Football: Gifts of a Saint who got away

The youth movement: While Southampton profit from a dazzling discovery, Chelsea preach patience to their promising crop; Stephen Brenkley talks to a coveted striker once told he was not good enough

THERE are many reasons why Kevin Davies has invigorated this football season. He has scored plenty of goals, one of them blazingly spectacular. He has been diligent in chasing lost causes at the front and assiduous in tackling back. He has exhibited power and pace, luring defenders hopelessly out of position, and his enjoyment of it all has been transparent.

But not the least pleasing aspect of Davies's prosperity thus far in the Premiership is that he started his career in the lower divisions. The days seemed to have vanished when a lad could serve his apprenticeship at a small club before moving on to greater things above. If foreign imports have precluded some signings, the early spotting by the big clubs of richly talented youth has probably been a more decisive factor.

This merely begs the question of how a player of Davies's calibre spent four seasons at Chesterfield in the Second Division (though he is still only 20) before Southampton signed him last May. The price of pounds 750,000, which now seems the sort of bargain that people camp out on the pavement to acquire in the January sales, compounds the mystery. Manchester United, of all clubs, will not take him lightly at Dell tomorrow night as they seek to consolidate the cavernous gap at the top of the league and may even be a shade wary of an unknown quantity.

"I wasn't honestly given any option," said Davies. "I'd played for Sheffield Boys and I'd been along to train with Sheffield United but nothing came of it and I was simply told I wasn't good enough. I played in a match for Sheffield against Chesterfield Boys and they approached me."

Less than a year later, when he was still six months short of his 17th birthday, he went on as a substitute for the first team. He was never again out of the selection reckoning and before the season was out he was a regular in the side. But there he remained for four seasons.

"There was talk of bigger clubs coming in but I got injured for a while and my name was out of the papers and all that and interest seemed to fade," he said, reflecting on his astronomical rise since August. "There were times when you think you're never going to get a chance at showing what you can do at a better level but they were great times at Chesterfield. I learned a lot."

Davies was to make the papers again all right as Chesterfield made their way to the FA Cup semi-finals. He leapt to prominence by scoring a fourth- round hat-trick at Burnden Park against Bolton who were then running away with the First Division. He was still only 19 and he demanded to be watched for the rest of the season. As soon as it was over Southampton came calling. Graeme Souness, who signed him, was soon to depart but his replacement, David Jones, had come from Chesterfield's Second Division rivals Stockport. Acquainted with the young centre-forward's style, he could not but help but be enthused.

When you consider he managed only 22 goals in 129 matches for Chesterfield, Davies's Premiership record of eight so far is impressive. The stunning strike he scored at Goodison Park after a fearless run at the Everton defence was voted goal of the month. He has also been Carling Player of the Month, has signed a lucrative boots deal with Adidas and has been selected for the England Under-21 squad.

"I can't tell you why it's all gone quite as well as it has," he said. "When I was given the chance I was determined not to throw it away but it's surprised me a bit the way the goals have been going in. Now I'm disappointed I don't score if a couple of games have gone by. It's all to do with that old thing, confidence. When you've got it then you don't want to lose it.

"But it's not just the goals. I feel like I'm making better runs, doing it more forcefully. Strength has always been important to my game and in the Premiership I know you've got to keep running. Sometimes you can be on the halfway line and almost admiring the pace of the opposition as they attack and then you realise you'd better get back and help out."

Davies's early success is especially admirable considering how much he missed home at first. Salary apart, he was like any other 20-year-old going to a new home by himself hundreds of miles away: lonely. The long, regular afternoons after training meant long, regular phone calls to South Yorkshire. Now he has a flat with a couple of pals and his sister has come south to look after him (he gibbed but only half-heartedly at her role), his effectiveness can only increase.

"I love playing," he said. "You seem to get more rest than in the Second Division. I can never wait for the next game." And he added, perhaps with the innocence, albeit refreshing, of youth: "Man United, bring 'em on."

News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

News
people

Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge
arts + entsJK Rowling to publish new story set in wizard's world for Halloween
News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
people

Thought you'd seen it all after the Jeremy Paxman interview?

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch
tv

Greatest mystery about the hit BBC1 show is how it continues to be made at all, writes Grace Dent

Life and Style
tech

Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into conflicts
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'
film

"History is violent," says the US Army tank commander Don "Wardaddy" Collier

News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
football

Striker's four-month ban for biting an opponent expires on Friday

News
news
News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
News
George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin married in Venice yesterday
peopleAmal and George Clooney 'planning third celebration in England'
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
Sport
Erik Lamela celebrates his goal
football

Argentinian scored 'rabona' wonder goal for Tottenham in Europa League – see it here

News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

English Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Secondary English Teacher Requir...

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: The Job Randstad Education are ...

Business Focused Business Analyst - Finance and Procurement System Implementation

£350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Reading are...

Head of Business Development and Analytics - TV

competitive benefits: Sauce Recruitment: Outstanding analytic expertise is req...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker