When footballers hang up their boots, the results are always interesting. Whilst some go into punditry like Lineker and Shearer, other implode like Gazza whilst others just fade into obscurity. Michael Thomas now runs a security firm whilst Tomas Brolin is now a poker player.
And former England international Neil Webb doesn’t fail to adhere to the guidelines set before him.
At 17 years and 31 days Webb became the youngest player to score for Reading and would go on to get goals not only at Reading but at Portsmouth and Nottingham Forrest.
In the summer of 1989 Webb joined Manchester United for £1.5m and would score on his debut against Arsenal. Yet United never got to see the best of Webb as a few games later he snapped his achilles tendon whilst on England duty. Upon his return despite still being a precise and clean passer he was not the same, suffering from weight and other problems.
After winning the FA Cup in 1990, setting up Lee Martin for the winning goal with a memorable long range pass, he would be included in England’s 1990 World Cup squad. Webb would add a Cup Winners Cup and the League Cup to his collection before moving on to Nottingham Forrest.
After 4 unsuccessful years at Forrest he would tumble down the league playing for Grimsby Town, Aldershot and finally Weymouth as player manager.
By his own admission his career did not as much end as fizzle out after nobody wanted him and he was forced to find other means to make ends meet.
His father who had also been a professional footballer began working in the Courage brewery after his career had ended so Neil too sought also found work out of football. After his spell at Reading, Webb could be found selling match day programmes at the Madjeski Stadium so when it was later revealed that he had become a post man it should not have come as suprise as Webb clearly was not scared of a little hard work.
People will always wonder how an England international who played for Man Utd ended up working as a postman but Webb himself said:
‘When I first started there, people would say, “What are you doing? You played for England and earned a lot of money.” I said, “Yeah, and it isn’t going to last me till I’m 65. Work it out – mortgage, car, kids and tax.” People just don’t understand.
I was earning very good money. But then you live the lifestyle that fits in with that. I had the nice house and smart cars but I knew there would have to be something else. There was no way I could afford not to work again after 35.’
Webb was quite upset with how him being a postman was broke to the nation after The Sun ran a front page article on the matter, especially annoying seeing as he didn’t make the front page when playing. He felt the piece belittled him, his family, his life and the thousands of men and women who do the same job.
But the story came as a blessing in disguise if you will as he soon found work with Charlton Athletic as well doing a host of punditry jobs and being a regular on TalkSport.
Webb is no longer a postman rather he works a forklift driver and in August The Mirror reported that the midfielder would be auctioning off his 1990 FA Cup medal hoping to raise £10,000.
“I decided to sell now rather than do something with it when I’m 70. I have a pension from when I played, but I always knew I’d have to work after football, not like today’s players.”
Webb’s story just goes to show that there is another side to the beautiful game. One that we may not see but is a tonic to the fast life of money, women and cars that we often associate with football.