Despite being a forum of strong and fluctuating passion and emotion, the sports world is peculiar in its largely unsentimental nature. Recently, I wrote that older players are getting no love in the USA-based National Football League. Teams just seem unwilling to spend any money at all on players that have no immediate future with the club. It seems the same is also true of “proper” football, after news involving Kevin Davies’ departure from Bolton Wanderers broke out on Tuesday.
Bolton announced that they would not be offering Davies, their captain and club legend, an extension to the one-year deal that he signed at the end of the 2011-2012 season. That means that Davies, now 36 years old, will find himself without a club in the summer for the first time since 2003.
Because of Davies’ age, it won’t raise many eyebrows that Bolton are choosing to move on from their three-time Club Player of the Year. At 36, very few strikers possess the physical attributes necessary to challenge younger centre-halves in the modern game. This is especially true of Davies, who has never really had any athleticism to begin with. It seems about the right time to move on, and for the recently relegated club to focus on developing its younger crop of strikers, players like 22-year old Marvin Sordell and 23-year old David N’Gog, to help push them back into the Premier League.
The club has caused a stir, however, with the circumstances surrounding the cancellation of the big striker’s contract. Bolton informed Davies that his contract would not be renewed on 26 March, his 36th birthday. When Davies’ contract ends in the summer, he will have served the club for 3,648 days. In order to be eligible for a testimonial match, he is required to have served a minimum of ten years at the club, or 3,653 days. The Bolton brass are refusing to reward Davies’ allegiance, which includes over 400 appearances for the Wanderers, with a testimonial game because his contract will be terminated 5 days short.
For those of you who don’t know what a testimonial match is, it is a common practice in the UK whereby a club puts on a match in honour of a particular player for his services to that club. The match is non-competitive, and all proceeds raised go to the player being honoured. It usually stands as a last goodbye from the club and the fans when a player retires or leaves. Jamie Carragher, Dennis Bergkamp and Gary Neville are just some examples of long-serving players who received a testimonial match. Kevin Davies won’t be joining them.
In response to this odd situation, Davies had this to say:
“It would be nice to have a testimonial to say thank you for what I have done at Bolton but I am not entitled to one and I was aware, when I signed a new contract last year, that it would fall five days short. There was talk that the club may extend it by a week but the manager told me I wouldn’t be getting one.”
It is a testament to Davies that he is refusing to be drawn into making negative comments against the club he has served diligently for over a decade. He appears to have too much class, too much professionalism and too much respect to belittle Bolton for the way they’ve handled things. Respect, it must be said, that Bolton have failed to reciprocate.
So if Davies won’t say it then I’m going to say it for him; Bolton’s treatment of Davies is a disgrace. To fail to overlook 5 days when a player has given over three-and-a-half-thousand days of commitment to the club is quite frankly a slap in the face to one of Bolton’s supposedly most-cherished players.
During his decade of play at Bolton, Davies impressed with a tireless and ferocious style of play that quickly saw him become a first team regular at the Reebok. He is the infamous holder of the record for most fouls committed in a single season in the EPL, with 123 in 2010-2011. This broke his own record of 120 that he’d set the previous year. He’s also one of the most fouled players in the history of the league.
Davies’ “no-holds barred” attitude on the pitch, and his commitment to contest every challenge and chase down every loose ball every single Saturday, had a clear effect on the Bolton fans. Half of the shirts you see in the stands at the Reebok Stadium on game-day bear the English striker’s name. The fans clearly idolise him, and are furious with what their club is doing to their beloved hero.
How do I know this? Because I asked one. 22-year old Dom Manfredi, a regular at the Reebok Stadium and a lifelong fan of the Lancashire club, offered this:
“Davies has been the heart and soul of our team for nearly 10 years. He may not have been the best striker in the league but he was definitely the most passionate and hard working. He may not have the impact on the pitch the way he once did, but the effect he has off the pitch is monumental. He is always contributing for charities and the community, not to mention the impact he had on the rest of the squad as team captain. The idea of him not getting a testimonial is a disgrace; he is the Nat Lofthouse of the modern Bolton.
“I can understand the decision not to extend or renew his contract, as everyone knows he is getting on in years, but the concept of not letting the thousands of fans and players pay tribute to the Bolton Legend to me is sickening. There is no-one I know that has a bad word to say against him, player, fan or official. He is Bolton through and through and all that he has done for the club and town should be celebrated.”
Davies’ statistics might not rival that of fellow Wanderers greats Nat Lofthouse and Jussi Jääskeläinen, but his legend certainly does. He’s the Bolton great of the current era, and respected enough by the people of the Lancashire town to warrant more respect than he has ultimately received at the tail-end of his time there.
Of course, Davies may still be given a testimonial match; it is believed that all he has to do is make a written request to the club, which the board will consider on its merits and then make a decision. However, many would consider it degrading and insulting that Davies will actually have to grovel for a testimonial before the Bolton hierarchy grant him one. Given Davies’ proud nature, it is doubtful that he will go to such lengths. Frankly, whether Davies ends up with a testimonial or not, it’s absurd that he even has to ask.Published 27 Mar 2013, 18:38 IST