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No shelving Kelvin's career
Having shelves put up in your house isn’t often a time for reflection, but it proved to be exactly that for Kelvin Davis.
The 37-year-old Saints keeper has just had his home office revamped by a handyman – something he jokes is one of the perks of becoming a Premier League footballer.
As he sifted through his belongings, he decided the new shelves would be a good place to display the honours and trophies he has collected during his career.
It inevitably got him to thinking about 20 years as a professional goalkeeper, and a rollercoaster last seven and a half with Saints, where he is now happy to have settled for the remainder of his playing days.
That nostalgic look back has only been heightened for Davis by his recent accolade of having made more appearances for Saints than any other goalkeeper in the post-war era. He is also just ten games away from becoming only the 16th Saint in modern times to make 300 starts for the club.
Last weekend’s appearance against Burnley was his 291st for Saints – 290 starts plus one as a sub at home to Chelsea last season when Artur Boruc went off injured at half-time.
“When you set out you never think about what award you can win or what you can pick up,” reflected Davis.
“I recently had my little office done at home and shelves put up and some drawers and I was putting up a couple of things that I had collected in the past.
“It’s times like that you think ‘there have been some good times.’ “I have come to an age, or a time in my life and my football career, where I look at those sort of things with a bit of pride.
“I would look at that (300 starts) with immense pride if I were to reach it.”
Davis started his career at Luton and had spells with Wimbledon, Ipswich and Sunderland before joining Saints in the summer of 2006 for £1m.
He arrived with shattered confidence following Sunderland’s horrific demise in the top flight, and it’s fair to say things didn’t get off to the best of starts.
A few high profile mistakes, highlighted even further by the fact they occurred at St Mary’s, cast him as a villain in the eyes of some fans.
It has taken a large number of superb performances for Davis to shake that early view formed by some supporters.
In fact, many didn’t start to come round until the 2008/09 campaign when Davis was outstanding, despite Saints getting relegated from the Championship. Then he was voted an overwhelming winner of the Daily Echo’s Player of the Season award.
At that time Davis had the opportunity to join West Ham, and was actually sat at the Hammers’ training ground having lunch when he got the call to say Saints had been taken over by Markus Liebherr and Nicola Cortese.
He packed up his belongings, apologised to then Hammers boss Gianfranco Zola, and made his way back to Southampton, the place he and his family regard as home. He has remained at the club and now has two and a half years to run on his latest contract.
Davis has seen a relegation, administration, two promotions, a Wembley final, seven permanent managers and quite a bit in-between during a remarkable spell with the club.
“It’s been interesting,” he laughed.
“There have been some different experiences and it’s gone so quick. We can all sit here and say that.
“It’s been very interesting along the way and something tells me it’s not over yet and there’s still some interesting times ahead and I’m keen to be around to see that.”
Davis, the club captain, is a huge influence at Saints.
His calm and friendly nature has made him a big character in the dressing room, something which Mauricio Pochettino and executive chairman Nicola Cortese have identified as being important to have.
But Davis isn’t content with merely sitting out time as understudy to somebody else, earning his keep through being an important personality.
He wants to be playing still.
“I feel good and all I can say is I train to play and the manager picks the team and I respect that wholly, and always have done with any manager,” he said.
“When I feel I am not achieving what I want to achieve on a day to day basis, I will look to change things.
“But at the moment I feel good and I’m enjoying the challenge of keeping up with these young lads, even if I have to go for a few more haircuts these days and change it up a bit.
“I enjoy it, am very happy at the club and feel I’ve still got something to offer.”
Davis spent a long time as the club’s undisputed number one, but hasn’t had things all his own way since the club were promoted to the Premier League.
There was chopping and changing at the start of last season under Nigel Adkins and, of late, Boruc has been seen as the regular number one.
Davis is defiant, yet considered, when it comes to his latest challenge.
“Any player will tell you it’s often the manner with which you lose the place – if you feel it’s warranted then so be it, and if not you can have some issues with it and it can take you some time to get over those issues.
“The bottom line is I have known for some time that the Premier League is a competitive place.
“The day we got promoted I knew there would be stiffer competition.
“I welcome that and if you don’t you stop challenging yourself.
“There’s nothing to have stopped me, before I signed my contract, seeing it out and trying my luck somewhere else.
“I know I’m at a stage of my career that it’s a challenge to play one game, let alone a whole season.
“I very much enjoy that challenge.”
It is inevitable that, at 37, people will talk about this being the swansong of Davis’ career.
The obvious question is whether he will be tempted into coaching, with the club likely to want to keep him around in some capacity once he hangs up his gloves.
It is a tribute to the professionalism of Davis, and his belief he can still be a Premier League stopper for years to come, that he won’t even entertain the idea yet.
“I feel that on that side of it I’d have something positive to offer but until you start going down that road you never actually know,” he said.
“An old goalkeeping coach of mine said it’s a good idea to get your coaching badges early and start thinking about what you’re going to do afterwards.
“But I always felt that once I started putting my mind that way, once I started thinking about being a coach, it would distract from what I’m trying to achieve day to day.
“Being in the league we’re in and doing the training we’re doing, and how intense that is, I haven’t got the energy all the time to put in what I would want to put in to make it successful.
“I’m happy to just channel everything towards playing and then when that decision comes I’ll go for that with two hands.”
The next target is clear – joining that 300 club.
“It would be a massive achievement for me,” reflected Davis “I got an e-mail the other day from someone who mentioned to me I had made 291 appearances which broke a post-war record as a goalkeeper.
“It’s not the sort of record you set out to go and achieve but I am very proud of that.
“It’s a goal I would love to get to.
“I don’t take anything for granted and I don’t want anything if I don’t deserve it, but if I can get it then great.”
It’s the attitude that shows just why Davis has already filled his shelves.
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