The Sporting Question: Chris Davies Liverpool FC
“Loughborough was the basis upon which everything else is now built on.”
“Loughborough was a time for me to become from what I deemed a failure to a success,” Chris Davies, now Head of Opposition Analysis at Liverpool Football Club, says sincerely, as he leans back on the chair in his new Melwood training ground office and reflects on a time that restored his personal confidence.
The failure he speaks of, an injury and change in personnel whilst completing his third season at Reading that saw his dream career as a professional footballer come to an abrupt end.
“A new manager was brought in and it was a guy who didn’t know or maybe like what I could do. It came to the stage where I was suffering from a bad injury in my foot that kept me out for six weeks. I went to see a specialist and he said, ‘You may not be able to play full-time football again, you’ve got to explore other avenues in the game.’ I took all that information onboard and I was absolutely exhausted by it. I went home and cried all night.
“I left at 19 with nothing to show except a couple of memories and a few caps [representing Wales at youth level]. And that was a failure. Whether it was my body that failed or my mind that failed or a combination of everything, to me that process had failed. It malfunctioned. It was over!”
Davies took the path many young scholars cast adrift by League side’s trudge, turning out in the Conference and working part-time to supplement his income. But for an individual that revels in setting targets and accomplishing them, the lack of focus and an end point to work towards left him feeling detached and questioning the future.
Following a short stint with Farnborough under the tutelage of Dean Austin, whose career was curtailed by the same arthritic-like condition albeit at the age of 34, Davies sought the advice of his former youth coach Brendan Rodgers – recently named Liverpool manager – amongst others, and swiftly decided to venture back into education and get a degree.
The choice for Davies, either Bath or Loughborough, turned out to be a simple one. “I went down to Team Bath and had a training session, but I didn’t get a feeling for the place. I said to my dad I didn’t really want to go there. I knew a guy that was at Reading with me, although a couple of years older, who went to Loughborough and he said I would love it up there. ‘The people are good, you’ll play some football with the uni team and it will be great,’ it sounded fantastic.”
Davies’s grades required him to spend the first two years the other side of Epinal Way at Loughborough College, transferring across to the University in his final year. With the experience of his departure from Reading still haunting him and an innate need to prove he could be a success, Davies took his determined on-field approach and used it to dedicate himself to his studies.
“In my first year at the college I couldn’t even string a sentence together in terms of an assignment,” Davies states with a degree of pride, his declaration justified considering the tale he goes on to recall, “By the end of the second year I was given Student of the Year at Loughborough College. I got invited over to the University to finish my degree where I continued to graft away and finished as one of 25 out of 300-odd to achieve a first. I just thought this is about working and learning and becoming a student. Not being a footballer who studies a bit but a student who plays football a bit.”
His sheer perseverance and will to overcome adversity established the mentality necessary in his current role as one of Rodgers’ right-hand men. Committing roughly 70 hours per opponent and over 140 if facing a midweek game too, with only an assistant to aid in the construction of his tactical reports and presentations, Davies readily admits he is a workaholic. “Without a doubt,” he instantly replies, “But that’s my personality, it’s never changed and it is important to know who you are. I always have something to prove. I feel calmer now, I’m confident in why I’m sitting in this chair and the job I am doing.”
For a 27-year-old, Davies has experienced the heartache and happiness of someone twice his senior. He remains a deep thinker, constantly reaffirming his place and examining his own abilities. He acknowledges Loughborough as, “the basis upon which everything else is now built on,” but repentant that not everything at university went so well.
“I look back with regret at my football career with the Loughborough University team because I was not in the right mind set. I played for one year when I arrived and I loved the professionalism that it promoted and that feeling you get from it. I think I needed that at the time. But I was a confused young footballer who was desperately upset and angry at what had happened at Reading, and that frustration used to come out of me in training. I look back with regret at the way I conducted myself because I was too intense for what it was.”