Britain’s No.1 referee Howard Webb stepped into the backyard of a hero last night and paid tribute to one of Wolverhampton sport’s most famous sons.
Webb was guest speaker at a Wolverhampton Referees’ Association gathering which featured a special display of memorabilia granted to the body by the late Jack Taylor.
Webb and Taylor are forever linked as the only Englishmen to referee World Cup finals, with Webb following in the footsteps of Taylor’s 1974 appearance when he took charge of the 2010 final.
And it was in the build-up to that controversial match between Spain and Holland where the Yorkshireman would enjoy a surprise encounter with Taylor, who died in July at the age of 82.
“I will always consider it a privilege that I got the chance to get to know Jack before his death,” said Webb.
“To follow in his footsteps was such a tremendous honour.
“The night before the World Cup final, I went to the stadium to get a ‘feel’ for where the match would be played but, on the way back to the hotel, the police escort suddenly veered off into a shopping mall. And there was Jack waiting for me in a cafe – it was a wonderful surprise. I had no idea he was coming out for the game.
“Everywhere you went it was always ‘the great Jack Taylor.’ He was a big figure across the world. One of the great things about him was he was not one of these men from a previous generation who would tell you it was better in his day.
“Jack had a great empathy for all today’s referees and the difficulties they faced with so much greater scrutiny than he had experienced. But, of course, were he taking up refereeing now, he would still be great. It was just natural for him.”
Webb gave a 45-minute speech and then engaged in a Q&A while catching up with the progress of one of the association’s rising prospects – Walsall skipper Andy Butler.