Neil Webb - England - Biography of his football career for England.

Photo/Foto: Stuart Franklin

Date: 21 May 1988

Click on image to enlarge

      Tuesday, 30 July 1963
      Reading, England.
  • England
  • Manchester United
    • Club Career Dates
    • League Debut
      Saturday, 19th August 1989 scoring in a 4-1 win at home to Arsenal (Aged: 26)
    • Club Career
      70 League apps (+5 as sub), 8 goals
  • Nottingham Forest
    • Club Career Dates
      1985-1989, 1992-1996
    • League Debut
      Saturday, 17th August 1985 scoring in a 1-1 draw at Luton Town (Aged: 22)
    • Club Career
      (During two spells)
      172 League apps (+4 as sub), 50 goals
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Neil WEBB - England - Biography of his football career for England.

(Part 1) 1987-88 Euro Champs.


Neil Webb and his captain Stuart Pearce were the first real shining lights to emerge from the second generation of brilliant young players whom Brian Clough had moulded and bullied into a fine team in the late 1980s. Webb, a midfielder with a cool head and a clever eye for a pass, came to prominence when selected for an XI to represent the Football League in a centenary celebration curtain-raiser at Wembley against a Rest Of The World side and promptly nutmegged Diego Maradona, much to the joy of the Wembley crowd who spent all of the game hooting their derision at the Argentine captain following his exploits against England at the previous year's World Cup. Bobby Robson, aware that he was still looking for a real successor to Ray Wilkins as an unfussy ballplayer in his midfield, gave him his England debut a fortnight later against West Germany - in doing so Webb became the 1000th player to be capped by England at international level - as a sub for Glenn Hoddle, and Neil stroked the ball around confidently and calmly, despite England being overrun in a 3-1 defeat. With a home banker against Turkey imminent in the qualifiers for the 1988 European Championships, Robson decided to pitch Webb in from the start, displacing Hoddle, and Neil played a mature game alongside Bryan Robson. He even found time to get on the scoresheet, lashing home a volley after Hoddle, on as a sub, clipped a cross back from the byline.


Qualification was assured in Webb's next game - a 4-1 win in Yugoslavia - and Robson kept him in the team for four of the games scheduled as preparation matches prior to the trip to Germany (the photo above is during the 1-0 win against Scotland on 21st May). Although some called for the in-form Steve McMahon to be given a midfield role, while others were still apopleptic that Hoddle wasn't the first name on the teamsheet, Webb maintained a series of composed performances and was not only put in the squad, but expected to start the first game against the Republic of Ireland in Stuttgart. This he did, but he was tired, overawed and nervous in midfield, eventually substituted there by Hoddle, as England were outfought in a 1-0 defeat. The media and fans pleaded for Hoddle in the next game and Robson took notice, and it was Webb who was unsurprisingly removed from the side to accommodate England's great creative hope. Hoddle played a blinder but Marco van Basten's genius in attack took England apart and the Dutch won 3-1, eliminating England from the tournament with a game to spare. Robson played McMahon, Robson and Hoddle together in the last game against the Soviet Union, bringing Webb on later, but England were shocking, losing 3-1 again without an ounce of pride. Robson ditched a number of players straightaway in his anger and started a major rebuild, but Webb was still in his plans, especially as Nottingham Forest were starting to make headway in both the league and cup competitions again. (Matthew Rudd)






                                                                         (Part 2) July 1988-92.


Neil Webb scored the only goal in England's first match after the fiasco in Germany as England defeated Denmark in a Wembley friendly. He went on to play in the first five qualifiers for the 1990 World Cup, none of which ended in defeat, including the third goal in a 3-0 win over Poland (the photo above is during the game. Pic. George Herringshaw. ©), stroking the ball into an empty net after fine work from substitute David Rocastle had drawn the goalkeeper away. Unfortunately, tragedy was to strike Webb in the next qualifier to the extent that he would not be the same player again. By now at Manchester United, Neil was in the team fighting out a tight game against Sweden in Stockholm when he drove a shot at goal from 25 yards which was blocked back to him. As he struck his second attempt, his achilles tendon snapped, despite the lack of impact with anything other than the ball. Webb, in agony, was helped from the field and missed the rest of England's successful campaign to reach the World Cup, plus all of the warm-up matches. He was playing again domestically by April 1990 - winning the FA Cup with Manchester United a month later - but a young star called Paul Gascoigne had taken his role in the England side and added a whole new creative and lynchpin-style dimension to it. Gascoigne was undroppable but Webb still made the squad for Italy, although hindsight dictated that he really shouldn't have gone. He didn't come close to featuring in the team until England were out of the competition on penalties in the semi-finals.


Webb was the main comforter to the inconsolable Stuart Pearce after his friend and Forest skipper had missed one of the crucial penalties, and found himself in the team for the meaningless third-place play-off game against Italy in Bari. This was Neil's 20th cap, ten months after his 19th. He played fine, but there was little doubt that any future England career would be as a bit-part squad member because of concernes over Webb's fitness and the irrepressible form of Gascoigne. Bobby Robson's replacement, Graham Taylor, left Neil out of the equation until February 1992 when he called him up for a friendly against France at Wembley. Webb's form and fitness had reached something approaching its old standards and he played well in a 2-0 win. He was next called up for a game in Budapest and managed to score the only goal with a deflected effort as England won again. The 1992 European Championships in Sweden - where Webb had been injured - were approaching and there was a late chance of a place in the squad as Neil again featured in the last two friendlies and played well. Taylor gave him his reward with a shirt in the squad but Webb could do little to inspire his team-mates, who were underprepared and missing crucial players through injury or Taylor's unwillingness to pick them. Neil came on as a sub in the opening 0-0 draw with Denmark and started the crucial 2-1 defeat in Stockholm - the second time Webb had been left distraught by a visit to Sweden's national stadium. This time it was because England were eliminated from the competition and Taylor chose not to pick Webb again as he began to prepare for the World Cup of 1994. Webb's slide down the divisions into the non-league game thereafter was spectacular and sad, but he was safe in the knowledge that his time spent in the England side was entirely on merit. (Matthew Rudd)