“Growing-up in the area, just down the road, I remember walking to Bramall Lane as a youngster with my older brother and his mates. It’s a brilliant football club, I collected all the memorabilia and got all the shirts. It’s a brilliant football club and I was smitten from day one.”
Davies watched United’s match against Walsall on Tuesday as part of an English Football League initiative designed to encourage more families to games. The visit, part professional part personal pilgrimage, saw him return to the ground where he played as a schoolboy before being released aged 15. Davies, who later turned professional with Chesterfield before arriving at Bolton, via Southampton, Blackburn Rovers and Millwall, in 2003, admitted failing to make the grade with United was “difficult.” But, after making 407 appearances for their second round opponents, acknowledged “things didn’t turn out too bad.”
Despite settling in Greater Manchester, Davies still keeps a close eye on United’s results and is impressed by manager Chris Wilder’s work. Particularly, he explained, the 49-year-old’s decision to emphasise the importance of a tight-knit dressing room.
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“You can see there’s something building in there,” Davies said. “If you’ve got people like Billy Sharp in there and obviously the manager too, then that does give you a head start. I always remember my days under Sam Allardyce at Bolton. He wouldn’t just sign a gifted player, they had to have the right character too. It’s so, so important. Essential in fact and I don’t think some people pay it enough heed.”
“I’m fortunate that, at most of my clubs, we’ve had that,” Davies added. “It wasn’t there at Blackburn though. There were too many cliques, too many different factions and too many people who didn’t have the best interests of the club at heart. It’s no surprise it ended in relegation.”
Despite being beaten by Jon Whitney’s side - their first defeat in 16 League One outings - United are only two points behind second-placed Bolton in the battle to reach the Championship next term.
“The ideal scenario for me would be for both United and Bolton to get automatic,” Davies said. “Because anything can happen in play-off games. For United to be in this division as long as they have is disappointing. But, like I say, I saw them beat Chesterfield recently and, looking at how Billy took the players over to the fans afterwards, you can see something is building and bubbling away now.”