One of the unsung heroes of the John Rudge revolution, we profile ever-reliable cult hero Alan Webb.
Name: Alan Webb
Cult credentials: Relatively unsung, club man, consistent
Time at Vale: 1984 to 1992
Once again, while writing this, I pondered on what exactly is a cult hero? It could be a player who is controversial, outrageously skilled or just unsung. Alan Webb definitely fits into that last category.
He was very much a member of the Vale engine room, not a headline-grabber…
Webb’s contribution wasn’t without reward – after all he was Vale’s player of the year in 1985, but my search for a photo to go alongside this article demonstrates why Webb never hit the headlines. I looked through programmes from three seasons and there was not one Alan Webb picture. He was very much a member of the Vale engine room, not a headline-grabber.
Webb joined Vale in 1984 on a free transfer from West Brom and must rate as one of John Rudge’s best transfers. An ever-present in his first season, Webb was a master of consistency and versatile enough to play across the back four. He wasn’t speedy, but his excellent positioning saw him always in the right place. He wasn’t tall, but he was a decent header of the ball. He wasn’t an excellent passer, but he rarely wasted a ball. I tried to rack my brain to think of a poor Webb game that I had seen, but I cannot remember one.
What I do remember though, and this is vindication of Webb’s dedication, was a half-fit Webb playing during an injury crisis. He looked like he’d got odd socks on. One was white, the other a reddish colour. It turned out Webb had a cut in his calf and was quite literally giving blood for the cause that day.
Why else was Webb such a key figure in Vale’s renaissance under Rudge? Well, Phil Sproson, speaking to Jeff Kent in Port Vale Tales rates Webb as his number one Vale right-back. “Without a doubt I would pick Alan Webb at right-back because he is so reliable. He’s not the quickest of players but he never shirked out of a tackle and he’d always give you a hundred per cent.”
That’s an accurate assessment of Webb’s value.
Webb also appeared to be an excellent club man. Martin Copeland tells a story in Port Vale Tales about Webb’s contribution, prior to the famous Spurs cup victory. A journalist wanted to speak to Bob Hazel about his FA Cup final experience, Webb took the call and fooled the journo completely. It was apparently broadcast on the radio afterwards with no-one, except Vale staff, aware of the deception.
What’s more, in the days of only two or even one subs in the match day squad, Webb’s versatility was vital. It’s appropriate that he’s number 12 in our list. He could fill in at right-back, centre-back or even left-back, if any of the other defenders became injured.
Much is made of Vale having to spend £270,000 on Dean Glover and Gary West to replace Sproson and Hazel in central defence, but in purchasing Neil Aspin, they had to spend £200,000 to replace the then injury-hit Webb.
Webb made over 200 appearances, before an injury forced him to retire from the game.
He is now working as a part-time coach in the non-league scene. Well, we think so, as once again Webb is quietly staying out of the headlines… that’s his style, after all!