One of the footballing legends of Chesterfield says he is taking treasured memories of the club with him into retirement after deciding to hang up his boots.
Kevin Davies has brought the curtain down on a sparkling career in the professional game that spanned 22 years, 820 appearances and 150 goals.
The 38-year-old striker captained his club in the Premier League, scored against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena in the UEFA Cup and even played for England at Wembley.
But it all started at the old Saltergate back in 1993. With Chesterfield as a raw 16-year-old. And this week, he told the Derbyshire Times how his time with The Spireites gave him the perfect grounding for what was to follow.
“It was a brilliant scholarship,” Davies said. “I learned valuable lessons about hard work, dedication and having the right mentality. I grew up and became a man while I was at Chesterfield.
“I had four great years with the club and made a lot of friends, not only with the players but also the people behind the scenes and the fans. The experience was invaluable and was something I took with me for the rest of my career.”
Davies was spotted by Chesterfield after he was released by his hometown club, Sheffield United. He became the second youngest first-team player in the club’s history when given his debut, aged just 16, in a league cup tie against West Ham United in September 1993. And he went on to play integral roles in the magnificent seasons of 1994/95, when promotion was gained via the Division Three play-offs at Wembley, and 1996/97, when that unforgettable run to the FA Cup semi-finals had the name of Chesterfield on the lips of every football fan in the country.
The semi at Old Trafford, where John Duncan’s side led mighty Middlesbrough 2-0, had a goal wrongly disallowed when Jonathan Howard’s shot bounced down off the bar and over the line, went 3-2 down and equalised in the dying seconds of extra-time to force a replay is still talked about as one of the greatest games in the history of the famous competition.
“The FA Cup run was amazing,” said Davies. “It was just one of those things when everything came together. We had a great squad of players, good belief and good organisation. Everything clicked into place.
“Walking out at Old Trafford and seeing a sea of blue was quite a feeling. What unfolded was disappointing. Referee David Elleray has admitted since that he made a mistake with the disallowed goal. If only we’d have had goalline technology then. I saw John Duncan last week, and we had a good laugh about it.
“The promotion year was great too, however. I had a really good season and yet I fell ill in the week leading up to Wembley and lost a stone in weight. I had to start on the bench, but at least I got on for ten minutes or so.”
The FA Cup heroics included a Davies hat-trick against Bolton Wanderers, with whom he went on to enjoy the most fruitful time of his career, after spells at Southampton and Blackburn Rovers. Ten golden years featured promotions, European football, the captaincy and a prized England cap against Montenegro in 2010.
Last season, his career turned full circle with another play-off final at Wembley that helped Preston gain promotion from League One. Now he is looking forward to fresh challenges in the media as a pundit and, possibly, in coaching and management.
Retired player he might be, but don’t bet against more success in football for Kevin Davies. Success made in Chesterfield.