The X-Men: Danny Webber
SWAPPING the glamour and prestige of Old Trafford for crumbly old Vicarage Road might not be most people`s idea of a good career move, but for former Watford forward Danny Webber, a permanent switch to WD18 was just the ticket.
The Mancunian hitman, now 31 and playing for James Beattie`s Accrington Stanley, had twice been sent on loan to the Hornets - in 2001 under Gianluca Vialli and in 2002 under Ray Lewington - before making the move permanent in the summer of 2003.
"It was at that time when I was 21 and I had to get away; I had to get more game time, I needed more game time. Having had a little taste of it from the couple of spells at Watford, it was important to me to not be one of those players who got to 23 or 24 and were still sitting as a reserve team player at United really," explains Webber.
"I think a lot of people are doing it now [leaving big clubs at a younger age], more than it probably used to happen. I think I was probably one of the first that stepped out the box and did that. I think it was just important to make a conscious decision to have a career rather than potentially not have a career by being a reserve team player."
Webber`s first term at Vicarage Road was disrupted before it had even begun by the tragic death of United teammate and close friend, Jimmy Davis.
The burden of Davis` death weighed heavily on Webber`s shoulders and it was his shoulder which gave way later in the campaign, setting him back further.
Keen to prove his worth to Lewington ahead of his second season at the club, Webber worked hard over the summer to return to pre-season training in peak condition.
"The second season I spoke with Ray Lewington at the end of the first season and said 'Look, I`m going to come back and I`m going to score goals,` and I enjoyed my football. I cleared my head in the summer and made sure I came back super fit, but I think I went away, did that and spent a couple of months getting myself right so I came back and hit the ground running. It was the first time I felt really fit as a professional footballer playing league football and it told in my form."
The application paid off and Webber began the 2004/05 campaign with a bang, helping himself to nine goals in as many games as Lewington`s men soared high in Coca Cola Championship table.
It was a combination of that form, and the investors who helped bring Webber to Vicarage Road wanting a return on their money, that saw the forward loaned to Sheffield United for the remainder of the season before completing a £500,000 move that to Bramall Lane that summer.
Remember, this is just a preview. For the full interview with Webber, in which he discusses his career post-Watford, make sure to pick up a copy of tomorrow`s matchday programme.