THAT time-honoured quote from Jimmy Greaves that football is “a funny old game” has taken on plenty of resonance for Adam Davies this summer.
It began for the Barnsley goalkeeper with a distinct feeling of soreness following the Reds’ relegation to League One, heightened by a wounding end to the 2017-18 season from a personal perspective.
Just under three and a half months ago Davies was unceremoniously dropped by former head coach Jose Morais ahead of a huge game for the relegation-threatened Reds at Nottingham Forest, on April 24.
Approaching the end of his third season as the firmly-established No 1 at Oakwell, it was a crushing blow for the 26-year-old, forced to serve as warm-up attendant to rookie Jack Walton for the final three games of last season.
Fast-forward to the start of the new campaign and Davies finds himself not only back in the Reds goal ahead of Walton for today’s League One opener against Oxford United, but with the captain’s armband resplendent on his jersey in Daniel Stendel’s first competitive game in charge.
On a rollercoaster spell in his career – and a toughening up process to a certain extent – Davies said: “It is obviously a massive privilege to captain the lads and this club.
I owe a lot to this club; they have stuck by me through thick and thin. I have had four great years. There have been highs and lows, but the majority of the time has been fantastic.Barnsley’s Adam Davies
“I owe a lot to this club; they have stuck by me through thick and thin.
“I have had four great years. There have been highs and lows, but the majority of the time has been fantastic.
“But what happened last season toughened me up, definitely. You go through life and when things do not go for you and you learn from that. It is about keeping moving forward and improving as a person and a footballer and that is what I am looking to do.”
Speaking of contrasts the difference between last summer and 12 months ago could not be more stark at Barnsley, especially in terms of incoming transfer activity, which has been virtually non-existent so far.
The only newcomer is midfielder Kenny Dougall, in marked contrast to the last summer window when the number of new signings extended into double figures.
For Davies, who has seen a raft of players come and go since joining the club in June, 2014, a quiet summer has made for a refreshing change.
The Reds goalkeeper is confident that the new-found sense of continuity in terms of squad options can serve Barnsley well in their quest for promotion, which remains the target.
Bookmakers are certainly backing Barnsley’s prospects, although no one in the Reds’ camp will be shouting it from the rooftops, with players instead being inwardly driven by the deep sense of pain at events last season.
Davies added: “You have setbacks in football and you try and make that right. Everyone in the dressing room is dying to get back up to the Championship. That is going to be our aim, but we are not going to talk about it too much.
“We just want to concentrate on starting the season well and giving ourselves the best chance to do that.”
On a low-key close-season in terms of incoming recruits, Davies, who is the only regular still at the club from the side who were promoted from League One via the play-offs in 2015-16 – although winger Lloyd Isgrove did spend time at the Reds on loan – said: “It has actually been nice. There have only been one or two new faces and it has not been as hard to get to know each other.
“There is already that team bond there and I think that is half the battle in football nowadays. If you have got a good team spirit it takes you a long way.
“Sometimes it has been a bit hectic with a lot of new faces. This time it has been easier.”
The faces may be the same, but supporters who head to Oakwell for Stendel’s first competitive outing in charge can expect a noticeable makeover in terms of playing style, with the German being a proponent of the high-intensity gegenpressing style of fast and furious football so favoured in his homeland.
Barking out the orders from the back will be Davies, who has been assigned by Stendel to become more vocal in his role as captain, something that has not always come naturally to him.
He said: “The gaffer has asked me to be more vocal on the pitch and in training and it is something I am trying to implicate.
“I think I am the oldest player. But we have some good players in there and the gaffer has asked not just for the one leader, he wants four or five.”