David Webb: Looking to the future

You are an experienced professional within football who most recently held the role as ‘Head of Football Operations’ at Huddersfield Town. What does a role such as Head of Football Operations entail on a daily basis?

“John Smith’s Stadium, Huddersfield” by Neil T is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

My time at Huddersfield was spread across multiple departments. My first job was to recruit a new manager and work closely to support him. I also worked closely with the head of academy to assess each department within the club from sports science to data analysis and player recruitment.

I was responsible for building a strategic plan to take the club forward.

In regards to appointing a new manager, you hired Danny and Nicky Cowley. Can you talk me through that process?

First and foremost, Danny and Nicky are highly regarded within football. The club were in a transitional period having just been relegated from the Premier League. Form in the championship was mixed and Jan Siewert was relieved of his duties in my first week at club.

We outlined what we wanted from a new manager in line with the new ownership of the club. We wanted an up and coming manager who knew the demands of English football and would settle in to the hard working ethos of Huddersfield as a club and as a town.

We also wanted to bring young players through so that was also key as was a proven track record of winning. Danny and Nicky ticked all of those boxes and stood out in the interview process.

We had to seek Lincoln’s approval to speak to them which we did and from there, they impressed everyone including myself. They are still highly regarded within the game today.

You worked at AFC Bournemouth when the club were promoted to the Premier League. Eddie Howe was the manager and you were the head of recruitment at the club. How do you reflect upon your experience at Bournemouth?

Bournemouth was a fantastic experience because the club have just been promoted to the championship when I joined. They were on the rise. Eddie and Jason were highly regarded.

“File:Eddie Howe 2015.jpg” by Tanya Hart is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

They wanted to expand their recruitment and that’s where I came in. I worked closely with Eddie Howe to ensure that we pinpointed players who would fit into our philosophy.

I was influential in the signings of Callum Wilson, Dan Gosling, Adam Smith, Junior Stanislas and Joshua King. I also had a close working relationship with Eddie Howe and Jason Tindall and it was an amazing achievement to secure promotion to the Premier League on a budget of under £5 million over a two year period.

The close working relationship that I had with Eddie and all key first staff at the club was crucial. Eddie himself has said many times that the close knit nature of his staff at Bournemouth was influential in the success he achieved.

Having worked closely with Eddie Howe. How highly do you regard him as a coach and a football manager?

A close working relationship is key. Eddie and I were in constant communication during our time together at the club. We worked in unison and our strategy was successful as we empowered our scouting and analytical team to enable us to have the best possible starting point for our signing targets.

Eddie would constantly work to succeed on and off the pitch. He would watch multiple live games and study football to improve in any way he could.

He has a very clear footballing philosophy and he ensures that his teams can execute it exactly as he wants them to. He is also a great man manager who can work with his staff and players to create a culture were every is valued equally.

Another top manager whom you worked with was Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham Hotspur. Your role was Head of Elite Potential Identification. What did that role involve?

“File:Mauricio Pochettino 2016 (cropped).jpg” byДмитрий Голубович is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

I worked with Mauricio at Southampton and when I joined Tottenham to work with him again, it was a joy. I understood how he and his staff worked and what he looks for from his players and staff each and every day.

My role was to identify players between the ages of 17 and 21 who could benefit his first team squad.

Mauricio was a massive character in and around Tottenham. He is very friendly and inclusive. He works very hard and a superb man manager who values everyone’s opinion.

You have experience working within European Football from your time with Bayer Leverkusen, Östersunds FK, Hoffenheim and Real Betis. What have you learned from various spells working on the continent?

Since I started my journey in football in 2001, I’ve always been fascinated by different leagues and countries. Working abroad was always an ambition of mine to deepen my knowledge of Football so to have the opportunities that I’ve had so far is great.

I learned a lot in Germany as each football club is run very well in an accountable way. Fans are at core of each club and it helped me add another dimension to my work.

When the opportunity arose at Östersunds FK, I was very excited by it because Graham Potter was very successful at the club and Ian Burchnall took over from Graham and is another emerging British coach.

The club were very ambitious and I enjoyed being given the freedom to work alongside Ian to sign talented footballers that could help take the club on.

You are also passionate about academy football given your time working across the academy structures at Crystal Palace, Millwall and Southampton early in your career. I want to ask you about Wilfred Zaha. You were influential in spotting him and getting him signed up at Crystal Palace. Was his talent obvious straight away?

“Wilf” by Quality Gate 5b is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

You learn so much from working in the academy structure of a football club. It has definitely helped me as I’ve progressed in to more senior roles within the game.

In regards to Wilf, I was the under 10’s coach at the the time with Palace. I had been alerted to this talent that was playing at a local Sunday league club.

I went to watch him and he played well. I then invited him into train with us for six weeks. It didn’t play for five weeks as he took quite a bit of time to settle into the training at Palace.

We put him into a game against Tottenham and he went on and scored six goals. It was a no brained to sign him as he had showcased his enormous potential to us and the rest is history as they say. He is a phenomenal footballer and one of the last ever street footballers.

Last but not least, you’ve been linked with various high profile roles within football at this moment. What are your aims for the future?

I would like to continue my work as a sporting director. Ideally, I want to work at an ambitious club who have an exciting project on the horizon.

I believe that I can make a difference within a club with the experience and the skill set that I have. I look forward to returning to the game soon wherever that may be, only time will tell.

Published by Callum McFadden

Football CFB founder. Freelance football writer & broadcaster of over 350 interviews with professional players and managers across all levels of football.

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