As a Junior Bear back in the late 1990s, Jonathon Webb was a regular in the Edgbaston pavilion watching his heroes. On at least one occasion he shared his sweets with club legend Dougie Brown who was fielding in the deep.
Funny how things work out. Several years later it was Brown who brought Webb through the Bears Academy and into the professional ranks before subsequently making a difficult decision to release him to pursue other opportunities in the game.
But though his full-time playing career came to end, a bright future in cricket still beckons for Webb, who aged only 26, is eyeing up a potentially long and excellent career in the sport – based at HQ. Lord’s is not a bad place to have an office.
Even though I only ran the drinks on Finals Day it was an amazing day. Everyone stayed in the dressing-room celebrating afterwards including the back-room staff, groundsmen and the whole Edgbaston family and sharing the moment with my parents ensured it to be a memory I will always treasure.Jonathon Webb
Since October, Webb has worked as a marketing executive, focusing on T20, for the England and Wales Cricket Board. It is a full-time role which involves working with all 18 counties and among other things, driving attendance growth within the domestic game.
There is no doubt that the Solihull-born player was bruised when he was released by the Bears. But he’s dusted himself down and embarked on another cricket-related career with intriguing scope and prospects.
“It was tough when Warwickshire let me go, as you can imagine,” he said.
“I was in the Bears system from Under 13s and was at Edgbaston three or four times in the week and then on Sundays. It was my second home since then and I made some lifelong friends, coming through with the likes of Paul Best, Tom Lewis and Freddie Coleman. So of course it hurt to leave.”
Webb played regular 2nd XI cricket for the Bears from the age of 18 but his first-class debut arrived for Leeds/Bradford MCCU, against Surrey at The Oval. It was quite a game, with the students losing by two runs.
“I remember it well” he recalls. “We needed about 50 to win when the last man went in and got to within two when Ivan Thomas got sawn off. It was heartbreaking – but fantastic to play at The Oval. It’s still one of my favourite grounds.”
Webb’s first-team opportunities for Warwickshire were to prove limited. He played six first-class matches and one, ill-fated one-day game, against Nottinghamshire at Welbeck Colliery (“I was run out at the non-striker’s end and then dived in the field and ruptured shoulder ligaments which put me out for the season.”) But he did have a big hand in one of the Bears’ great achievements.
In 2014, when they won the T20 Blast competition for the first time, he was a regular in the group stage, playing 11 games before missing out on Finals Day when Ian Bell came in.
“I played most of the games before Belly came back and it was a really fun summer,” he said, “For a young player coming in to the game, T20 is the format you want to play.
The commercial team at Edgbaston were great too and allowed me to spend some time with them and I learned a lot. Then Alex Perkins from the team alerted me to the ECB job. I’d never had a job interview in my life so went down thinking I’d just do my best and it would be good experience – but I got it.Jonathon Webb
“Even though I only ran the drinks on Finals Day it was an amazing day. Everyone stayed in the dressing-room celebrating afterwards including the back-room staff, groundsmen and the whole Edgbaston family and sharing the moment with my parents ensured it to be a memory I will always treasure.”
Four years on from that that momentous night, the T20 Blast is now Webb’s focus in a different way. His Warwickshire career having ended, another career soon began, thanks to his own resilience and enterprise and some valuable help.
“After I left Warwickshire I played for Gloucestershire but they could not commit to a contract until the winter,” he said. “In the meantime, the PCA reps were brilliant. At times like that you realise how good the PCA is at supporting you. “Lynsey Williams was there through the whole process and helped massively. The support was absolutely brilliant. You are not just left on your own to get on with it.
“The commercial team at Edgbaston were great too and allowed me to spend some time with them and I learned a lot. Then Alex Perkins from the team alerted me to the ECB job. I’d never had a job interview in my life so went down thinking I’d just do my best and it would be good experience – but I got it!
“I love it. Coming into Lord’s every day to work is great and the job is exciting. T20 Blast continues to grow within the cricket sphere with crowds up 11 per cent last season and totalling over 900,000. And we are looking to grow that again in 2018.”
Webb has found a nice niche as part of the continuing rise of T20. And while he still strapped on the pads occasionally last season, for Wimbledon, close to his home in Putney, it is off the field where the future now excites him.
“I enjoyed playing in 2017 and every now and then, when I hit a nice cover-drive, it crossed my mind that I could give it another go,” he said. “But I don’t foresee that happening.
“All I wanted to do was play cricket and I had some great experiences and opportunities in the years I was with Warwickshire. And I have a lot of great memories. Being part of the NatWest T20 Blast-winning squad in 2014 is something I will always cherish. Some people go a whole career without having a day like that.
“That’s great to have done – but now I’ve got a brilliant opportunity at the ECB with a lot of exciting things ahead for Blast and the new competition in 2020. I work with some fantastic people so I’ll learn all I can from then and see where that takes me.”