Neil Webb

Neil John Webb (born 30 July 1963 in Reading, Berkshire) is an English former footballer and television pundit. He played as a midfielder but could also play as a defender between 1980 and 1997 notably for Portsmouth, Nottingham Forest and Manchester United. Webb also played for Reading, Swindon Town, Grimsby Town, Aldershot Town and Hong Kong side Instant-Dict.

Neil Webb
Personal information
Full name Neil John Webb
Date of birth (1963-07-30) 30 July 1963 (age 57)
Place of birth Reading, Berkshire, England
Position(s) Midfielder
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1980–1982 Reading 72 (22)
1982–1985 Portsmouth 123 (34)
1985–1989 Nottingham Forest 146 (47)
1989–1992 Manchester United 75 (8)
1992–1996 Nottingham Forest 30 (3)
1994Swindon Town (loan) 6 (0)
1995Instant-Dict (loan) 2 (0)
1996 Grimsby Town 4 (1)
1996–1997 Aldershot Town 36 (6)

Merthyr Tydfil

years1 = 1999-2000
Total 486 (121)
National team
1985–1986 England U21 3 (0)
1987–1992 England 26 (4)
1990–1992 England B 4 (0)
Teams managed
1997 Weymouth
2001 Reading Town
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Club careerEdit


Webb joined Reading on leaving Little Heath School in 1979 and made his first-team debut in February 1980 at the age of 16. He became the youngest ever scorer for the Berkshire side when he found the net in a Third Division match at the beginning of the 1980-81 season.[1]


In July 1982 he transferred to Portsmouth for £87,500. At Fratton Park he was a regular first-team player and helped them win promotion to the Second Division (as Third Division champions) in his first season, and in his third season they came close to reaching the First Division. He scored a total of 34 league goals in three seasons at Fratton Park.[2]

Nottingham ForestEdit

In June 1985, Nottingham Forest manager Brian Clough paid Portsmouth £250,000[3] for Webb, which took him into the First Division for the first time. At Forest he developed into a leading midfielder with a strong goalscoring record. During his time at the City Ground, he won the League Cup in 1989 (scoring in the final against Luton) and became a regular member of the England national team from 1987. Webb was one of the Forest players who had to cope with the horrors of the Hillsborough disaster during the opening minutes of their FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool in April 1989.

His goalscoring record at Forest exceeded that of many strikers at the time. He managed 14 league goals in both of his first two seasons at the club, in 1986–87 from just 32 games. This included a hat-trick against Chelsea in September 1986 that sent him to the top of the League's scoring charts.[4] He scored 13 times in the 1987–88 league campaign, though his goalscoring totally was lower in 1988–89 (six goals from 30 games) it did nothing to diminish his reputation as a first class midfielder.[5] He scored for Forest against Luton Town in the 1989 Football League Cup Final which they went on to win.[6]

Manchester UnitedEdit

In July 1989 he joined Manchester United. The transfer fee of £1.5 million was determined by a transfer tribunal (Forest manager Brian Clough, reluctant for Webb to leave, offered to pay this to keep him). Webb scored on his league debut on 19 August 1989, when they achieved a 4–1 home win over defending league champions Arsenal on the opening day of the 1989–90 season.[7]

He joined United at a time when they were entering their fourth season under the management of Alex Ferguson, but had yet to win a major trophy under him in spite of heavy spending on new players – with Webb arriving around the same time as Danny Wallace, Mike Phelan and Gary Pallister.[3]

After just a few games at United, Webb ruptured his achilles tendon while playing a match for England against Sweden in September 1989.[8] Webb made his comeback for United as a substitute against Southampton on 24 March 1990, and made his first start since the injury the following Saturday, at home to Coventry City.[8] Despite positive early indications - Reuters called him the "most influential player on the pitch" during a September 1990 clash with Luton Town[9] - he never fully regained his pre-injury form, suffering from weight problems and other injuries.[10] Webb was still a precise passer of the ball and was included in the England 1990 World Cup squad, having return to action during the second half of the 1989–90 season. He also helped Manchester United win the FA Cup in 1990, UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1991, and Football League Cup in 1992.

In the 1990 FA Cup final, he memorably hit a clinical 50-yard pass to Lee Martin who subsequently scored the winning goal in the FA Cup Final replay.

He played in 31 out of 42 First Division games for Manchester United in 1991–92, but missed the final few games of the season due to a rift with manager Alex Ferguson – some fans even blamed United's failure to win the league title that season on Webb. He famously dawdled off the pitch after being subbed in a 2-1 home defeat to Forest during the season's final stages. He was also faced with stiff competition for a place in the centre or on the right of midfield - as well as Bryan Robson and three midfielders who had joined United in 1989, he was now faced with competition from Soviet winger Andrei Kanchelskis.

Webb only played one game for United in the new FA Premier League, and after months of media reports that he would be on his way out of Old Trafford, he finally left three months into the 1992-93 season.[11]

Return to ForestEdit

After three years with Manchester United, he returned to Nottingham Forest for £800,000 on 23 November 1992.[5] His second spell at Forest was unsuccessful, as he could not win a regular first-team place because of the emergence of other players like Steve Stone and Lars Bohinen. He made just nine league appearances in 1992–93 as Forest were relegated, but when manager Brian Clough retired and was succeeded by Frank Clark, he had more first team opportunities, playing 21 league games and scoring three goals as Forest were promoted back to the Premier League as Division One runners-up.

Webb never played league football for Forest again after the 1994 promotion, though he remained contracted to the club for another two years.

He had a spell on loan back at Reading in the 1995–96 season before finally leaving Forest for good in the summer of 1996.

Late playing careerEdit

He signed for Grimsby Town before leaving shortly after the start of the 1996-97 season, ending his professional career at the age of 33. He then joined non-league Aldershot Town where he made 36 appearances and scored 6 goals in the Isthmian League, before joining Weymouth as player-coach in 1997.

In a 2005 vote to compile the Royals' best-ever eleven, Webb was voted on the team in central midfield.[12]

International careerEdit

Football League XIEdit

After excelling in his first two seasons of top flight football with Nottingham Forest, Webb earned recognition from England manager Bobby Robson, who selected him in the Football League XI for an exhibition match against a Rest of the World XI, on 8 August 1987. The match was in recognition of the League's centenary. Webb started the game, and was replaced by Osvaldo Ardiles.[13] Webb was praised by The Glasgow Herald, who stated "the performance of Webb was outstanding", adding that he "frequently showed a sweet combination of close control and confidence" and predicting full England honours in the offing.[14]


Robson gave Webb his full international début, against West Germany on 9 September 1987 at the age of 24, becoming the 1,000th player to be capped by England.[15] His first goal came against Turkey on 14 October that year, in an 8–0 victory at Wembley in a Euro 88 qualifier. He appeared in two of England's group games at Euro 88 (which all ended in defeat), but his next international appearance – against Denmark in a friendly on 14 September 1988 – he scored the only goal in the game at Wembley. On 3 June 1989, he scored the third international goal of his career with a 3–0 World Cup qualifier victory over Poland, again at Wembley. On 24 April 1990 Webb made his first appearance with the England B team, playing in the 2–0 win over the Czechoslovakia B team at Roker Park.[16] Despite missing the bulk of the 1989–90 season at Manchester United with injury, he was included in England's 1990 World Cup squad and made his solitary appearance of the competition in the third place playoff defeat by Italy. Before the year was out he would become the first player to be sent off whilst on England duty in three years when he saw red for the England B team in a match against the full Algeria team.[17] On 12 May 1992, he scored what would be his final goal for England in a 1–0 friendly win over Hungary in Budapest. He would make four more international appearances for England, the last coming on 17 June 1992 when England lost 2–1 to hosts Sweden in their final Euro 92 group game.[18] Webb was capped 26 times in five years for the England team, and scored 4 goals.

Management careerEdit

After having to give up playing football, from June to December 1997 he was player-coach of Southern League Southern Division side Weymouth, but quit after just 70 days. His next spell in management with non-league Reading Town in 2001 was also short-lived.

After footballEdit

After Webb left Reading, he could occasionally be found selling programmes at Reading's Madejski Stadium. He became a postman and was featured in the Observer Sport Supplement in a "Where Are They Now?" feature and is currently working for a transport company. He is also a regular guest on Talksport.

He also worked with The Score Television Network in Canada as their English football correspondent for their "Sportsworld" and "Footy Show" programmes. He appeared every Sunday, giving his opinion on the happenings of the Premier League and the world of football.

Personal lifeEdit

Webb's ex-wife Shelley Webb became a TV presenter, becoming a real footballers' wives interviewee, and then wrote the book called Footballers' Wives. The couple have two sons, Luke and Josh, who both play football; Luke was most recently with Hereford United before being released, and Josh was with Walton and Hersham. Luke previously played with Arsenal Under-18s and Josh with Reading's youth teams.


Nottingham Forest

Manchester United


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ [2]
  3. ^ a b "Neil Webb - Football Stats - No Club - Age 54 - 1980-1997 - Soccer Base". Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  4. ^ "Two hat-tricks put Forest on top". The Sydney Morning Herald. 22 September 1986. p. 50. Retrieved 20 October 2014.
  5. ^ a b "Football photographic encyclopedia, footballer, world cup, champions league, football championship, olympic games & hero images by". Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  6. ^ Paul, Ian (10 April 1989). "Cloughs prove to be a dynamic duo: Luton Town 1, Nottingham Forest 3". The Herald. Glasgow. p. 17. Retrieved 20 October 2014.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 26 April 2011. Retrieved 12 May 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ a b "Webb returns to first team duty". New Straits Times. Kuala Lumpur. Reuters. 31 March 1990. p. 22. Retrieved 20 October 2014.
  9. ^ "Everton, Villa hope to overcome crisis". New Straits Times. Kuala Lumpur. Reuters. 7 September 1990. p. 26. Retrieved 20 October 2014.
  10. ^ Rice, Xan (9 May 2004). "When the music stops: Part 1". Observer Sport Monthly. The Observer.
  11. ^ [3]
  12. ^ "Revealed – The Royals' best-ever XI". Reading F.C. 22 August 2005.
  13. ^ "Supranational sides". 9 December 2006. Retrieved 20 October 2014.
  14. ^ "Cap could be Webb's reward". The Herald. Glasgow. 10 August 1987. p. 12. Retrieved 20 October 2014.
  15. ^ "Neil Webb - English Caps 1987-92 - England". Sporting Heroes. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  16. ^ Courtney, Barrie (22 May 2014). "England - International Results B-Team - Details". Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation. Retrieved 20 October 2014.
  17. ^ "Webb is sacked, Robbo booked". New Straits Times. Kuala Lumpur. 13 December 1990. p. 22. Retrieved 20 October 2014.
  18. ^ "Football photographic encyclopedia, footballer, world cup, champions league, football championship, olympic games & hero images by". Retrieved 3 April 2018.