Davies defends Allardyce in row over dangerous play

Bolton captain cries foul at Murphy's criticism of his manager

Kevin Davies has waited a very long time for his call-up to the senior England squad, so it will have come as no surprise to him yesterday when he was asked whether he thought it was his reputation that had counted against him all those years.

For such a mild-mannered chap, Davies has attracted a lot of controversy over the course of his career. He is perennially the player who commits the most fouls in the Premier League – as well as the man who is fouled the most by opponents. And for years he was the man who embodied Sam Allardyce's uniquely direct approach at Bolton Wanderers.

Allardyce is in the spotlight again after robust criticism from Danny Murphy, who accused him of being one of three managers who send their players out "so pumped up that inevitably there are going to be problems". Yesterday it fell to Davies to defend himself and his former manager against the accusation that they promoted a dangerous brand of football.

"Sam never once said 'go out and start kicking people'," Davies said. "He had rifts with Arsène Wenger but that's more on a personal level. It's more that these are top-quality players, the likes of Arsenal – because they've been the main ones with Sam – and it's a matter of putting them under pressure, getting tight, denying space and closing them down. It's been thrown at Bolton a few times but if anything we're too honest. We've been on the receiving end of bad tackles as well, but our lads get up and get on with the game."

For those who saw Davies' tackle on Gaël Clichy two years ago – which occurred during Gary Megson's time as Bolton manager – that defence might be more difficult to accept fully. As an individual, Davies does not plead for any sympathy and he does not duck questions on the subject, but he does claim that the treatment dished out to him by defenders is just as robust as anything he does.

The Bolton captain could joke that his calf muscles were still "stiff and bruised" from the game against West Bromwich Albion, although he added he had experienced "nothing malicious". He went on: "With me it always seems to be [I'm] dishing it out, but I've been on the receiving end of bad tackles and have the scars and broken bones to prove it. I just want to get on with the game. I enjoy the physical side and the battle with the centre-half and after the game we shake hands and move on.

"I'm on five bookings [this season] already so I can't say anything. I don't think I'm as over-physical as I used to be. The way we used to play was a bombardment in the air. We don't do that so much now, [we] play more football.

"I have always been labelled as aggressive. I pick up a few yellow cards. That is fair enough. It is the way I play the game. As far as red cards are concerned, there has been nothing for me in years. At Bolton, we have never played like that, under any manager. We go out to try and win the game the best way we can. It has never been the manager's style that we have to rough teams up."

Davies' simple take on it is that, given the amount of tackles he makes, it is inevitable that some are "out", as he puts it. He accepts that if he gets his chance on Tuesday – and if his international career lasts beyond this match – he will have to temper his approach to stay on the right side of non-English referees.

To Davies' credit, he takes the questions about his adversarial style with good grace and he is equally good-humoured when it comes to the issue of being overlooked by England for his entire career until last Monday. If he plays against Montenegro he will, at 33, be England's oldest debutant since Leslie Compton got his first cap in 1950 at the age of 38. Davies turned his career around when he joined Bolton in 2003. Before that he was going nowhere.

He described his nadir at Southampton in vivid terms yesterday as when, in the lead-up to the 2003 FA Cup final, Gordon Strachan organised his players into a game between the first XI and the reserves. Davies was in neither side. As he sat in the stands watching the game he was left in no doubt that he had to leave.

"I'm not a negative person and I don't tend to look back and make excuses for why I have not played for England," he said. "You hear things, hear the manager singing your praises, but I don't analyse my own game. If it had never happened with England I'd still think I had a successful career. Maybe outside Bolton what I do is ignored.

"Even [with] people like Nicolas Anelka, who came to Bolton and probably didn't enjoy the way we played ... he scored a few goals off me and got himself a good move. I've been doing that for years. [In the] first season under Big Sam, I was involved in 75 per cent of all the goals. The goals tally has never been prolific but I've been involved in a lot of the goals."

Davies got the call from the FA when he was at home and admitted there had been "a few tears" from his wife as he told her the news. He came down to Hertfordshire, where England are based, on the train with Joleon Lescott and Phil Jagielka who, he said, had been injured in training yesterday.

"And before you ask," Davies said, "it wasn't me who did it."

The Usual Suspects: But do they deserve their reputations?

The Players

Kevin Davies

Bolton Wanderers

Games Played: 7

Fouls committed: 26

Fouls per game: 3.71

Yellow cards: 4

Red cards: 0

Moments of shame

Has topped the list of most fouls committed in the League in five of the last six campaigns and leads this season's list. One booking away from ban.

Karl Henry


Games played: 7

Fouls committed: 15

Fouls per game: 2.14

Yellow Cards: 2

Red Cards: 1

Moments of shame

Challenge broke Bobby Zamora's leg last month. Was dismissed for shocking tackle on Wigan's Jordi Gomez last week. Against Newcastle repeatedly fouled Joey Barton.

Nigel de Jong

Manchester City

Games played: 6

Fouls committed: 13

Fouls per game: 2.16

Yellow cards: 2

Red cards: 0

Moments of shame

Leg-breaking tackle on Newcastle's Hatem Ben Arfa last week followed his World Cup final kung-fu kick on Xabi Alonso and poor challenge on USA's Stuart Holden in March.

Lee Cattermole


Games played: 5

Fouls committed: 8

Fouls per game: 1.6

Yellow cards: 2

Red cards: 2

Moments of shame

Twice dismissed before half-time this season for second bookings. Once for a tackle from behind on Lee Bowyer. The other for a reckless foul on Wigan's Hugo Rodallega.

Ryan Shawcross

Stoke City

Games played: 7

Fouls committed: 7

Fouls per game: 1

Yellow cards: 1

Red cards: 0

Moment of shame

Defender's badly timed tackle on Aaron Ramsey last February broke the young Arsenal midfielder's leg. Shawcross was dismissed and left the field in tears.

The Managers

Tony Pulis

Stoke City

Fouls committed by his team in 7 PL games: 83

Yellow cards: 14

Red cards: 0

10th in the Fair Play League (bookings)

Pulis' side picked up five red cards last season and their poor disciplinary record this season is indicative of the aggression Pulis has instilled in his players.

Mick McCarthy

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Fouls committed by his team in 7 PL games: 107

Yellow cards: 21

Red cards: 2

20th in the Fair Play League

McCarthy's side have been heavily criticised for their reckless play this season and sit bottom of the Fair Play League, with Henry and Berra both seeing red.

Sam Allardyce

Blackburn Rovers

Fouls committed by his team in 7 PL games: 92

Yellow cards: 11

Red cards: 0

Fourth in the Fair Play League

Continually defends his team's physical style. His Rovers side topped the Premier League fouls table last season with 528 and are second this year.

The Debate So Far...

Danny Murphy

Fulham midfielder

Managers send their teams out to stop other sides playing, which is happening more and more – the Stokes, Blackburns, Wolves. Their players are so pumped up, there's inevitably going to be problems. Under Roy Hodgson at Fulham, we were always top of the Fair Play award because he wouldn't accept stupid tackles. I don't believe players are going out to break another player's leg, but there has to be logic and intelligence involved.

Bert van Marwijk

Explains decision to drop Nigel de Jong:

I have a problem with the way Nigel needlessly looks to push the limit. This time he crossed a line. That is a shame as this matter only has losers.

Dr Michel D'Hooghe

Fifa medical chairman on Van Marwijk's actions

Some players come on the field simply to provoke injuries in other persons, [to] break a career. I have two eyes, I can see what happens – how some acts are really criminal. On the one hand I am happy some leaders take responsibility – on the other hand I am sad that he [the Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk] did not do the same at the final of the World Cup.

Joey Barton

Newcastle midfielder

There are going to be challenges made. Fans in England like to see challenges being made in a game. As long as it's fair, I don't think there is a problem. As long the intention is to win the ball. But if players are going into the challenge looking to take someone out or to injure them, if it is malicious, then it has to be outlawed.

Samir Nasri

Arsenal midfielder

What strikes me is the refereeing. The referee saw Hatem [Ben Arfa] exit on a stretcher with an oxygen mask yet he didn't punish De Jong. That has to change in England. De Jong has pedigree. Referees should know that these players make foul tackles. There are sometimes accidents, but are we protected enough in England?

Paul Robinson

Bolton defender defends display at Arsenal last month

When you're sliding in, sometimes it's impossible to get out of the way. Are we going to ban tackling? Whatever Wenger says won't affect me because I do it week in, week out so let him have his say. I'm committed to winning and I'm never going to change until I hang my boots up. I don't go in to hurt people. There are certain tackles that are not acceptable but it's a hard sport where you put your bodies on the line. Sometimes, unfortunately, you're going to catch a player.

David Moyes

Everton manager after playing Wolves

Tackling is a big part of the sport. We mustn't let tackling get taken out of the game.

Harry Redknapp

Tottenham manager

If players are trying to hurt the opposition, then referees do need to clamp down. But tackling now is nothing compared to what it was when I was a player. Arsène has had one or two bad injuries at Arsenal and maybe he thinks they have been hard done by. That's his opinion – we haven't all got to agree with it.

Lee Cattermole

Sunderland midfielder after two red cards in the first month of the season

I have been given the reputation of a hard man, but it's not the way I am as a person or player. I give 100 per cent, if there's a tackle to be won I will go in hard and fair. I don't go in to hurt people and never would. You have to be so careful. Sometimes if a player stays down, the referee has to use the book because they say you have hurt the player. It all depends who you have kicked, doesn't it?

Mark Hughes

Fulham manager after Dembele was injured in a Cup tie at Stoke last month

The tackle which took [Moussa Dembele] out was a ridiculous challenge. There's a certain code that you look after your fellow professionals – the lad [Andy Wilkinson] ignored that, and there was no need for a challenge like that.

Roberto Martinez

Wigan manager after Wolves' midfielder Karl Henry's tackle on Jordi Gomez last week

The tackle was really reckless. I feared the worst. Karl pushed him and came through with his knee. It's one of the worst tackles I've seen.

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