They do say that defensive players reach their prime slightly later in their careers, and Curtis Davies’ resurgence is a testament to that.
Davies has been around for a long time now, and maybe his early, abortive years in the Premier League have tarnished his reputation. His time in the Midlands – with West Brom, Aston Villa, Leicester City and Birmingham City – is remembered as being both nomadic and, at times, rather erratic. Davies has always been a very capable defender, but the majority of his twenties were very underwhelming; it always felt as if he wasn’t quite in the right situation, or that he didn’t have a centre-back partner who complemented his abilities or, indeed, that he wasn’t mentally capable of existing beyond the top of the Championship or the very bottom of the Premier League.
If you were being unkind, you might say that there have been times in Curtis Davies’ career when the highest level of the game has been a little too quick for him.
That is yesterday’s assessment, though, and the scouting report on him is very different now.
When England’s World Cup squad was announced, there was no shock at Davies being overlooked – he wasn’t involved in any of the preceding squads – but there was some disappointment. While players such as Chris Smalling and Phil Jones traveled to Brazil off the back of being Manchester United players, Hull City’s Davies stayed in the wilderness and must have watched in dismay as England put in one of their worst defensive performances at a tournament for a long time.
And that’s really a mark of how far he’s come and how much he’s matured as a defender: he had every right to feel aggrieved at his omission.
His chances of ever actually playing internationally seem remote because, tediously, you suspect that while he’s at Hull he will always be overlooked. Worryingly, that he didn’t even appear on Roy Hodgson’s radar prior to Brazil suggests that the England manager never took the chance to properly watch him – because if he had, how could he not be impressed with Davies’ 2013/14?
Davies has always had the physical attributes to play his position very well, but what he lacked up until last season – or, at least, what I had never noticed in him before then – was intelligence and composure. He’s aerially very impressive, he’s a very clean, decisive tackler, but what marked him out last year was the ability to read the game and process it at a Premier League speed.
Maybe ‘maturity’ is the operative word here, because at 29 the rashness seems to have dissipated from Davies’ play and the reckless decisions which used to blight his game were very thin on the ground during his first season at The KC Stadium.
If this is the beginning of a personal renaissance, then Hull have a rock upon which they can build some lasting Premier League stability.
On a pure performance basis in 2013/14, he was arguably the most impressive English defender in the league.