“Bolton have got the equaliser! Kevin Davies has brought Bolton level and stunned the Allianz Arena with his first ever goal in Europe!”
That goal. A goal that signalled a frenzied shockwave across Europe and sent the faithful Bolton fans in Munich into jubilation and hysteria. A goal that is prominent in the mind of Wanderers legend “Super” Kevin Davies as the finest moment in his footballing story. In a career littered with extreme highs, this occasion comes out on top as a special one for the now retired striker who is worshipped as an idol among Bolton fans, and I’m sure a lot of those Bolton fans will firmly agree.
Kevin Davies had a profound career spanning over two decades, consisting of over eight centuries of appearances and 150 total goals. These figures are distributed out over 6 different teams; including Chesterfield, Blackburn and Southampton. All of which he had made an impact during his time at each club, but the outstanding club in Davies’ prolonged career is securely Bolton Wanderers; a team that he created fanatical memories that are ingrained into the brains of the club’s acolytes. As well as a sole international appearance for England, Kevin left a legacy among football fans alike that he can be proud of now that his playing days are over.
I managed to catch up with Kevin at a local charity match that he himself was headlining; the Kevin Davies XI vs GB Deaf Team to raise money to send the squad to the Deaflympics. The cause has a special place in his heart as Kevin’s father; Cyril Davies, was deaf himself and played for the deaf side in the Olympics. Davies’ jumped selflessly at the opportunity to help this cause and helped organise the fixture at Ashton Town AFC. He happily agreed to answer some questions before the event kicked off:
“You racked up an incredible 373 appearances during your time at Bolton, what are your most treasured memories in a Bolton shirt?”
“Obviously the standout one is Bayern Munich, that was the iconic goal and occasion for us and playing in Europe was fantastic. Getting to the FA Cup semi-final was a very proud moment although the result was devastating, getting to Wembley was a proud moment for me. I think the quarter-final against Birmingham was one of of the standouts as well. There were loads, we had such a fantastic team and great players. Playing every game in the first season and getting to the final too. There’s plenty in those 9 and three quarter years shall we say, obviously the last little bit wasn’t so great but I have lots of fond memories and spent nearly half of my career there and have some great teammates, great friendships still with people who are still at the club. There were plenty but the Bayern Munich game was definitely the standout one.”
“You played for an astounding 22 years and racked up appearances for 6 different clubs. Are there any players or coaches from those clubs that moulded the player that you became?”
“Most of them yeah. I think my first junior manager was a big influence on me in terms of your values in the game; the hard work, team work and all those kinds of things. In terms of club managers; John Duncan was massive at Chesterfield where I learnt my trade as a scholar and a young pro, he’s still a good friend of mine now. Most managers I had great relationships with, some not so good which we all know about. Sam [Allardyce] was a massive influence on me in a difficult point of my career really; coming in my twenties after being released at the age of 25 or 26 and he kind of brought me back to life and resurrected my career so he was massive and still a good friend to this day as well. A massive influence and if I do ever go down the managerial line I would take an awful lot from Sam.”
Kevin played for 5 different managers during his decade long stay at the club; starting with Sam Allardyce, the one that seems to be the most influential in his eyes, and playing his swansong for Bolton under Scottishman Dougie Freedman. As well as playing among established managers, Davies also played among and against some of the world’s top players throughout his extended career.
“You played over 800 appearances in all competitions throughout your career, can you recall the hardest player you ever played against?”
“Not so much in the Premier League, I think playing in the Premier League was nice it wasn’t as physical as the early leagues in the Football League where you’re getting walloped left, right and centre and it was kind of a learning curve as a young kid on the block and you took a lot of hits. I actually enjoyed it and thrived on it and gave it back as you would probably know. Stuart Pearce was always a good one, John Terry I enjoyed playing against him because we had 90 minutes where we competed and left a bit on each other but afterwards we always shook hands and had a beer together so I respect him for that. Particularly in the Premier League as those later years went on it wasn’t like that with most centre backs and the competitiveness wasn’t what it should be really. I always enjoyed it with John and we had a mutual respect for each other so it was nice.”
“You spoke before about the European endeavours of Bolton, did any of the squad that qualified for European football for Bolton think that is was ever a possibility?”
“Yeah I think if anything we were probably a little bit disappointed at the stage that we didn’t quite have enough to get towards the Champions League with how ambitious we were and the mentality that Sam created at the club with the players that he brought in, the staff that he had which were constantly motivating us and driving us for success we knew exactly what was required through Sam assembling a team behind him that could go all over the world. We were constantly driven towards success and we knew what it took, we were well looked after as players but we had that team spirit to go with it and worked tirelessly to bring the right characters to the club and have a mentality of a winning culture. We were a little disappointed at the time that we didn’t get into the top four, that’s how good we were at the time, but I think getting into Europe for the first time in the clubs’ history created brilliant occasions and I know the fans enjoyed it probably more than the players all the trips abroad but it was a good time. A good period for us.
“You played with a myriad of great players during your career, especially at Bolton, which player that joined Bolton made the biggest impact whilst you were there?”
“Jay Jay Okocha was obviously already there, what a player he was not only with what he did on the pitch but what a captain he was too. He had a calmness about him but a will to win. People like Fernando Hierro who came in, everyone just looked up to him with the way he carried himself so professionally and the way he played the game in the latter stages of his career, he never gave the ball away in training and in games he was outstanding! He was a huge one and that’s one of the reasons Sam brought him in to bring that winning mentality and try to create top drawer players and athletes. I’ve been fortunate to play with some great players.”
I’m sure Bolton fans would jump to include him in that bracket of “great players” too. The robust striker netted 84 times for the Trotters and zealously dedicated a decade at the club. Whilst he was at the club he went on a great run of form to catch the attention of then England manager Fabio Capello in 2010 and defiantly earned his first, and lone, England cap.
“You made your solitary England cap in a 0-0 draw against Montenegro, what did it feel like to be called up to the national side and what was going through your mind as you stepped on the pitch?”
“Ah the whole week was amazing from the first phone call that came in, thought it was a bit of a wind-up at 33 and thought it was never going to happen. I went in with the mentality to try and enjoy it and try and make an impression on the manager at the time and just take it all in. It was a bit of a whirlwind with going out to train with the first time amongst all the best players in the country. To be honest I didn’t feel overwhelmed at all I felt like I belonged there. I got the opportunity to be with the squad, and walking into the dressing room to see my shirt hanging up, it was an emotional moment. Lots of family and friends came to support, I’m sure lots of Bolton fans came down too, and obviously getting the chance to go on. I’d have loved the chance to maybe gone on and get a few more caps and play in a major tournament but it wasn’t meant to be but I’m very… not grateful because I feel I deserved it and I worked hard for it but it was an amazing week and the actual game itself is a bit of a blur, I haven’t actually watched it back yet, I just remember coming off to a cheering crowd and giving them a high five somewhere and trying to make a bit of an impression on the game. It wasn’t the best game to be honest but I enjoyed it.”
“Finally, how’s retirement treating you?”
“I think the first six months was good; getting to do things that I’d not been allowed to do in terms of holidays and doing normal things. The sacrifice was immense over those 22 years and the family had to give up a lot to support me but it’s time for me to really give it back to them now and do things with the children. I’ve been working in the media quite a bit and I’ve actually passed my A License Coaching back at university doing a masters in sporting directorship so I’m busy enough. I have a few ideas business wise to do stuff but yeah I think it’s been a year and a half now and I have days where I think I’m a bit bored and stuff so I’m looking to find a role in football again. It’s just a case of as and when and the right opportunity really but I think I’m ready now and I’ve got the qualifications behind me now and I’m looking to do something on the other side of playing.”
A further career in football seems to be firmly on the cards for the once formidable and prolific striker with the groundwork being set to hopefully kickstart another fantastic and promising chapter in the 39 year old’s life. Whether this path leads to the dugout or behind the scenes of a football club, the experience and wisdom that Kevin Davies has at his disposal will undoubtedly prove substantial and has the potential to evolve into a renowned career outside of playing.
However, no matter if he does go on to have a glistening managerial, coaching or sporting directorship career to match his time on the pitch, to fans of the club he devoted so much of his career to he will always be “Super Kevin Davies”.
Special thanks to Chris Manning, Oliver Hobson and the contributors at Lion of Vienna that greatly helped to supply the in-depth questions for Kevin Davies from a Bolton fan’s point of view.