Helping Mauricio Pochettino rebuild Spurs, shocking German legend Rudi Voller and discovering Wilfried Zaha… coach David Webb has enjoyed a colourful journey from Croydon to Georgia, via York and Germany

You might not have heard of David Webb, but many at the elite end of football have. From park pitches in Croydon to the Georgia national team, via stints in Sweden, Germany and at York City, the 43-year-old south Londonder has one of English football’s most colourful stories.

The story of Webb, whose role as assistant manager to former Bayern Munich defender Willy Sagnol at Georgia is his 13th non-playing job in football, starts when he was released as a teenager at Crystal Palace.

‘I was at Palace until my late teens but got a back injury and was released,’ Webb tells Mail Sport at his Surrey home in between international camps with Georgia. ‘I am from the area and noticed there were not a lot of “street players” in football despite loads from around Croydon.

‘So I was doing a bit of scouting work and one day I noticed this lad playing for a team called Whitehorse Wanderers, and I took him to a coach at Palace. At first, the coach said, “He can’t do this, he can’t do that” in training but I told him to trust me and play him at the weekend.

‘And so he did. He rang me up and said, “Phwoar, where did you get this kid from? We’ve just scored seven and he got six of them!’ That raw talent was Wilfried Zaha, who made 458 appearances for the Eagles and is regarded as perhaps their greatest ever academy graduate.

David Webb had his first crack at management at National League side York City last year

Webb is currently assistant manager to ex-Bayern Munich defender Willy Sagnol at Georgia

Webb is currently assistant manager to ex-Bayern Munich defender Willy Sagnol at Georgia

Zaha, who will return to England this week with new team Galatasaray, is just one name on a list of talents discovered by Webb – he was crucial in rebuilding sides at Tottenham, Bournemouth and Southampton – and many regard him as having a natural eye for a good footballer.

‘I went over to Tottenham to do academy coaching and tap into the south London market, before going full time as head of academy at Millwall,’ says Webb. ‘I knew the area well so I could pick up players for fun.

‘I went on a study visit to Bayer Leverkusen and they sent me out on a scouting mission unexpectedly – I knew nothing about German football! – and I had a meeting with Rudi Voller, the technical director and he made me stand up and talk.

‘He was shocked at my language and said, “What’s this you’re on about – character, psychology – this is deep for scouting… you English don’t do that!”. And so I did some consulting for them. One I spotted was Arturo Vidal (who went on to play for Barcelona, Bayern and Juventus).

‘I’m looking at body language more than anything, delving into their background story, family history and character profiling. Human behaviour is complex. Any top professional can see a good footballer but it’s more about looking at the detail beyond that.’

Webb’s CV includes substantial bodies of work at Tottenham and Bournemouth, with glowing references from Mauricio Pochettino and Eddie Howe. His office at Spurs was just along from Pochettino’s, and the two developed a solid relationship.

‘Out of nowhere I was introduced to Jason Tindall who has always been Eddie’s No 2. They wanted to revamp their recruitment and development when they were going through the divisions. Jase said we want to get a proper scouting and analysis department so I headed it up.

‘We had some very good successes – Callum Wilson, Dan Gosling, Josh King, etc. We only spent £4million and in the second year we were promoted to the Premier League. From that I got head-hunted by Tottenham, I knew Paul Mitchell and Poch well from Southampton.

‘I helped build a team there around what Poch wanted, having two really good seasons using my connections from Leverkusen – which helped me get information on Son Heung-min – and loads more for their good era. Poch is probably the best person I’ve worked with.

‘Ed (Howe) was quiet but a really good coach and person. Poch was infectious, he’d walk behind you and give you a cuddle and kiss – very Latin American! He was good with all staff, not just the players, he’d chat to the catering people and receptionists. It was a privilege.

‘After Spurs I went out to Sweden with Ostersunds, after Graham Potter had done amazing things there. The chairman was fascinated by English football and wanted to find players who were “broken” from top academies around Europe, that they could make and sell on.

‘It was such a unique place, they did this thing where you had to put on a show for the locals. Graham was in Swan Lake, we did a rock show in a big theatre in town with 3,000 people. The players had training and then after that we’d go into rehearsals.

‘I was thinking, “f***ing hell, what’s going on here?!”. Take players out of their comfort zone, do something like this, it helps them face their fears and perform under pressure, but also give something back to the community.’

Webb developed a solid relationship with Mauricio Pochettino during his stint at Tottenham

Webb developed a solid relationship with Mauricio Pochettino during his stint at Tottenham

Webb spotted Wilfried Zaha playing for a junior team and took him to a coach at Crystal Palace

Webb spotted Wilfried Zaha playing for a junior team and took him to a coach at Crystal Palace

Webb clearly has a wealth of experiences in nurturing talent but his true vocation is coaching. He has always wanted to be on the pitch every day and got his first crack at a proper job at National League York City last year but was hampered by being hospitalised with Covid.

But now he is working with the likes of Napoli star Khvicha Kvaratskhelia at Georgia, alongside the well-respected Sagnol. They play Cyprus, Scotland and Spain in the coming month in European Championship qualifiers.

‘The culture of the country is really good,’ adds Webb. ‘The fans are crazy superb. They cheer the players until the end, 55,000 in the stadium in Tbilisi. The players are very passionate. They’re on an upward trajectory.

‘I really enjoyed my first camp there and I’m back this month. Working with Willy was really good. He’s a top class coach, I’ve known him for years. The federation are really good people. Well organised, structured. The whole culture and experience has been humbling.’


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