By James Phillips
Kevin Davies is no spring chicken. A key member of the Chesterfield F.C team that reached the 1997 FA Cup semi-final and with nearly 400 Premier League appearances to his name, the Bolton Wanderers captain has certainly been around the block. Yet it is only now, at the age of 33, that the Yorkshireman has made a breakthrough into the England squad. So why has Fabio Capello, or any of his predecessors for that matter, failed to move before?
Davies has a penchant for grabbing goals in big matches. At Bolton he has scored in the 2004 League Cup Final, netted against Bayern Munich in the UEFA Cup and got a winner against Manchester United back in his Southampton days. But he is by no means prolific, having only reached double figures for goals in five of his seventeen senior seasons, and never surpassed the 12-goal mark.
Where he shines however, is in ruffling the opposition’s feathers and creating chances for the other attacking players. The man can hold up the ball better than most other players in the Premier League and has more Premier League assists to his name than the last forward who filled this role for England, the much-maligned Emile Heskey. But I hear many people asking, what can Davies bring to the role that Heskey didn’t? After all, the Villa man, despite some high points, wasn’t exactly an England success.
Well the Bolton number 14 comes across with more confidence than Heskey ever has. He isn’t shy to cross a referee and has committed 200 more fouls than anyone else in Premier League history. While this wouldn’t normally be viewed as a positive, the physical prowess and pro-active attitude of Davies could be just what the England forward line needs, with a lacklustre Wayne Rooney failing to provide his usual energy in recent months. Partnered with a goal-crazy Darren Bent, Davies could be a good short term option for the Three Lions in a 4-4-2 at home to a Montenegro team who, despite having 6 points from 6 in the group, shouldn’t prove too hard a test at Wembley.
Whether Davies even gets a chance to shine is still up in the air though. Capello has called up players and left them uncapped in the past. Just ask a certain Jimmy Bullard. With Peter Crouch’s England record and his good recent form for Tottenham, and Rooney still a Capello favourite despite fitness and form concerns, Big Kev will have his work cut out in training to break past the established order.
Elsewhere in the England team, with Theo Walcott, James Milner and Frank Lampard all unavailable, there are some choices to be made regarding the midfield. Steven Gerrard, despite his Liverpool woes is still a shoo-in along with Gareth Barry who has been playing well for Manchester City. His team-mate Adam Johnson looks a dead-cert for one of the wide berths, but Aaron Lennon, Ashley Young and Joe Cole will all be doing their best to stop Shaun Wright-Phillips from making it a Sky Blues trio in the midfield. Rio Ferdinand looks set to resume his centre-back partnership with John Terry which restores the back four to ‘full-health’ although with Ferdinand’s lack of match practice this is debatable.
With or without Davies, Capello and the England fans will be confident of England taking the three points from their Eastern European opposition. What is for sure is that the consequences of failing to do so do not bare thinking about for the Three Lions.