8:00am Wednesday 27th March 2013
By David Pye
FROM Munich to Middlesbrough, Blackburn to Bulgaria – Kevin Davies has rightly earned his place alongside some of the greats to represent Wanderers.
The archetypal English centre-forward, Davies was just as likely to find his way to a referee’s top pocket as the top corner of the net.
But what commitment he has shown to the cause in his 10 seasons at the Reebok Stadium!
Signed by Sam Allardyce in July 2003, he had already made an impression on many of the Whites faithful six years earlier when he netted a hat-trick for Chesterfield to dump Wanderers out of the FA Cup, the last man to do so at Burnden Park.
The Sheffield lad’s name would soon be a household one in England after starring in Chesterfield’s run to the semi-final that year.
The young Yorkshireman was now on the footballing radar and joined Southampton that summer.
But it did not quite work out for the hard-working forward, and a brief move to Blackburn and then back to the south coast looked to have stalled his career.
But Big Sam was never afraid to take a punt on handing someone a second chance, and despite being 26 at the time, Davies joined the Reebok revolution ahead of the 2003-4 campaign.
His first goal came on his home debut, coincidentally against former club Blackburn, as Wanderers drew 2-2 against their Lancashire rivals.
Davies reached double figures in his first season with the Whites – one of which came in the Carling Cup final at the Millennium Stadium in February but it was not enough to avoid a 2-1 defeat to Middlesbrough.
In three of the next four campaigns, it would be yellow cards that reached double figures rather than goals.
But while Davies has often been labelled one of the top-flight’s dirtiest players, it is worth remembering that he was on the receiving end of almost as many tough challenges.
The most-fouled as well as the one dishing out punishment – just like many of his famous predecessors. it’s no surprise he was used as a model when they were designing Nat Lofthouse’s statue.
Davies may not be up there in prolific terms like compatriots Shearer or Cole but he was no less important a cog for that Whites team that took the club to new levels under Allardyce.
A scorer of important goals rather than a plethora.
He netted nine in 2004-5 to help Wanderers to a best-ever Premier League finish of sixth. only behind Liverpool on goal difference.
The following campaign he was part of the Whites side that ventured into Europe for the first time in the club’s history, facing teams like Marseille, Seville and Zenit St Petersburg.
A seventh-placed finish in 2006-7 took the Whites back into European competition and that would feature one of the forward’s most memorable goals.
Playing away at Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena in front of 60,000-plus Bavarians and several thousand members of the travelling Whites army, Davies netted a late equaliser in what ended as a 2-2 draw.
Later that campaign, Davies epitomised his do-or-die mentality when he scored the only goal in a priceless 1-0 home win over West Ham in May despite having a dislocated finger during the game and playing on.
Important goals would be ingrained in Davies career at Wanderers; another two coming in the final three matches of the 2009-10 top-flight season.
His goal on the final day, in a 2-1 win at home to Birmingham aided Premier League survival.
The following campaign, his continued efforts at ‘unfashionable’ Wanderers finally earned him overdue international recognition, ironically against the team England also faced last night on the day his impending departure was announced.
Naturally, a proud personal moment for Davies, every Whites fan shared his joy when he came off the bench against Montenegro at Wembley for his one and only England cap.
It was the pinnacle for an honest, hard-working professional who has never been anything other than a true professional during his time at Wanderers.
Many have said he would have gained more caps had he been playing for a bigger club. But Wanderers fans would not have had it any other way. Super Kev has secured his place as one of Wanderers’ all-time super heroes.
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