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Gone but not forgotten:
Danny Webber
Position: Striker
From: Manchester United - on loan - March 2002
Record: Played: 4(1) Scored: 2
To: Manchester United - end of loan - April 2002
Career stats: Soccerbase
He was: Not Mick Quinn

Once upon a time, the arrival of a striker on loan had a significantly greater impact on the suspension of the team coach than anything else, including the "goals for" column. One thinks of Mick Quinn, of course, as one does from time to time. One also thinks of various other past-their-prime, not-quite-as-trim-as-before loanees whose less-than-inspiring achievements are detailed on these pages.

The heroics of Tommy Mooney and Dennis Bailey continue to stand alone. Neil Shipperley netted once in the following season, but, until 2001/02, the only subsequent on-loan strikers to score were Dominic Foley and Keith Scott, the former with a fine volley at Wigan and the latter with two wayward crosses. Darren Caskey scored too...but that doesn't count, partly because he was a midfielder and mainly because he was dull as a porridge sandwich.

The moral of the story? That desperate times might well call for desperate measures...but they don't necessarily call for Kerry Dixon.

Anyway, Danny Webber. He scored twice in five games, and neither were wayward crosses. He was quick enough to keep pace with Master McNamee, strong enough to compete in the usual First Division bump-and-clatter, and skillful enough to do it even when his colleagues were clouting the ball about as if playing a game of table football at closing time. So...young, compact, fast, physical, talented, committed, decent strike-rate. A tendency to attempt a little too much on his own, perhaps...but, hey, you can understand the temptation in the circumstances.

You could argue - and some have - that it was a pointless exercise. That borrowing Danny Webber - a player who is far out of our reach, even if he doesn't make it at Old Trafford - for a series of largely meaningless end-of-season games merely fills a place in the starting eleven that might've been used to give greater experience to one of our own youngsters. There's an element of truth in that, I suppose. Still, with the admitted benefit of hindsight, the counter-argument is rather stronger - that, without the exciting attacking flair of Anthony McNamee and Danny Webber, the final games of the 2001/02 season would've been almost entirely joyless.

So, what happens now? Not uniquely, Luca Vialli appears rather more optimistic than anyone else in that respect, and his likely attempts to bring Danny Webber back on season-long loan seem more brave than plausible. Then again, if you don't ask, you don't get. Having been little more than a pleasing distraction during some immensely depressing weeks, the possibility that he might have a more significant impact next season is certainly appealing, if hard to believe.

The more likely outcome is that Danny Webber will be a mere five-game footnote in Watford history, returning north to resume his ascent of the Old Trafford ladder. Like a celebrity that you spotted in the street once, we'll pretend to know him when he's on the telly and try to impress our mates by saying something like "yeah, Webbo, he used to be a Watford player...".

And then we'll go back to boring them with tales of Anthony McNamee's debut....