'Be a football coach, not a bum' - Wales' Simon Davies enjoying Posh role

By Andrew Richards BBC Wales Sport
Simon Davies is making the transition into coaching at his former club Peterborough
Simon Davies is making the transition into coaching at his former club Peterborough

A quarter of a century since joining Peterborough United's youth team, former Wales winger Simon Davies is back at London Road as an under-18 coach.

"It wasn't planned," the former Tottenham, Fulham and Everton winger told the Elis James' Feast of Football podcast.

"I had no real aspiration to do my coaching badges. I was done, I was quite happy and then my wife said to me one day, 'you're turning into a bum. You've got to do something with your life'.

"I saw Matthew Etherington (the ex-Spurs, West Ham United and Stoke City winger) do his B licence, so I thought I might as well do it.

"He then went for the Peterborough under-18 job and got it. Then four or five months later, his assistant got another job and Barry Fry said 'what's Digger (Davies) doing?' and it just happened like that."

Etherington and Davies came through the youth system at Peterborough at the same time and played together for the senior side under Barry Fry in the late nineties.

"He (Fry) was brilliant for any youngster breaking through because he just used to create publicity to try and sell you on. We were always touted together," said the now 40-year-old Davies.

Before the pair were signed by Tottenham in January 2000, Davies and Etherington went on trial to Manchester United after then United manager Sir Alex Ferguson called Fry about the pair.

"I remember driving into the Cliff (United's training ground) and there were just thousands of people because they'd just won the treble," Davies said.

"Sir Alex Ferguson was there, we had a bit of lunch with him and he was just saying he'd heard good things about us and wants us to train.

"He went to Ireland with a group of the first team for a pre-season break, so he never actually saw us play.

"We did train with David Beckham, Teddy Sheringham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and that. So we did have an experience, it was unbelievable. But it never went anywhere.

"We nearly went to Newcastle and then Tottenham were the first club that really were serious."

"Being young boys from Peterborough, third division, it was such a big jump. We were both so lucky we had each other."

Glenn Hoddle talks to England players during the 2018 World Cup
Glenn Hoddle was "the best player in training every day" when he was Tottenham manager

It was at Spurs that Simon Davies met one of the managers that made an impact on his coaching philosophy today, George Graham.

"He's the only manager I ever had that if you heard him, you'd try and run away," Davies admitted.

"But he was great with me. On the one hand, he'd be on me in training because he was trying to get the discipline into me, which obviously is so important. He drilled you but he'd build you up as well."

A second influential manager came along in Glenn Hoddle, who took the job from Graham in 2001.

"That's when it really took off for me at Spurs. We played Arsenal away when he just got the job," Davies said.

"That was one of the best games I played for Spurs at that point and he was in the stands watching. As soon as he came in he played me throughout the time he was there. It was perfect for me."

But are the stories of France '98 and Hoddle's prowess on the training pitch true?

"He was a joke, the best player in training every day. It got to the point where Teddy (Sheringham) went through him with an elbow to try and get him off the pitch" Davies said.

"It wasn't demoralising but I always remembered then if I became a coach or a manager, I would never join in."

"Now with Matty (at Peterborough), we try and do a lot of technical drills so we'll do a demonstration. I think the lads would like us to do more but we never do.

"It's not about us, it's about them. We've had our time. We're just trying to get the boys to where they want to be."

At this time, Davies - who went on to win 58 caps - began to break into Mark Hughes' Wales side.

"For a Welsh boy and a Manchester United fan, he was an absolute hero of mine," said Davies, whose goal helped seal a 2-1 victory against Italy in 2002.

"I was in a real purple patch in my career then, playing well for Tottenham. It was all new and you were living your dream at that young age and everything was going our way, it was a great time."

'Dated' training under Toshack

But it wasn't always a happy time for Davies when lining up for his country. After Hughes left his post, John Toshack took over the role between 2004 and 2010.

"It was a big transitional period. As soon as Sparky left, a load of boys retired. And he (Toshack) was not scared to bring these young lads through, who were showing talent. You have to give him massive credit for that," Davies said.

"I was at Fulham at the time and the level of coaching and detail and organisation there was top notch. Then you'd go back with John and it was so dated.

"We still had good players, Gareth Bale was breaking through. If we'd just had a bit more coaching or a bit more structure we could have done so much better.

Ex-Wales boss John Toshack and Simon Davies
"If we'd just had a bit more structure we could have done so much better."

"As much as I loved playing for my country, the whole situation of going out and getting beaten more often than not, playing terribly, it was painful.

"You wanted to do well for your country, and of course you can run around and do what you want, but if you've got no plan and you're coming up against some quality teams, you just get made to look useless."

This period was categorised by senior players routinely missing friendlies for Wales, and Davies admits he was one of them.

"I remember Roy Hodgson (his manager at Fulham) telling me, 'if you've got a slight injury, don't go'," Davies admits.

"It's terrible to admit and looking back I don't feel proud of that but it got to the point that I didn't enjoy going away and playing for Wales."

Davies retired from international football in August 2010, but when Gary Speed became manager later that year he tried to convince his former teammate to return.

"My body was starting to break down then and, with the young players coming through, I thought it was just best, with my injuries, to call it a day," Davies said.

"I nearly did go back, because I wanted to finish playing for Wales in a better period."

Under Hodgson in 2010, Davies and Fulham enjoyed a run to the Europa League final, losing to Atletico Madrid in extra time.

"When Roy came in it was all about the team and it was all about the structure and everyone knowing each other's jobs. It was all so organised so there was no get out, you have to do your job," Davies said.

"Every day it was shape. Don't get me wrong you would moan a little bit but we were having so much success under him, it was a joy."

So as he takes his first steps in coaching, what has Davies taken from the influential managers he has had?

"George Graham, discipline off the ball. Mark Hughes, the intensity he wanted you to play at. Glenn Hoddle, the technical side of the game where he wanted you to be expressive and move the ball. And Roy Hodgson for the overall organisation of a football team, both offensively and defensively," said Davies, who hopes to finish his A licence soon.

Twenty five years on and teaming up with Etherington at the Posh again, Davies is enjoying his return to football: "I've only been there 13-14 months, Matthew maybe 18 months.

"Darren Ferguson came in (as manager) and he's quite pro-youth, he took two of our lads from last year and this year we've got five over the line and to be fair they've all made their debuts this year in the Checkatrade Trophy.

"It's brilliant seeing that and it's one of the main buzzes you get."