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Kevin Davies: A Celebration of 800 League Appearances

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Just a wee tribute to a footballing hero of mine

Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

Last night, Friday 16th January, saw Kevin Davies come on as a substitute during Preston North End's 2-2 home draw with fellow League One side Leyton Orient. It was the 800th appearance of the former Bolton Wanderers' captain's professional career.

It has been a long and illustrious career, filled with high highs and some moderate lows - but when the day comes that SKD hangs up his boots, there can be little doubt that he will have left an indelible mark on the English game and most importantly in the hearts of every single Bolton Wanderers supporter.

Now I'm not going to sit here and reel off a Wiki-inspired report on every single one of those 800 appearances but I thought it might be interesting for some (me) to list the top eight most memorable SKD moments. I hope you enjoy them:

1) Bolton Wanderers v Chesterfield - 1996-97 FA Cup Fourth Round

A fresh-faced Kevin Davies first came to the attention of Wanderers fans as a young and energetic centre forward for an attacking Chesterfield side who came to Burnden Park in the FA Cup causing somewhat of an upset.

Some suspect defending an a pretty crappy pitch but the signs were there that young master Davies was one to keep a close eye on. Few realised at the time that our paths would cross again in the future.

Chesterfield's glorious run in the FA Cup would continue, ultimately culminating in a semi-final replay defeat against Premier League side Middlesbrough. Davies was soon destined for bigger things, moving to another Premier League side, Southampton in May 1997 for a fee of £750,000.

2) Everton v Southampton - 1997/98 Premier League

In his first season in the top flight, the then-21 year old Davies was making waves for Southampton, culminating in one of the greatest goals in Premier League history when he jinked past the whole Evertonian midfield and defence before coolly slotting past the onrushing goalkeeper in a move very similar to one that I scored for Westbury against Radcliffe Juniors in 1994:

A fantastic goal I'm sure you'll agree.

Davies would go on to score nine goals for the Saints against illustrious opposition including Manchester United and Chelsea and Liverpool.

His form prompted moneybags Blackburn Rovers under the tutelage of one Roy Hodgson to pay £7.5m for the striker - giving Southampton ten times their own outlay on a player purchased just a year before. His time at Ewok Park would be ultimately disappointing and he would return to Southampton just a season later in a straight swap for Norwegian striker Egil Østenstad.

3) Bolton Wanderers v Blackburn Rovers - 2003/04 Premier League

Following an underwhelming second spell at Southampton and a less-than-impressive loan move to Millwall, Davies was released on a free transfer by then-Saints boss Gordon Strachan. A surprise move to Sam Allardyce's Bolton Wanderers came about, and the player would make his home debut against former club Blackburn Rovers in the August of 2003.

A record Reebok crowd of 27,423 saw the Whites race into a 2-0 lead courtesy of a Youri Djorkaeff penalty and a home debut goal from Davies when the striker latched on to a fantastic through ball from his French striking partner to fire beyond Brad Friedel.

Rovers ended up equalising for a hard-fought draw, but what really swayed Wanderers fans was the sheer effort and grit displayed by Davies who played the game as if his life depended on it.

A new hero had arrived at Bolton Wanderers, and this game was just the beginning. That season he went on to start every league game, scoring ten goals and was unanimously named club Player of the Year.

4) Bolton Wanderers v Manchester United - 2006/07 Premier League

Ah Patrice Evra - the former Monaco defender is never likely to be spotted at Davies' Bolton home at Christmas.

Wanderers had just recorded a famous 1-0 win over United at the Reebok, with a goal courtesy of club-record signing Nicolas Anelka.

What would follow would ensure that Evra and Davies would be forever linked in a sort of hate-hate relationship that only makes you laugh when you consider the pettiness with which Manchester United routinely operate. Following one or two somewhat robust challenges, Evra had a few comments for the media afterwards:

"It was the same last year when Davies kicked me as well,"

"I said to him (in last year's game), 'Why do you do a tackle like that?' And he said, 'Because I don't like you'. I didn't understand it.

Evra continued:

"Today he did it again. His first tackle on me should have been a red card. I don't know why he does it. I just play my game. I don't know what the problem is with Davies because I don't know him.

"Last year he said, 'You can't take the ball because I don't like you'. It's bizarre. It was a big fight. But his first tackle deserved a red card and I was very angry.

"The captain and the other players said to me, 'You need to concentrate on the game, you must not react to a bad tackle like that'.

Evra then said:

"I also spoke to the referee. I said, 'You can't play football like that - this is not a football game'.

"When I play football I do it to play the ball, not to kick somebody. It was a very hard game. I received more tackles in this game than I've had in my entire career.

What a girl.

SKD Evra

5) Bolton Wanderers v Aston Villa - 2006/07 Premier League

Wanderers had been rocked by the departure of legendary boss Sam Allardyce the previous month, leaving the big man's assistant Sammy Lee in the hotseat.

The club needed a point at home to Aston Villa in the Premier League in order to qualify for the UEFA Cup, and it was a late goal by Davies that secured the club's place in the prestigious European competition.

6) Bayern Munich v Bolton Wanderers - 2006/07 UEFA Cup

This game will go down in club history for it's significance as Wanderers travelled to face one of the biggest clubs in world football.

Backed by thousands of travelling fans, Bolton, under the supervision of professional bastard Gary Megson somehow earned a 2-2 draw with the German giants with Davies scoring the all-important equaliser against former German captain Oliver Kahn.

Incredible scenes that will never be beaten again.:

The club would bow out of European competition following an aggregate loss to Portugal's Sporting Lisbon but the defining memory of that otherwise dismal season would be the sight of Davies wheeling away in delight following his fine low finish beyond the Bayern goalkeeper.

He was already a firm favourite at the club, but this goal lifted him to truly legendary status.

It would be the following season that saw Megson appoint Davies as the new club captain, a position that he held with distinction until his departure from the club in 2013.

7) Watford v Bolton Wanderers - 2013/14 Championship

A somewhat nondescript away game to fellow Championship outfit Watford would see SKD make his 400th appearances for the club.

Looking back to his very first appearance in the 2003/04 season when an out-of-form and out-of-favour striker joined Bolton Wanderers without much fanfare, it would seem almost impossible to them imagine that 11 years later Davies would still be at the club leading the line with distinction.

It would all end in tears (literally) for Davies as he was unceremoniously forced out of the club by wannabe politician and all-round miserable sod Dougie Freedman who attempted to stamp his own influence on the side by sidelining the veteran centre forward forcing him to leave at the end of his contract.

He would then go on to join League One side Preston North End where he remains a key member of their squad chasing promotion back to the Championship.

8) England v Montenegro - 2009/10 EURO2012 Qualifying

SKD had often been touted for international honours, but his somewhat unfashionably aggressive approach to an increasingly soft modern game was thought to be incompatible with the even-softer international scene.

However, at the ripe age of 33 Davies was awarded a call-up to the full England squad following a run of superb club form and he joined a squad under the supervision of former Real Madrid and AC Milan boss Fabio Capello.

In a moment that will stick with me for a LONG time, the skipper made his international bow as a second-half substitute for Peter Crouch. At 33 years and 200 days, he became the oldest England debutant since the 38-year old Leslie Compton in 1950.

It would be his one and only international appearance but the pride that Davies obviously felt was replicated a thousand times over by the watching Wanderers fans at home. It was a wonderful moment during a wonderful career and one that he thoroughly deserved.

To finish, I'd like to link you to this wonderful video - SKD - 800 not out: