Davies has Wembley stage to silence doubters

Hull City's Curtis Davies (right)
Hull City's Curtis Davies (right)
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as a boy growing up in London, Curtis Davies supported Manchester United.

His Sierra Leone-born father Eugene – “a glory hunter”, according to the Hull City captain – can be thanked for that.

What this long-distance love affair did do, though, was provide a young Curtis with a host of heroes to admire. “I was a striker as a kid,” recalls the 29-year-old. “So, the posters on my wall were all of Andy Cole, Eric Cantona and Andrei Kanchelskis.”

But not Steve Bruce? “I’m not sure they did posters of the gaffer,” laughs Davies in response to The Yorkshire Post’s enquiry. “Maybe to keep kids away from the fire!”

Davies can afford to be in such a playful mood. Tomorrow will bring a first appearance at Wembley as the Tigers hunt a maiden FA Cup final, while the defender’s form has been so impressive in the East Riding that Bruce admitted this week: “I shouldn’t pick players of the year, because that’s not for the manager to do. But I wouldn’t have thought there are many capable of beating Curtis. He has had a terrific season.”

Davies has, indeed, been the bedrock on which Hull’s campaign has been built. Signed last summer from Championship side Birmingham City for a bargain £2.2m, the defender has missed just one of City’s 33 league games and his form has been so impressive that Roy Hodgson has been urged to take the Londoner to Brazil this summer.

Not bad for someone who, in his younger days, was a striker.

“I was pacy, I used to get in behind and I could finish,” explains Davies when asked about what sort of forward he was. “I can’t remember exactly when I moved back, maybe 14 years old.

“But it was just to fill in as one of the lads was ill. We had about five strikers in our Sunday League team so I thought: ‘Why not?’ And I never went back.”

The switch proved to be a wise one, as a CV boasting 118 Premier League appearances with four different clubs vividly illustrates.

He also played for England Under-21s but, despite being called up to the senior squad twice by Fabio Capello, a full international appearance has, so far, eluded him.

That has alerted the Republic of Ireland, who last autumn made it known that they were interested in a player who qualifies through his grandmother.

Davies, though, remains unsure, especially after scathing comments from Roy Keane, assistant to manager Martin O’Neill, recently in his guise as a television pundit.

“Well, I had a Guinness once,” laughs the City defender in response to being asked about the possibility of joining up with the Irish. “My nan was born in Ireland, but she’s not Irish. She’s English.

“Her father was in the army and he was in Ireland when she was born. There is no heritage but I do qualify.

“However, I am not sure after Roy Keane’s comments. Am I good enough for Ireland? I won’t say his comments annoyed me but he did say I am not international quality.

“Does that mean he thinks I am not good enough for Ireland? If he doesn’t believe I am good enough for England, then say ‘England’.

“Also, it is well documented that O’Neill and I had problems at Villa. Is that really going to work? Do I really want to sell myself down the Irish route as then I’ll have an assistant manager who doesn’t rate me and a manager who maybe there is a bit of ill feeling with.”

Thanks to dad Eugene, Sierra Leone is another international option. But, again, Davies has reservations. “It would be difficult but it would be a bigger option for me,” he said. “The problem is the African calendar and the African Nations being played in January.

“I am not sure that would go down well with the gaffer, for me to go away for a month in January when we have got vital games in the Premier League.”

Bruce is unlikely to welcome such a prospect. Not with Davies proving such an inspired signing last summer.

There is clearly a bond between the two, as was underlined when the City defender was asked if the Hull manager had regaled the squad with tales of his own successes in the FA Cup ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Wembley.

“Of course he does,” said the defender with a smile. “He loves telling us about his success. The gaffer was joking around once and said: ‘I have never lost a semi-final and I don’t think I’ve lost a final.’

“So, we had to remind him about the Everton final in 1995 (that Manchester United lost 1-0). He wasn’t too happy about that.

“We obviously had a bit of banter but, seriously, we do admire what the gaffer has done as a man and as a player. We want to emulate the success he had as a player as a manager for him.

“His experience as a player can help us, even if he was playing at a different level. He was playing for the champions of the league.

“I grew up as a Manchester United fan so I remember all those finals, especially the Everton one when the gaffer was on the line trying to stop the goal. I always remind him of that.”

Tomorrow should see Davies fulfil an ambition of playing at Wembley after injury and being cup-tied has repeatedly scuppered his hopes. The first of those came with the stadium’s opening game, an England Under-21 international against Italy, and since then Davies has been forced to sit out two League Cup finals and two FA Cup semi-finals.

“As a kid, I watched every single FA Cup final,” he added. “It used to be traditional, the last game of the season. Whereas recently, it has sort of been squeezed in just before the last game.

“Thankfully, it is back to normal this year and that is how it should be. It has to be the climax to the season. And this year, I am hoping I will not be watching the final but playing in it.”