Inside Blue Sat 28 Oct 2017
With Chelsea taking on Bournemouth this weekend, we pay tribute to a Blues legend who also wrote his name in Cherries folklore.
‘I was lucky. Nearly every year I was in the top three of the voting and I think I was a bit of a fans’ favourite because I likened myself to them.’
David Webb is summing up his love affair with the Stamford Bridge faithful, which saw him named as the club’s Player of the Year in 1969 and ’72. But that’s only the start of his incredible Chelsea story.
He joined the club in 1968 from Southampton, having previously worked with manager Dave Sexton at Leyton Orient, and instantly became an integral part of the back four.
‘In my first game at home against Leicester, I went up against a big centre-forward, Frank Large,’ he said. ‘Honestly, that was his name! He’d terrorised the Chelsea defence the year before, but the first time he got the ball I tackled him so hard he almost did a somersault. That was it – from then on I was loved by the supporters.’
His name will forever be synonymous with Chelsea’s first-ever FA Cup triumph, which came in 1970 after two epic matches against Leeds United.
In the first match at Wembley, he was run ragged by Eddie Gray and the Blues were fortunate to take the final to a replay with a 2-2 draw. And it was in that brutal game at Old Trafford that Webby became the first man to score an FA Cup final winner for Chelsea, heading home in extra time to win us the cup.
‘It actually came off my left cheek,’ he said. ‘There were two or three Leeds players and you knew if they couldn’t get the ball they would go for you. They were trying to get me, but they tilted me in the direction of the ball and I almost let it hit me.
‘Our team had four big players and Jack Charlton was so worried about stopping Ossie that it’s hit him on the head and gone perfectly for me. What a feeling.’
While that’s the clear stand-out moment from his memorable career, there are other stories which cement his status as both a Blues legend and a cult hero.
When John Phillips injured his back getting out of bed on the morning of 27 December 1971, the call went out for Steve Sherwood to return to London from Yorkshire for the game. He didn’t make it. Instead, up stepped Webb, who kept a clean sheet as Ipswich Town were defeated 2-0.
‘I’d prayed before the start of the game in my penalty area, real pantomime stuff,’ he joked. ‘It was surreal!
‘The fans all thought it was a joke when I came out in the goalkeeper jersey and the Cat’s green gloves! They were like pianist gloves. To be honest, I’d have rather headed the ball clear than catch it.’
This being Webb, that’s not the end of his story against the Tractor Boys. Three years earlier, the Blues had travelled to Portman Road for a Boxing Day game and he helped himself to a hat-trick – his first goals for the Blues!
‘There must be teams in everyone’s career that stand out, and Ipswich was the one for me,’ he said. ‘I don’t know why that was, but they would have been sick at the sight of me.’
Webb is also a football hipster’s dream, his luxuriant hair matched by a beard which would be the envy of many. It very nearly got him in bother with his manager, though...
‘After the first game of the season I was absolutely slaughtered by the newspapers,’ he recalled. ‘I’d get messages in the post saying, “Have a shave” and Dave Sexton thought I’d gone a bit flash so he left me out!’
When he eventually left Chelsea in 1974, he did so a Blues hero with just shy of 300 appearances to his name and an impressive goals tally of 34.
A few years later he was taking his first steps in coaching after becoming Bournemouth’s player-manager, and he led the Cherries to promotion to the old Division Three.
Webb also spent a brief spell back at Stamford Bridge in 1993, having taken over from Ian Porterfield, who was the first manager to lose his job in the Premier League era.
It was a short and stint spell in the dugout but, just as in his playing career, there was never a dull moment with Webby around.