WITH Hull City on course to enjoy their finest season in history, candidates for ‘Player of the Year’ should be plentiful.
However, while there have been several notable performers in amber and black this term, only one man is realistically in the running to be crowned come Wednesday night’s awards ceremony.
Curtis Davies has been the defensive rock on which the Tigers’ run to the FA Cup final and likely highest placed finish in their history has been built.
Signed last summer for a £2.25m fee after two years in the Championship with Birmingham City, the 29-year-old has proved to be one of Steve Bruce’s most astute signings. Not that the modest Davies is too keen to take the plaudits, the defender instead being keen to extol the virtues of the entire squad that has taken City to the brink of safety ahead of today’s trip to Aston Villa.
“The first thing I think of this season is that we are almost safe in the Premier League,” says Davies when told that a straw poll of his team-mates had made him the clear favourite to be named ‘Player of the Year’.
“It would be selfish of me to start talking about myself when this was the goal. I could have had the same performances with us in 20th and I wouldn’t have wanted that. The important thing was always to stay in the league and that is down to a real team effort.
“Individually, I have just been happy to be consistent.”
The Yorkshire Post tries a new tack in an attempt to elicit some self-praise from Davies. Has this been his best season?
“I think so, yes,” he says, “No, it definitely has been. I’d put that down to the experience I hold now. The last time I was a regular in the Premier League was the 2008-09 season.
“We are talking five years on and the experiences of being left out, not playing, injuries and so on since then has all come together to make me a stronger character as a person.
“I don’t think I ever needed to rebuild my reputation in the Championship but it did make me want it more. During that time, I was confident another chance (in the Premier League) would come along and that there would be a manager out there who would take me.
“Since coming to Hull, I would say the big thing has been consistency. As a player, you can sometimes have those games when you reach a nine out of 10, but then you drop down to a six.
“I think I have managed to keep myself at a good level throughout the season. That is what I am most proud of. Doing it in the Championship was one thing but it is a different gravy in the Premier League. You are up against international players every week.”
Davies’s presence at the heart of the City defence has been a reassuring one. It also helps explain why a club promoted from the Championship just a year ago has conceded fewer goals than all but six of their Premier League rivals this season.
Such defensive solidity is why Hull stand on the verge of assuring their top-flight status for another 12 months. Following the stunning fightback that brought a point from last weekend’s trip to Fulham, the Tigers can only be overhauled by any of the bottom three if Norwich City win both their remaining two games and Bruce’s men take no points from the trips to Villa and Manchester United plus the final day meeting with Everton at the KC Stadium.
Davies said: “Strange things can happen in this league so we will not celebrate just yet but it is going to take a remarkable set of results for us to get dragged into it now.
“That is a good position to be in. We would have snapped your arm off to be in this position at the start of the season. We would have been happy staying up on the last day with an own goal doing the job.
“I always knew the Fulham game was massive. We just had to avoid defeat. Having said that, it is probably what played a part in our slow start. It was a bit of a cat and mouse game but with a testimonial feel to it. ‘We’ll keep the ball, you keep the ball’.
“But then Fulham made their changes and went for it. Them getting two goals was actually what sparked us into life. We managed to get the goals we needed and showed that once we went on the front foot we caused them a lot of problems. If we’d done that from the first minute it might have been more comfortable.”
City face another side below them today at Villa Park and Davies believes all the pressure is on his old club.
“The game is huge for them,” said the Hull defender. “The expectancy at Villa is higher than at Fulham. The Fulham fans on the day felt as though they were happy just to be at the football, whereas at Villa it is going to be 40,000 fans expecting to get a reaction from their team after last week’s game at Swansea.
“They know they are not safe yet. With the last two games they have got – against Tottenham and Manchester City – some of my Villa mates have said to me that they fear the worst.
“For us, it is about going there doing a job. Hopefully, the nervous tension that their fans bring will play in our favour.”
As for returning to Villa Park, Davies added: “I have never been back. It wouldn’t have been a clever idea to go back when I was a Birmingham player so this is the first time I have been up against them.
“When Villa were up here there was a murmur of boos. It wasn’t as strong as when West Brom were here, that’s for sure.
“I expect that again. A lot of it is pantomime, just to get a reaction. But usually the reaction from me is to do well against my former teams.”