Davies: I can thrive at this level
Kevin Davies is out to prove he can be far more than a one-dimensional target man.
At 33, Davies could become the oldest England debutant since 1950 when the Three Lions tackle Montenegro in their UEFA EURO 2012 qualifier. The burly Bolton Wanderers frontman has profited from a combination of injuries, Emile Heskey's retirement and Andy Carroll's loss of form to claim a place in Fabio Capello's squad and trained for the first time at Arsenal's London Colney complex this morning.
To many, Davies' selection does not represent the new dawn Capello insisted he was ushering in after this summer's FIFA World Cup™ demise. Yet the former Blackburn Rovers striker insists he has plenty to offer, way beyond handing out the hard knocks that have become his Premier League trademark.
"People label me one dimensional," stated Davies. "They just think a team can get the ball up to me and I will head it down. But the labels they attach don't affect me. I play the game a certain way but I have always felt I can play with my ball into my feet."
Davies has already claimed he thought someone was winding him up when he took the call from FA HQ informing him to report for duty. "You never give up," he said. "At the back of your mind, you are always hopeful. I got a call on Friday to say I was in the long squad but I have had a few disappointments before so there were mixed emotions. But I have always been confident in my own ability and I can be effective at international level."
Davies insists it is purely coincidence that after eight years at Bolton, he is only now being recognised at the highest level since the arrival of Owen Coyle to the Reebok Stadium. Coyle's liking for passing football contrasts sharply with the reputation for robustness that Bolton have developed down the years. But Davies feels in reality, there is not too much difference.
"Owen has never said he wants us to play in a certain way. What he wants is enthusiasm and determination," he said. "At Bolton, it has never been our style to rough teams up a little bit, under any manager. We go out to try and win the game the best way we can. If anything, I think our players are a little bit too honest."
As Davies recognises, with one suspension already served this season after collecting five bookings, he might need to try and avoid trouble for a while. That is particularly true at international level, where referees tend to be even more strict than they are in the Premier League.
"I would never intentionally hurt anyone but if there is an opportunity and it is a 50-50, I will go for it," he said. "But I am experienced and intelligent enough not to go flying in. I might have to alter my style a little bit. But I can still offer other things."
What Davies tends not to offer is goals. So far this term he has managed just two, which is hardly prolific. In that sense, he is very much like Heskey, an old England U-21 room-mate. The Aston Villa man has his detractors. Yet Capello still made an approach to get him out of retirement for next week's game, as England look to maintain their 100 per cent start to Group G.
Understandably, Heskey's hidden qualities are appreciated by Davies, who would be delighted to achieve just a fraction of his former team-mate's conquests.
"We have always been compared," said Davies. "We have a lot of similarities in the way we play the game. Fortunately for him, he is the one who has played with England for all these years. He did a good job. But I am not daunted by the challenge. There were a few nerves beforehand but I feel quite at home. Hopefully I can make an impression in training and play some part on Tuesday night."