When David Webb came here recently and sat down for a chat, little did he know that he would provide enough material for three long articles. But that’s the manner of the chirpy Cockney, everything he says is worth recording.
The former Chelsea and Queen’s Park Rangers defender stayed at the Comfort Suites with wife Michelle on their third visit to Cayman in a couple of years.
Now a businessman and property developer, Webb intends to spend at least half the year here and the rest in England and Portugal.
He had an extraordinary career in football, scoring the winning goal in the 1970 FA Cup final replay against Leeds United and grabbing a European Cup Winners’ Cup medal the following season.
Of the many zany things that happened to him, including scoring a hat-trick against Ipswich Town and seeing a phantom goal given Chelsea’s way – again against Ipswich – playing in goal for a full game probably tops it.
Chelsea players turned up for a game at Stamford Bridge the day after Boxing Day 1971. Regular keeper Peter ‘The Cat’ Bonetti was injured, reserve keeper John Phillips had slipped a disc getting out of bed that morning and they tried to get Steve Sherwood back from Grimsby 140 miles away where he had gone home for Christmas and sent a car to whizz him down.
Chelsea submitted two team sheets with Sherwood on one and Webb on the other in case he did not reach the ground in time.
Sherwood arrived 10 minutes before kick-off but the referee had already submitted the final team sheet and Webb would have to go between the sticks. Ipswich were once again the opponents.
‘You wouldn’t have that kind of situation today, you’d have about five keepers in reserve,’ says Webb.
‘I never thought they would do it but it was nice because I kept a clean sheet and we won 2-0. So I was pleased. I had a couple of saves to make early doors but nothing too tough.
‘I won the crowd over by kneeling in front of them before the game and doing a mock prayer. There was no way anyone was going to score against me that day because the crowd wasn’t going to let it happen.
‘It was a bit like a pantomime really, very appropriate for Boxing Day.’
Webb was picked only because he had been emergency keeper for Southampton when their goalie got injured early on in a game against Liverpool and he did a good job for the Saints, losing only 1-0 to an Ian St John strike.
The phantom goal against Ipswich clearly hit the side netting yet the referee blew for a goal. Chelsea captain Ron Harris immediately started celebrating and the rest of the team joined in despite Ipswich players circling the ref in fury.
Webb played with and against the best of that generation and one player alone stood out for sheer natural brilliance. ‘For overall talent George Best without any shadow of a doubt was one of the greatest players that ever lived.
‘It was sad for me because after he fell out with Manchester United I was pushing everybody to try to get him to come to Chelsea. Unfortunately, his reputation went before him and everybody thought he would be too much trouble, which is a shame.’
Ironically, Best ended up playing down the road at Fulham for two years.
There is only one talent that stands out in Webb’s mind right now. ‘I’m amazed that Chelsea didn’t go after Cristiano Ronaldo who would have been another entertainment factor there. Even if his heart was set on Spain, his wallet might have gone to Chelsea.’ (Maybe the Chelsea anthem Blue is the Colour wasn’t hip enough for him.)
Webb, 63, enjoys the style of teams today but still prefers the big centre-forward playing in tandem with the smaller central striker from his playing days.
‘I think in those days you always had a big ‘un and a little ‘un. Even now at Chelsea you’ve got Drogba. You still can’t beat that big guy up front to get the goals, whatever anyone says. You’ve always got that outlet to get the ball over everybody.
‘Every team had a big target man in my time; Ron Davies, Wyn Davies, Martin Chivers, John Radford, Ray Kennedy and later on John Toshack with Kevin Keegan. Geoff Hurst was always a hard player, because he was very methodical.
‘It was a good time to play football, quite incredible, there was a lot of things going on when you look at the players at the time.’
The late Peter Osgood was one of Webby’s best mates at Chelsea. ‘He was one of those blokes who whenever you saw him you just picked up from where you left off. He was never avaricious, never jealous of anybody and just got on with it.
‘He was a lot better man than people gave him credit for. He never forgot his former team-mates and was always kind to them. Of all my former Chelsea mates, I miss him the most.’
It was the prolific Osgood who scored the equaliser in the 1970 FA Cup final replay at Old Trafford to bring the score to 1-1.
Webb will always remember his winner. ‘At that time I just felt numb when I scored. It hit Jackie Charlton on the head and looped over. I’m trying to optimise myself and it hit me on the side of the head and went in the goal with me. I was looking for the ball because I hadn’t headed it properly.
‘The next thing you always do – especially against Leeds who always moaned and squealed every decision – was look at the referee and linesman. But Leeds were quiet so I knew it was good.
‘Brian Clough gave me my medal. That came about because I had taken a roasting off Eddie Gray at Wembley so I decided to swap shirts with him. I put the shirt on and when I went to get my medal, security blocked me and said: ‘Chelsea first.’
‘I was so excited I just ran round and joined the Chelsea team who were coming down the steps. I bumped into Cloughie and told him what had happened and he went and got my medal for me.’
On the subject of today’s wages, Webb is astounded. Around $150 a week was the average salary in the Seventies. Now the top players earn $200,000-plus.
‘Footballers are paid like film stars now. But the big debts the clubs have is not created by the players, it’s the system, generated by the big TV money. But a lot of the money in football now is kept mostly by the big clubs.
‘Roman Abramovich has been like a fairy godmother. Any club lucky enough to have an Abramovich suddenly turn up and make it his toy and throw what he wants at it is very fortunate.
‘Every Chelsea supporter in the world must want him to stay there forever. Whilst he’s got the flavour they’re okay. Rumour has it that Peter Kenyon had to go because he wanted to bring Phil Scolari in and Abramovich wanted Carlo Ancelotti from last year. Abramovich has been absolutely brilliant for them.’
Going to see son Daniel play for non-league Salisbury is more important than watching games at Stamford Bridge for Webb.
On the odd trip to Chelsea, it’s the England players that give him most pleasure.
‘Joey Cole is one of my favourites. I love John Terry and Frank Lampard, all those London boys. I think Arsenal are a good, talented team too and love the way they play.
‘Manchester United, I think, when they’re on song are the best. They get from there to there as quickly as they can. That’s the style of football I like. Every move looks as if they’re going to score. ‘
Terry is Webb’s favourite, mainly because that’s the way he used to play. ‘I’d love to have played in the same team as him. Everything he does is done 100 per cent. If it’s 98 per cent that means two per cent of him is not fit. He’s definitely the right man to lead England.’
Of all the hard men he faced, certain bruisers left their mark, literally. ‘Norman Hunter was the toughest, Johnny Giles the nastiest. One of the hardest I knew was Cliff Huxford who I played with at Southampton.
‘On my first day of training he tackled me so high I’ve still got the scars to prove it. I didn’t know what ‘going over the top’ was until then. I’d only been there an hour! He broke three blokes’ legs.
‘Ron Harris and Bobby Collins were hard too. The hardest one I’ve seen around today is that little midfielder from Argentina who plays for Liverpool, Javier Mascherano. Saw him last night and he must have tackled about 20 blokes. Got booked. Don’t know how he didn’t get sent off.
‘Chelsea are good enough to win the Champions League this season because Ancelotti is cute enough to do it. They’ve got more chance with him. They’ve got a lot of international players that can take the occasions.
‘They were unlucky against Barcelona in the semis last season. I half fancy Arsenal to come up on the blind side for the Premiership but for me Chelsea will win it this year.’
England will struggle to secure the 2018 World Cup, Webb feels and with London getting the 2012 Olympics he thinks their chances are slim to capture the big football one as well.
After-dinner speaking is not something Webb enjoys although a natural at it. Cutting deals and playing the stock market is more appealing now.
The only negative thing Webb finds about Grand Cayman is that it is expensive. Apart from that he loves absolutely everything about the place and is particularly impressed with the strong work ethic. ‘People here do work hard, there ain’t no shirkers.’
His favourite spot is Rum Point for its natural beauty and he even considered buying land there. His only reservation was that basic facilities like supermarkets are too far away.
‘After you go past Hurley’s there’s nothing that hits you. There’s not even a big supermarket in East End.
‘I want to build a nice substantial house here and also want to have the money to enjoy it. So I have to be very prudent and sensible the way I go about it.
‘I do love boats but in Poole Harbour, in England, there was never really the weather to use them. But that’s the sort of thing I want to do in Cayman.’
‘The warm waters are great too. I’d never snorkelled before I came here. Now it fascinates me.’