaten over ten games.
Last summer, he was promoted to first-team coach under Andy Hessenthaler and has garnered great respect in the corridors of Brisbane Road.
“He’s a good coach, a positive character and he’ll have no problems making tough decisions,” said Edwards after leaving for a position in the FA.
“I’ve known him for a long time and always seen he has the attributes to be an excellent manager.
“This is something he has always wanted and it may have come earlier than expected, but he’s following in the footsteps of his father.”
And, while Webb Snr’s managerial career failed to hit the heights of his days at Chelsea and QPR, Brown believes the opposite could be true now.
“Why not?” said the current Basingstoke boss. “With his knowledge of the game and everything he’s learnt from his old man, he’s got a bright future. I think it’s a good appointment.”
Danny Webb FACTFILE:
Born: Poole, 1983 (Age 33)
Playing career: A striker turned defender, Webb came through the youth ranks at Southampton before joining Southend for £10,000 in 2000. He made his debut the same year and scored three goals in 31 games over two seasons at Roots Hall.
The first of two loans to Brighton led to him picking up a Third Division winners’ medal in 2000-01. A permanent switch to Hull in 2002 yielded another promotion from the Third Division and 16 appearances over 18 months.
Relegated from the Football League with Cambridge in 2004-05, Webb spent time at Yeovil, Woking, Rushden and Maltese side Marsaxlokk before signing for Wimbledon in 2007. He won the Ryman Premier title and scored nine goals in 33 matches before brief stints at Chelmsford, Sutton and Havant & Waterlooville.
Two successful seasons at Salisbury brought three goals in 49 games, followed by a further two in 29 for Bath City.
Webb also played for Dover before retiring, aged 31, in 2014.
Managerial career: Having coached Orient’s youngsters on a part-time basis while at Bath and Salisbury, Webb took up a permanent position in the club’s academy in 2014. His youth sides won a host of trophies, while the likes of Aron Pollock and Sam Seargant broke into the first team. Promoted to first-team coach under Andy Hessenthaler in July 2016, then assistant to Andy Edwards, he was named manager last week.