The next player we look at in the series of Welsh wingers is Alan Davies. The player sprung to prominence during Manchester United’s FA Cup winning season in 1983 where he played an important role, cumulating in victory in the FA Cup replay versus Brighton Hove Albion. Davies would play for a few clubs during his career with his life ending in tragedy in 1992. This article looks at his career both domestically and internationally with Wales. A fine footballer who left us far too early.
Alan Davies was born in Manchester on the 5th December 1961. Alan’s parents were both Welsh hence where his qualification to play for Wales came from. As a young player with huge potential, it was Manchester United who spotted the young player, and the local lad joined as a youth team player in 1976. In 1978, as a sixteen-year-old, Davies signed professional forms with Manchester United under the management of Dave Sexton at that time.
In May 1982, Davies would make his full league debut for Manchester United. English international, Steve Coppell was injured, and Alan had his opportunity in the first team. Ron Atkinson was the manager of the club, and the flamboyant, colourful manager had a team full of promise. On the playing staff, he had established stars such as Bryan Robson, Ray Wilkins, Arnold Muhren, Gordon McQueen and Frank Stapleton. As well as emerging talent such as Norman Whiteside, Paul McGrath, Remi Moses and Alan Davies. That Manchester United side would go on to finish third in the First Division that 1982-83 season, finishing behind Champions, Liverpool and Graham Taylor’s Watford, who accomplished an amazing achievement to finish runners-up. Manchester United also that season, won the FA Cup, beating Brighton Hove Albion in a replay 4-0. A final famous for the Gordon Smith miss which easily could have meant the cup going to Brighton, and Ray Wilkins glorious equalising goal in the first game, when he bent the ball into the far corner past the despairing dive of Graham Moseley. Manchester United also won the League Cup that season, beating Liverpool in the final, 2-1 with Norman Whiteside with the winner. In that first season as a first-team player, Alan Davies started in 4 games in total and one appearance as a substitute.
Davies international career with Wales started in 1983, at the time Wales were blessed with wingers in their ranks such as Micky Thomas, Leighton James and Alan Curtis, but Davies was playing so well with Manchester United, with his ability to play off the left or the right wing, forced him into the starting line up. He went on to win 13 international caps for Wales, his final cap being won in 1990. Arguably, his finest moment was in 1984, when he starred in the Welsh team that beat England in Wrexham in the final ever Home Championship match between the two countries. Davies was unlucky to win such a small number of caps but this was due to the strength in depth Wales had in the wide positions and his injury challenges.
After his debut season in the first team with Manchester United, Davies went into the following season, full of hope of a successful year, however, in a pre-season friendly, Davies would suffer an injury which kept him on the sidelines for six months. Davies would return and score in a European Cup Winners Cup Semi-Final versus Italian giants, Juventus. United did eventually lose over two legs, but scoring on his return Davies hoped this would be the kick start to his United career. Unfortunately, this was not the case and ended up starting 3 games in total this season and another appearance as a substitute. Manchester United would finish the league season in fourth place, and it was two other Welshmen who seemed to be showing more progression than Davies who came to the public eye, that being Mark Hughes and Clayton Blackmore. Unfortunately, the beginning of May 1984, would be Davies last game in the famous red shirt of Manchester United. After the season ended, Manchester United brought into the club Danish international, Jesper Olsen and Scottish international, Gordon Strachan, and with these wide players, plus Scottish international, Arthur Graham who was already at the club, Alan Davies career at Manchester United looked to be in danger.
In the summer of 1985, Davies was sold to Newcastle United. The team was in the First Division and were managed by ex Newcastle goalkeeper, Willie McFaul. The playing squad included players such as Glenn Roeder, Paul Gascoigne and Peter Beardsley. The team finished in a respectable eleventh position and Davies, played 17 games in total that season, scoring one goal. His wing play and ability to beat the full back and deliver crosses to the likes of strikers such as Tony Cunningham, George Reilly and Billy Whitehurst was a big part of their mid-table league finishing position.
The following season, Davies did not play in as many games due to injuries and lack of form. Newcastle loaned the player out to Charlton Athletic and also Carlisle United. The player seemed to be playing himself into form only to pick up another niggling injury. In 1987, Newcastle sold the player to Swansea City. Swansea was playing in the Fourth Division at the time and Davies now had a spell of no injuries and enjoying his football again. In two seasons at Swansea, he played 84 league games scoring 8 goals in the process. His return to form got Davies a move to Bradford City in 1989 who was playing in the Second Division, and he played for the side for a season, playing in 26 league games scoring one goal. Bradford was relegated that season, and Davies was on the move again, this time back to Swansea City.
Alan Davies played another 43 appearances for Swansea scoring 4 goals, all seemed to be going well for the Welsh star. Then the news broke. On the 4th February 1992, Alan Davies after dropping his daughter off at her school drove his car to Horton, which is in the Gower, Swansea, and there died of carbon monoxide poisoning. Alan Davies had committed suicide, aged just 30 years of age. The football fraternity was shocked.
In August 1992 at the Vetch Field, a match was played in his memory between Swansea City and his first ever professional side, Manchester United. Many fans and friends joined together to remember the man and try to understand why he was no longer with them, a big loss to them but undoubtedly an even bigger loss to his family.
Alan Davies a player with real ability, a genuine wing threat, unfortunately, was not with us long enough. In his career, he only played 186 games domestically scoring 15 goals and for his country, Wales 13 games, but the overriding memory is why did Alan decide to take his own life on that fateful day in February 1992. Whatever was the reason, the football world and more importantly his family lost a fine man.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this article and the latest in the series looking at Welsh wingers through the years. If you want to read more from this series please use the search facility on this site and type in “Dragons Wings” and will bring up a list of some of the names that have been covered, starting with Billy Meredith all the way through to this latest piece, Alan Davies.
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