Steve Davis on a tough upbringing at Southampton, playing alongside Steve Davis Mark One and having no qualms about dropping to the Fourth Division to play for 'sleeping giant' Burnley

Mick Wadsworth described Steve Davis as “the best player not to have played in the Premiership for the last 10 years” in 2002.
Steve DavisSteve Davis
Steve Davis

Davis appreciated the compliment from the then-Huddersfield Town boss, but while he didn’t play in the Premier League, he proudly did play for Southampton in the old First Division.

The Hexham-born centre back moved to the south coast as a youngster, after being discovered by legendary scout Jack Hixon, and went on to make six first team appearances for the Saints.

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He would play in all four divisions, and the Conference, in a distinguished career, and he looked back on how it all began: “Jack Hixon spotted me - he spotted a few for Burnley, Brian O’Neill, Ralph Coates, that team in the 60s.

“He spotted me and the most famous one Alan Shearer.

“I could have gone to Sunderland as a schoolboy, I had a few clubs after me as a young lad and went to a few, but signed for Southampton. They were the two main ones.

“It was a big wrench to leave home, but at the time, Phil Parkinson was there from the north east, Paul Johnson, Shearer, they had a history, Tony Sealy, Steve Baker...

“Shearer was the year below us, he came through with us, he was a good lad, we had some good laughs with him...he had a decent career!”He was alright! His record is phenomenal, bearing in mind he had a couple of serious injuries as well, probably (Sergio) Aguero is the one who could challenge him if he stays fit, he might get near it, but it’s a tough one.”

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Gareth Taylor recently admitted: “I had a tough upbringing and apprenticeship at Southampton under Dave Merrington, Stevie Davis came through that system as well. You had to have rhino skin to survive.”

Davis admitted it was character-building: “Dave Merrington was tough, some of the stuff he did, you wouldn’t be able to get away with nowadays.

“We had one occasion, we’d been called to the players’ lounge at The Dell, we had a meeting with the first team because the PFA had come in to talk about something.

“We were still apprentices, we left all the kit in the first team dressing room and went up.

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“Halfway through the meeting Dave knocked on the door and said ‘groundstaff downstairs!’

“He showed us all the kit and said it wasn’t good enough, ‘go and get some dinner and I’ll meet you at the side of the pitch at 2 o’clock’.

“We walked down and he said ‘right, 40 laps, off you go!’ We had to do 40 laps of The Dell and he just sat in the stand and counted them off!

“It took us an hour and three quarters to do it!

“It was a fair way, was hard work, but we never left the kit out again!”

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Davis ended up on loan at Burnley from November 1989 to February 1990, after being spotted by Brian Miller: “I’d just been playing in the reserves with Southampton, playing at Oxford, and I heard afterwards Brian Miller had been at the game.

“You got called in then and I was told ‘you’re going to Burnley on loan’.

“You didn’t have any choice, off you went, but it was a great move for me, Burnley with the history they had, a sleeping giant and all the rest of it.

“It was perfect for me. I settled in pretty quickly and really enjoyed the first loan spell, it was a good time with good lads.”

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Davis made 10 appearances in total in that spell, where he played alongside...Steve Davis! That sparked the Longside chant “There’s only two Stevie Davii” and Davis smiled: “Yeah, I did play with Steve Davis...They were in the FA Cup at the time and had a couple of games, because I came around that time, I was in and out and couldn’t get a game.

“I made my debut at Lincoln as a sub, and played at Stockport in the Leyland DAF or whatever it was called then.

“I really enjoyed it, it gave me a good taste of what was to come later on.”

Davis made his debut for Southampton the week after his return and would play in the next three games, before Micky Adams returned to the side.

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Davis would make only two more appearances for the Saints: “(Matt) Le Tissier got a hat-trick on my debut against Norwich, but I didn’t play as many games as I would have liked or hoped for.

“I managed to get about seven games in total. You can’t take that away from us - I played in the top division - I played in all four, and the Conference!”

Davis’ next experience was on loan at Notts County in the old Second Division, as they were promoted to the top flight via the play-offs, beating Brighton at Wembley: “I was there the year they got promoted to the old First Division, I think I came on twice at West Ham and Barnsley and was sub a few more times.

“It was a great time, there were some great lads, Craig Short, Tommy Johnson, Mark Draper, Chris Short...they had some good young lads.

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“It was a good couple of months, culminating in them winning at Wembley, although I wasn’t involved, I was there and it was a good grounding and a good experience under (Neil) Warnock.”

Summer of 1991 would see Davis back at Burnley, on a permanent basis, where he would become a big crowd favourite.