Steyning, West Sussex born centre half Eric Webber began his football career with Fareham Town and then played for Gosport Athletic in 1937. He had an unsuccessful trial with Portsmouth before Jim Angell recommended him to Tom Parker, the manager of Norwich City. In 1937, he followed Parker to Second Division Southampton where he was initially a member of the club’s nursery side, playing in the Hampshire League, making his Football League debut, and only appearance prior to the Second World War, at Blackburn Rovers in April 1939 when he took the place of Stan Cutting at right-half.
The Second World War then severely disrupted his career, during which he served in the RAF but also managed to play wartime football for Mansfield Town and Derby County. He returned to The Dell in 1945 and immediately became the regular centre-half. Promotion was narrowly missed in 1947-48 when The Saints finished in third place, a feat repeated the following season (despite having an 8-point lead with 8 games to play) whilst in 1949-50 Southampton were to be denied promotion by 0.06 of a goal, missing out on second place to Sheffield United, Webber being ever-present in both the 1948-49 and 1949-50 campaigns.
In March 1948, Webber came up against George Lowrie in consecutive matches against different clubs. On 6th March, Saints won 1-0 at Coventry City; during the week Lowrie moved to Newcastle United (becoming their most expensive signing in the process), and on 13th March, Saints defeated Newcastle at The Dell 4-2. In both games, Webber marked Lowrie out of the game. Lowrie was to have his revenge at the end of the season, however, as Newcastle took the second promotion place ahead of The Saints.
According to Holley & Chalk’s The Alphabet of the Saints, Webber was “an effective blocker of anything that came his way”. He became club captain in 1950, succeeding Bill Rochford, and his leadership qualities were soon to stand him in good stead, when he moved to Torquay as their player-manager in October 1951 after 192 appearances for Southampton. He continued to play for The Gulls for another four seasons, being ever present in 1952-53 and scoring three times in 159 appearances, before hanging up his boots to concentrate on management.
In January 1955 he managed the club to an historic 4-0 win over Leeds United in the FA Cup. In the 1956-57 season, he almost took Torquay to promotion from Division Three (South). On the final day of the season they needed to take maximum points from their game against Crystal Palace, but only managed to obtain a draw, so Ipswich Town took the only promotion place then available (on goal average). He did however lead Torquay to promotion from Division Four in 1960, Torquay finishing in 3rd place.
Torquay were relegated two years later, again on the last day of the season, but Webber remained at the club until he was surprisingly sacked in May 1965, to be replaced by Frank O’Farrell after Torquay had finished in 12th place at the end of the season. He had spent nearly 14 years as Torquay manager, signing a number of players who would go on to greater things, including Robin Stubbs whom he signed from Birmingham City for £6,000.
After spending 14 years as manager at Plainmoor, Webber spent another 5 years as manager at Poole Town, before retiring from football in 1970.
NB in the photograph he is pictured on the left, the taller player, with Southampton team mate, centre forward Charlie Wayman.