red dragon

This article originally appeared in MEHSTG Vol. 2. Issue 30 (December 2002)

We all know how vital Simon Davies has been to the progress this club has made over the last two seasons, so how does his place in the squad fit in with the thinking of the management ?  Gaz Bertlemann looks at how the future might pan out for our Welsh Wizard.

It was the suspension that Simon picked up for not getting sent off at Highbury that did it for me.  The fact that playing the Gooners was going to be hard enough without having one of our best players sent off after just 27 minutes was like a kick in the stomach.  I am sure much of the background to the dismissal will be covered elsewhere in this issue, the incidents were totally out of context for Davies, who plays within the laws for the bulk of the time he spends on the pitch. 

His first offence was a joke and the second was a genuine attempt to get the ball.  I have never seen Davies deliberately bring an opponent down in the way that many other players appear to do as if they have been trained from birth to do so.  Most of the fouls awarded against him would not have been given in the past, because of the “intent” aspect of the offence. Mostly he makes genuine attempts to go for the ball and although he might not always make a clean contact with it, his first motive is to rob an opponent of possession; not to prevent him getting past come what may. 

There have been bookings, but in this day and age, a player in the hurly-burly of the Premiership midfield battles will always get bookings, whether they are dirty or not.  Opponents often catch Simon, because his speed takes him past them and they catch him late.  He gets up and gets on with the game, without a word or action to indicate that the offender should be punished in any way.  He realises that this is the reason the officials are there. 

Davies had his grounding in the game at Peterborough, after being taken there from Norwich City by youth coach Kit Carson.  Under the tutelage of Barry Fry, he and Matthew Etherington, were taught the basics of the game and the right way to play it.  Fry is a regular visitor to White Hart Lane to watch over his former charges, who he accuses David Pleat of “stealing” from him for £1.5 million.  However, it is a big step up form Division Two to the Premiership and Tottenham nurtured their purchases and drip-fed them experience to ensure that when they did make it to the first team, they were ready for it.  Indeed, one of Davies’ first outings in the first team was as a sub against Birmingham City in the Worthington Cup and his removal from the play at half-time by George Graham must have been a hard one to take. 

But with Graham gone, Simon started to shine under Hoddle and became a more regular member of the side.  His midfield dynamism produced impetus in that area that had been missing for quite a while.  Among his attributes are speed and excellent distribution, which mean that when Spurs break, he can be relied on to be one of the furthest forward players; quite often outstripping the oldies in making attacking runs, which often leads to him being unsupported when out wide on the flanks.  Hopefully, the introduction of Robbie Keane will mean that there is at least one other pair of young legs making their way into the other side’s penalty area !! 

Having been hit by injuries, the necessities of the side have resulted in Davies having to play at right back on occasion.  His comments about being happy to play anywhere as long as he is involved are what you might expect from a young man making his name in the game, but contrast it with his former Posh mate Etherington, who laid down the law that he should be getting more game sin the first team.  Most managers will decide who plays and when, not thanking their players for trying to force their hand by making statements to the media.  While Matty might have been frustrated seeing Simon playing regularly in the white shirt of Spurs, Davies has just got on with it, doing his best at every opportunity he has been presented. 

It was the suspension that gave me reason to doubt Hoddle’s use of the squad.  Knowing Davies would not be available for the match at Birmingham and having travelled back from a Euro 2004 qualifier Azerbijan in midweek, he was dropped to the bench for the home match against Leeds.  As it turned out, Leeds were crap and we didn’t need Simon in the side. However, some remarks which were made by the player and manager after the Birmingham game and in the run up to the meeting with WBA, there were indications that he might not slip straight back into the gap left vacant thanks to the FA’s quashing of the sending off at Highbury, but the upholding of the second yellow card, making five for the season. 

It is almost tantamount to treason to hint that Simon Davies will not be part of the team if fully fit.  The midfield are unable to be as mobile with Poyet and Anderton in there instead of the Welshman.

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