Mark Davies: The Best Player in the Championship

David Rogers

Chris muses on the diminutive attacking midfielder's form this season

Mark Davies was signed by then-Bolton-Wanderers-manager Gary Megson back in 2009 on the recommendation of his former Wolves youth team boss Chris Evans, who had been pivotal in Davies' development through the ranks at Molineux. Davies had recovered from a serious shoulder injury and spent time out on loan at Leicester City, then of League One, where he showed his ability at the lower level scoring once in seven appearances, but leaving his mark on supporters at the Walkers Stadium with some crisp passing (geddit) and exciting attacking play.

Following his arrival at Bolton, he made an immediate impact with a stunning debut at home to Tottenham Hotspur where he showed his ability when running with the ball against illustrious opposition. However, he struggled to replicate this form and was often a substitute. The season after, Megson was replaced by former Burnley manager and ex-Bolton striker Owen Coyle, and he immediately made Davies one of his regular group of midfielders alongside the likes of Fabrice Muamba and Stuart Holden, though he found starts hard to come by.

Bolton fans came to see Mark Davies as something of a luxury player, and despite his now regular place in the centre of midfield often his end-product was found lacking, and this became a source of frustration for many in the stands. Often Davies would weave through opposition defences only to struggle to find the final ball or shot on goal. Indeed he only scored seven times in his first three years at the club.

As Bolton went on to struggle under Coyle, so did Mark Davies. Obviously it's hard to shine in a struggling team, and so Davies had issues with his consistency at the club. He still had the faith of the manager, and would be in the team more often than not. He was a key member of the midfield alongside Nigel Reo-Coker in the season that saw Bolton suffer relegation, indeed he would score in that fateful game away to Stoke City that sealed our relegation into drop into the Championship.

Speculation was rife in the Summer of 2011/12 that Premier League side Swansea City wanted Davies, with a fee of £5m mooted. Despite bids being made, Coyle's valuation of the player wasn't met and he remained at the club. The manager would again change, with Coyle being replaced by former Crystal Palace man Dougie Freedman in October 2012, and he would again keep Davies as one of his main men.

The season was a disappointment for Bolton and for their fans, despite the encouraging form of Mark Davies who began to add goals and, more importantly, consistency to his game. He scored six times in 25 games for the club and was in great form until suffering a terrible knee injury in March which was to keep him out of the season for nearly ten months.

Upon his return from this injury, Davies emerged stronger and more resilient. Of course he came back into the side with an almost immediate effect, such is his ability and presence in the side. Now one of the elder statesmen at the club, and as someone who has almost 125 appearances for the club, Davies has never been more important.

Again, Bolton Wanderers have found life difficult in the Championship - but one of the few rays of light in this season has been the form of Mark Davies who has emerged as, in my opinion, the best footballer in the division. He has, again in my opinion, an unrivaled ability which strikes fear into the hardiest of opponents. His goal at Leeds United which, although clearly punched into the net, was just reward for a period of form which has finally seen Davies find that consistency that has been so hard to obtain.

He really is the tiara on our particular shire horse, to coin a phrase.

He is going to be crucial in our progression over the remainder of the season. As he has returned to full fitness since that anterior ligament injury he has become more and more integral to our play. Everything goes through Davies. He has an ability unmatched in the Bolton squad, and has now grown into that role displaying maturity and a willingness to take the ball and make things happen. Mark Davies is the one midfielder in our ranks who can be relied upon to carry the ball from the back, linking attack and defence with great belief in his own ability. His fellow midfielders Jay Spearing and Medo are much more 'give it to me so I can give it to someone else' types, but to have Davies there gives us an option that few players in this division can match.

The Championship is a league with some decent players, but very few stars. Davies is a little bit under-the-radar, a little unfashionable. Regardless, he is our best and most important player, and I am yet to see an opposition player this season come anywhere near his ability or impact upon a game. The fear and respect in the eyes of the Blackburn Rovers players during our 4-0 humiliation of those swines was clear to see. They KNOW that Davies is a threat, and they certainly don't think that about Darren Pratley, God love him.

I foresee a Premier League future for him, I just pray it's with Bolton Wanderers. However, should we receive an offer in the summer of £5m plus then unfortunately I can see his head being turned, which despite his loyalty to the club thus far, would be completely understandable. He is deserving of a higher stage than the Championship which his status as 'Best Player' in the league surely merits.

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