Black Country Countdown king back for eighth time

As a fresh-faced 17-year-old he got through to the quarter finals of Countdown.

Now Glen Webb is back for another crack at the title after an impressive run of eight consecutive victories.

The financial planner from Cradley Heath scored an astonishing 141 points out of a possible 145 in the fifth show of his stint – the highest score ever achieved in a heat game and third highest score in Countdown history.       

The feat helped the 39-year-old seal his second appearance in the last eight of the show, having first appeared on the programme whilst a banking student in 1992.

And the self-confessed word and number addict said he was better prepared for the challenge this time around.

“Countdown was a show I had always loved growing up, and eventually the chance came to audition in Birmingham I just went for it,” said Glen, who works for English Mutual in Worcester. “I used to play Scrabble against my dad as a kid and I always had a bit of a knack for words.

“But as it turned out the competition was perhaps a little tougher than I expected, and I ended up winning two games before getting knocked out in the quarter final.

“But I did get to meet the late, great, legendary cricket commentator Brian Johnston who was guest on the show.”

Glen, who lives in Sandwell Grove, said his desire to set the record straight had been scuppered by Countdown rules which prevented contestants from entering the show twice.

But in an effort to maximise the quality of the competitors the regulation was recently relaxed, meaning his 21-year wait for redemption was finally over.

At the end of last year he took voluntary redundancy from his job as a financial advisor at Halifax Bank, freeing up his time for an all-out assault on the crown and allowing him to spend six months practising between two and three hours a day.

So how exactly does a Countdown hopeful learn how to pluck a nine-letter word out of a sea of vowels and consonants?

“It is about constant practice,” said Glen, a life-long West Bromwich Albion fan.

“To excel at Countdown you need to master uncommon words that feature common letters, which means watching the game on TV, playing online and even reading the dictionary to look for unusual words.

“Of course an excellent memory also helps.”

Like seven of the eight finalists in the current series Glen is a member of apterous.org, an online Countdown community where players can face-off against each other as well as practising word and number puzzles.

Glen said the fruits of his labour came to the fore in his record breaking 141-point tally during Game Five of this series.

“I managed to get two nine-letter words during the round, but I was particularly pleased with ‘loniceras’ which I had only learned a few weeks prior to filming.

“I had eight letters of the word already formed in my head before my opponent picked the final ‘O’, so to land that gave me a real buzz. In the previous show I only scored 91 points and missed an easy conundrum, so to get 141 was really special.”

Loniceras, which of course refers to plants of a genus comprising of the honeysuckles, was one of five nine-letter words Glen picked out during the eight-game run that landed him the prestigious title ‘Octochamp’. His other maximums in this series were ‘relations’, ‘dithering’, ‘sabotaged’ and ‘notarizes’.

But as Glen explained, it is not always the complicated words that give him the most pleasure – or pain. Sometimes it is the simple words that are a little bit cheeky that really get you the vital points.

“‘Botties’ and ‘hunkiest’ are two that spring to mind from this series.  

“They are quite straightforward, but perhaps not the easiest to spot when the pressure is on. I still think back to my first run on the show in 1992 when I missed ‘enthusing’ in a crucial conundrum.  

“That one still hurts to this day.” 

Despite his day job as a number cruncher, Glen said he often finds the maths puzzles the most tricky aspect of the game.

“With the word games I have usually got a few ideas in my head before the timer starts, but the numbers can be more difficult because you have to try several different methods within the time limit,” he said.

Earlier this week the former Stourbridge College student returned to Media City in Salford Quays, Manchester to film his quarter final clash against Telegraph sports journalist Jonathan Liew.

And although he is unable to share the result of the clash until the show airs on Monday, Glen revealed he was very impressed with guest Richard Madeley.

“Filming can be really hard work.  They do five episodes a day, so if you keep winning you can be in the sweltering heat of the studio for the duration. An entertaining guest can really help to break up the tension.

“Richard Madeley was a real character. He was very charismatic and shared plenty of interesting stories with us contestants.

“It was quite comical at dinner time. We were all eating in the studio canteen and a delivery guy turned up with pizza and a bottle of wine.  Apparently Richard didn’t fancy the cafeteria menu so he ordered take-out from the Italian restaurant next door.”

Glen can be seen in quarter final action on Monday December 16 on C4 at 3.10pm.

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