Each year thousands of youngsters hope to get signed up to become a professional footballer and for the small percentage that do make it, it represents the fulfilment of a dream. Playing for a top team like Manchester United, having gone through the youth ranks is the pinnacle for so many people and to do this is such an amazing achievement. Some will go on to have an outstanding career – Giggs, Beckham, Scholes, the Nevilles, Butt, Fletcher, Whiteside, Bobby Charlton and many of the Busby Babes being the prime examples of this- others might only be limited to some odd appearances in League and Cup matches, as part of the manager testing the youngsters out. Recent examples include John Curtis, Michael Clegg, Luke Chadwick, Fraizer Campbell and Chris Eagles.
Some go on to have careers in the game at other clubs, while others end up retiring from playing, to do something different. Of these types of players who end up leaving Manchester United, possibly the most tragic is that of Alan Davies – who famously played so well in the 1983 FA Cup Final and replay against Brighton, having only made a handful of appearances for the 1st team prior to this. Having been part of that great Manchester United side in May 1983 – playing alongside people like Bryan Robson and Ray Wilkins – 21 year old Alan Davies must have been thinking of what an amazing career he would have ahead of him. Sadly, it would not turn out like that and not long after his 30th Birthday, Davies would end up taking his own life. I remember hearing about this on the news in 1992 and like all Manchester United and football fans, I was shocked that things must have seemed so bad for Davies that he felt this was the only way out.
Although his parents were Welsh and he would go on to play for Wales at International level – winning 13 Caps- Davies was born in Manchester and grew up there. It was there that he would be spotted by Manchester United scouts and signed up on schoolboy forms in 1976. Davies, who was a winger, could play on either the right or left wings. He clearly impressed the coaching staff and management at United as he was offered a professional contract in 1978. He spent the next few seasons progressing through the junior ranks at the club alongside players like Norman Whiteside, Mark Hughes and David Platt, before finally making his League debut against Southampton in May 1982. However, it would be the following year where Davies would have his real impact in the 1st team.
Davies spent the majority of 1982-83 season playing for the Reserves, but it was at the start of May 1983 that Davies got his opportunity in the 1st Team. Steve Coppell had been injured (an injury so serious that it would end his career) and Ashley Grimes had been filling in for Coppell. Davies took his chance well and he remained in the team, in place of Grimes, for the rest of the season. This was perfect timing for Davies, as he earned himself a place in starting line-up for the FA Cup Final and replay at the end of that month against Brighton, so earning an FA Cup Winners’ medal.
Davies had great hopes for the following season, but then disaster struck – as he suffered a serious injury in a pre-season friendly, which would keep him out of action for the next 6 months. Davies did return to the 1st team in quite dramatic fashion – a goalscoring substitute against Juventus in the European Cup Winners Cup Semi-Final 1st leg match at Old Trafford. Unfortunately, it would be a false dawn for Davies as he would only feature in 3 more League matches that season and none in the following season at all. This marked the end of Davies’ career at United, as he was sold to Newcastle United for a fairly modest fee in the summer of 1985. After a couple of seasons at Newcastle, with loan spells at Carlisle and Charlton, Davies joined Swansea City. He would have a good run of matches at Swansea, with a spell at Bradford City in the middle, the best of his playing career in fact. This would end tragically on 4th February 1992, when the body of Alan Davies was found in his car in South Wales, having committed suicide. Clearly life had become too much for Davies that day and it was such a terrible way for a footballer to end his life. In August 1992 Swansea City and Manchester United paid tribute to the late Alan Davies with a Testimonial match at Swansea for him, where football players and fans paid tribute to the man. A sad loss to the world of football, and especially to his family and his friends.