'He was my best friend, all the way through'
In the latest episode of UTD Podcast, former Manchester United forward Danny Webber recalls the heartbreaking moment that he learned of the death of best friend and team-mate Jimmy Davis.
Davis, 21, was killed in a road traffic collision on 9 August 2003, when the car he was driving hit a lorry on the M40 in Oxfordshire.
Academy graduate Jimmy, who made one appearance for the United first team, against Arsenal in November 2001, was on loan at Watford at the time, the club Webber had joined from the Reds on a permanent basis earlier in the summer.
That gave the pair, who were childhood friends, a chance to reunite and Webber, speaking on the podcast, revealed how they were relishing linking up, right up until the night before the tragic incident.
“Jimmy was my best friend in the football club, all the way through,” Danny told us.
“For those that didn’t know Jimmy, he was from Redditch, Birmingham area. He was a great kid to be around, just good fun, banter.
“He was a grafter, who worked hard, but he was just a top, top person, first and foremost. I know a lot of people say that when people have passed, but even when he was here, you loved being in his company.
“At 21, I turned down my contract here and he signed the contract. I went to sign for Watford permanently, and then Watford said ‘can we take Jimmy on loan?’
Webber: It took me a year to get my head straightVideo
“That season, me and him were so excited to go and play together again in professional football. We were like ‘we’ll rip up the Championship, we’ll do this that and the other.’
“A day or two before the season starts, he got a little knock, which means he wasn’t going to be playing the opening game, against Coventry,” Webber continues.
“He was meant to be in treatment on the Saturday morning, so, Friday night, me and him are sat in the hotel, where he’s staying – I’d already sorted out somewhere to live. We’re sat having dinner and we get to about nine, half-nine and he’s talking about going back to Birmingham. I said ‘you’re in in the morning, you need to be here at 9am for treatment’.
“He said ‘yeah, you know what Webbs, you’re right. I’m not going to go.’ I think he just wanted to go and see his girlfriend, his mum and his little brother.
“I said ‘Jim, by the time you get back to Birmingham, it’s 11 o’clock, what’s the point?’ Anyway, we finished dinner, he goes back to his room, I go back to my house.”
But, as Danny turned up to Vicarage Road early the next morning, he quickly realised there was something seriously wrong.
“As I got to the stadium, there were four cars in the car park. Terry Byrne’s [the general manager], Ray Lewington's [the manager] and two police cars. I’m thinking, what have I done? I’ve not done anything bad enough for that.
“As I walk in, Terry comes down with Ray Lew and they’ve got tears in their eyes. I just get that sinking feeling. They said ‘the police need to speak to you.’”
The police informed Danny that there had been an accident, but it could not yet be confirmed whether or not it was Jimmy who had been involved.
Webber’s first instinct amid the confusion was to try and get in touch with his friend.
“I picked up my phone and I was ringing and ringing and ringing and ringing. Nothing. You know, but you don’t want to accept it, in that very moment.
“At that moment, my phone starts to go. It’s obviously come out in the press or something, that a young Man United player had died in a car accident. People are ringing me, thinking it’s me. People are ringing thinking it’s Jimmy but I’m not allowed to answer my phone – the police are saying don’t answer it.
“I’m in floods of tears now and keep ringing and leaving voicemails. They said ‘we’ve been to his hotel and you were the last person seen with him. You left at half-nine and he decided to disappear, we’ve checked everything.’
“They couldn’t get hold of his mum yet. I found out before his parents. They were sending people round to try to get hold of his mum and dad. They were a great family, lovely people. I still have bits of contact with Jenny, his mum, and so on.”
Watford called the match with Coventry off that morning, although Davis’s death would not be formally announced for a few more hours. The funeral took place at Redditch Crematorium on 21 August and was attended by staff from United and Watford.
The Reds paid tribute to Jimmy prior to the 2003 FA Community Shield victory over Arsenal that weekend and, later that season, wore his name and number (36) when parading the FA Cup trophy in Cardiff, after beating Millwall.
Webber also commemorated his friend after the Hornets’ next match and, although he admits that Davis’s death was something that he took a long time to recover from, he has been left with some positive memories of the time he spent with the former Red.
“It was just awful, just awful. It’s not about me in any shape or form but it took me a year to get my head straight again.
“Yeah, it was just a horrible, horrible end to somebody that was so amazing. But his memories are so strong, as anyone who came into contact with him will tell you.”