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Interview with Dan Webb

Friday, May 5 2017

I spoke to Dan Webb two days after the Leamington game and he gave me his thoughts on a memorable season. As was to be expected he said he was still hurting from the cruel defeat in the play off final. I did not need to ask Dan how the players felt at the final whistle but he said certain players were in tears and the feeling was even worse than after the semi final defeat to Hungerford last season. The disgraceful actions of a few so-called Leamington supporters angered the Hitchin players who were feeling bad enough without being taunted, goaded and physically attacked after the game ended. The dressing room was depressingly quiet until Mark Burke managed to lift the spirits and the players returned to Canary Club to drown their sorrows. Dan really wanted to thank the Hitchin supporters who provided such great support on the day. He also said how good it had been to see home crowds increase during the season and particularly the number of younger supporters now coming to games.

Dan felt that we successfully carried out our game plan. Technically and tactically he thought we got it right. We stopped their keeper playing it out and kept their strikers at bay. He felt that we were very comfortable despite the Leamington pressure in the second half before the penalty changed everything. Even in extra time with ten men we had our moments and Dan was gutted that two late chances fell to him on his unfavoured left foot and both went over the bar.

Dan joined Hitchin from Shefford in 2012. He really noticed the step up in class and felt it took him the whole of that first season to get up to the required fitness level. He has now become a vital member of the team and in my opinion is among the best central defenders in the Southern League. He credits manager Mark Burke for making him a better player, with Mark drawing on his own experience as a top class defender.

Dan was unsure how this season would go with the loss of Charlie Horlock and Jonny McNamara and uncertainty over Kane Smith. There were also early season issues with injuries and unavailability and the start to the season was unconvincing. But Dan says this current squad of players have a great mentality and there are no egos and they work together as a team. The players have the right attitude and enjoy good relationships with each other. He felt other teams underestimated Hitchin and he thinks the underdog tag suited us. With a relatively young side there was no fear factor and Dan felt the Hungerford defeat held us in good stead. The players had the right attitude and bonded together on and off the pitch. They frequently have social events and nights out and this has created the one for all, all for one mentality. I personally cannot think of any past Hitchin squad that had such a special team spirit.

Dan was proud and honoured to be made captain during the season. He spoke highly of the Mark Burke/ Adam Parker management team. Very different characters, they work well together and have created an environment where there is a mixture of being serious and having fun. Dan says they are proper football men with great experience.

Danís highlights of the season were the memorable win at Merthyr and the Herts Senior Cup final victory over Bishops Stortford when he felt we played really well. He also enjoyed the away victories at Leamington and Slough. Inevitably Leamington was the low point along with the home FA Cup replay defeat by Faversham. Perhaps surprisingly when I asked Dan for his most difficult opponent he chose veteran Barry Hayles of Chesham. Dan had no real explanation for our drop off in form at the end of the season as the players remained confident. Pitches getting firmer was a possible factor but the away form remained very good.†

Looking ahead Dan is confident that players will want to stay and he is definitely happy to remain at Top Field. He feels we have to target promotion but is well aware it will be a very strong league next season. He is impressed by our young players who can only continue to improve. As Dan came from a lower level of football I asked if he felt others could make the step up. He thought there were players who could succeed but too often they were not prepared to make the commitment to more training and travelling.

As captain I had to ask Dan how he coped with handling the infamous Donnelly brothers and their unique disciplinary problems. He told me the only answer was to have a muzzle for them!!

So many thanks to Dan for giving up his time and speaking to me despite still feeling the Leamington pain.

Roy Izzard

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