Howard Webb will be remembered by some as a Manchester United-biased, power-hungry referee that was just as bad as every other referee that’s ever donned the black uniform. However, Webb should be remembered as one of the finest referees this country, or even possibly the world, has ever produced and a benchmark for any other young referees coming through the system to strive for.
Every referee makes mistakes, there isn’t a perfect referee but what you look for is consistency, good performances on a regular basis and on occasion, for you to barely realise there is someone refereeing the game.
Webb opitimised that mantra, many before the game might have muttered “Oh, Howard Webb’s in charge? Here we bloody go” but then by the end of the game wouldn’t have mentioned his name once. For some odd reason, his name was labelled with poor displays and it seemed different to what others within the game felt about how he handled the big occasion. He also, contrary to popular belief, was in charge of games that gave Manchester City the most amount of wins as well as Arsenal averaging more points in the last five years in games refereed by Howard Webb than the Red Devils.
He was regularly called up to the biggest games and delivered. In the Premier League and Champions League, he rarely had a bad game and that was optimised by his performance in the 2010 Champions League Final where he almost went by unnoticed. Even in the World Cup Final, where in some quarters he was criticised for not controlling the Dutch earlier, it was felt that he gave the players a fair chance and although he missed a certain red on Nigel de Jong, overall he still managed the game well.
He goes on to a newly created role that will help explain refereeing decisions to the wider public so that there is more of a connection with the referees and the viewing fans. It’s a great idea, which Webb is very passionate about and should it go well it could bring a little more respect towards the referees and the difficult jobs they face.
In his 25 years in the role, Howard Webb reached the very top of the game. He took charge in both a Champions League final and World Cup final in the same year back in 2010 whilst being part of UEFA and FIFA tournaments for the past nine years. Not only that, he won an MBE from the Queen in 2011 for his services to football and regularly spent time with Sheffield Hallam University, helping their journalism students with interviews and refereeing the annual varsity game.
Not many players even have those accolades (ignoring the Hallam one, it’s good but it’s not quite up there), so it’s certainly something he can irritate his grandchildren with for the rest of his days. May Webb retire in relative peace, his new role with PGMOL will keep him busy but nevertheless, we should thank him for the excellence he brought to the pitch almost every game.