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Gone but not forgotten:
Danny Webber
Position: Striker
From: Manchester United - on loan - August 2002
Record: Played: 11(1) Scored: 2
WFC total: Played: 15(2) Scored: 4
To: Manchester United - end of loan - October 2002
Career stats: Soccerbase
He was: A credit to himself

"Having been little more than a pleasing distraction during some immensely depressing weeks, the possibility that Danny Webber might have a more significant impact next season is certainly appealing, if hard to believe."
- Danny Webber profile, May 2002

We've been here before, I think. We'll be here again, probably. At the time of writing, Danny Webber has returned to Manchester United, having dislocated his shoulder two weeks before the scheduled end of his second loan period at Watford. When he's fit again, we'll be on the phone, eager to get him back for a third spell. And then he'll return to Old Trafford again, as we're in no position to offer him a contract of any kind. And so on, and so on.

This raises a few interesting points. For a start, should the pattern continue, I'll be in a fine position. Just compile the numerous "Gone but not forgotten" profiles that I'll have penned and, hey presto!, it's Danny Webber's unauthorised biography, available in hardback from your latest branch of Waterstones. Additionally, assuming that it's quite possible that we'll still be getting him back on loan in ten years' time, will he be eligible for a testimonial? And is there a precedent for a player breaking a club appearance record without ever actually signing for that club?


So, I write this in the knowledge - and in the hope - that Danny Webber may well be re-appearing in Watford colours soon, thus rendering this profile redundant once more. Were it not for the unfortunate shoulder injury, this might've been a mere formality. After all, had Manchester United wished to bring him back into their squad, they would surely have done so by now, with Van Nistelrooy injured and Forlan out of touch. It seems fair to assume that when Ray Lewington made the phonecall to request an extension to the loan, the answer might well have been positive. And, logically, it seems reasonable to hope that much the same will happen when his shoulder's mended.

Hope, because Danny Webber has proved himself to be an enormous asset during his two spells, particularly the second. He's got the pace and the skill to unsettle First Division defences, the strength and the discipline to deal with the consequences of unsettling them, the work-rate and the attitude to fit right into the squad...and he seems to like it at Watford, something indicated by his decision to choose a return to Vicarage Road over other loan options. He has, in all honesty, been an absolute credit to himself. No airs, no graces...just a terrific, committed footballer.

As before, there are clearly parts of his game that still require work. In particular, the latter part of this second spell was marked by an inexplicable loss of confidence in front of goal, even if he remained bubbly and inventive in all other respects. It didn't matter too much, really...the partnership forged with Heidar Helguson turned out to be so threatening that we could afford to spurn a few openings. Having looked as if we'd struggle to score in the early games, opponents were barely able to contain us.

One particular opponent completely failed. The astonishing victory over Coventry City - a final score of 5-2 barely did justice to our absolute superiority - was inspired by Danny Webber, whose speed, movement and imagination were as much of a rallying cry as one of Tommy Mooney's clenched-fist grimaces. He scored a fabulous goal himself, turning smartly and whipping a shot into the top corner...but, more than anything, he simply lifted his colleagues to a level that we hadn't imagined could be possible. That was Danny Webber at his best, and it was breathtaking.

A wonderful individual, sure...but part of a team too.

See you soon, mate.