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World Cup final referee Webb made debut at Windsor Park

When Howard Webb walks out in Soccer City stadium to referee the World Cup final, he will reflect on where it all started for him on the international arena.

And he will think back to a night at Windsor Park in 2005 when Northern Ireland drew 1-1 with Portugal.

The then Portugal boss Luis Felipe Scolari was critical of Northern Ireland’s physical tactics in the friendly, but Webb handled his first match on the big stage pretty well.

Hopefully he will do the same tomorrow night when Spain take on Holland.

Webb is well known in Ulster amongst the refereeing fraternity and counts former Irish League whistler Herbie Barr as one of his best pals.

Legendary schools referee Ivan Parkinson is also friendly with Webb and remembers when he was starting out in the game.

“In May 2002 Howard came over to Northern Ireland for the Ballymena international tournament which was for schoolboys and schoolgirls,” recalls Ivan.

“In my final match refereeing Howard was actually on the line and now he is taking charge of the World Cup final.

“I am so pleased for him and I know lots of people here would say the same.

“Years ago he told me that if he was ever in charge of any Tottenham games, he would get me tickets and he was true to his word.

“He’s not just an excellent referee, he’s a wonderful man. I’m sure he will have a great World Cup final.”

Belfast Telegraph