Meteoric rise for Tottenham signing Davies
Nothing flamboyant about full back noted for composure on ball and intelligent play
Ben Davies: reads the game well and has a lovely left foot, which complements strong technique. Photograph: PA
When Neil Taylor fractured his ankle against Sunderland back in September 2012, the concern at Swansea City extended beyond the Welshman’s personal torment. The transfer window had closed less than 24 hours earlier and Swansea’s only other left back was Ben Davies, a teenager who had six minutes of league football to his name.
Michael Laudrup, Swansea’s then manager, surveyed what he had seen when Davies came on against Sunderland and accepted he needed to bring in an experienced free agent.
“Ben did well and he had a great pre-season but he is only 19, we can’t put that much responsibility and pressure on him,” said Laudrup after the 2-2 draw with Sunderland. Little more than a week later, Swansea announced that Dwight Tiendalli, a former Holland Under-21 international, had joined on a free. Davies had enjoyed a taste of first-team action and that was the last we would see of him for a while.
At least that was the theory.
The reality turned out to be rather different. Laudrup selected Davies for the first match after the international break, a 2-0 defeat at Aston Villa and, to the Dane’s credit, kept faith with him for the remainder of the season. Davies flourished, so much so that Tiendalli was reduced to being a bit-part player.
It has been a meteoric rise for Davies ever since, culminating in this week’s
€12.6 million swap deal with Gylfi Sigurdsson at Tottenham Hotspur, where the 21-year-old will be Mauricio Pochettino’s first-choice left back.
Not bad for someone who was turning up for first-team games at Swansea in his Volkswagen Polo less than two years ago. Davies had not long graduated from the youth team and was earning about €500 a week at the time. His salary at White Hart Lane is likely to have a couple more zeros on the end.
For Davies, it must feel as though the last two years have been a blur. He has been a man in a hurry. Four weeks after making his first Premier League start, he was filling Taylor’s boots for country as well as club, making his Wales debut in the 2-1 win over Scotland in October 2012. The following month he signed a three-and-a-half-year contract at the Liberty Stadium.
His first senior goal arrived against Stoke in January last year and encapsulated what Davies is all about. Picking up the ball just inside his own half, he played a give-and-go, continued his run and brushed off the challenge from Jon Walters when possession was returned to him. He then slipped away from Ryan Shawcross, evaded Robert Huth and dispatched a low shot into the net.
Davies struck twice last season, including a superb left-footed volley at The Hawthorns, yet he is a defender first and foremost – not a full back waiting to be converted into a winger.
At 1.81m (5ft 11in), he probably lacks a bit of height to play in the middle of defence. He is also, by his own admission, not blessed with great pace
; not that he suffers as a result.
Davies reads the game well, he has a lovely left foot and is technically strong. There is nothing flamboyant about him; he is composed in possession and uses the ball intelligently. He made more successful passes than any other left back in the Premier League last season (admittedly, Swansea’s style of play contributes to that) and his first instinct is always to try to play forward, rather than go sideways and look for the safe option.
In December last year, when Davies signed a one-year extension that tied him to Swansea until 2017, Laudrup spoke as if he knew what was around the corner.
“[Ben] has already done a lot but every day in training he wants to improve . . . one day we will see Ben at one of the top five or six clubs,” said Laudrup
In an ideal world Swansea would have kept hold of Davies, but they were resigned to the fact that his head had been turned once Tottenham made it clear they were serious about signing him.
From that point on it was a case of trying to make the best of a bad situation, which is why Swansea pushed so hard for Sigurdsson, who excelled at the Liberty Stadium during a loan spell a couple of years ago. Guardian Service