About five years ago I got a sample of a new men’s moisturiser out of a magazine, very metrosexual it was too, as it had a ‘tanning agent’. Now I didn’t think too much about it when I slapped it on before bedtime, I wasn’t entirely sure it would work; I just presumed the effect would be too minor for anyone to notice. However the next morning when looking on the bathroom mirror, gone was the grey skinned saggy looking face I had become used to for all those years, as in front of me was a healthy, good looking young guy I barely recognised as myself.
Naturally I was smitten. I rushed out to purchase some of this magic liquid (it was eight pounds for a small tube, but it was worth it…), making sure to pause to admire myself on every reflective surface I came across. I wasn’t shuffling down the street like I normally did either, I was striding confidently down the street making eye contact and smiling at all the pretty ladies walking past, and being amazed at how many reciprocated. Of course, all my friends started thinking I was a twat… jealous of course…
Of course the colour of my skin didn’t make me a better or worse footballer, it just made me a much better looking footballer. The same goes for Tom Davis. You wonder whether this jealousy (which is a form of racism in my eyes…) has clouded fans judgement on Tom’s contribution to last season. In ten years time fans chatting won’t remember him as a stubborn and hard working ball playing midfielder who helped us to the Blue Square South title, but they will remember his tan.
But last season he did little wrong. He was always quick into the challenge, although he did seem to get brushed off the ball quite easily at time, he usually did enough to allow another Dons midfielder to nip in and win the ball. In a side that was trying to play the ball on the floor, he always wanted the ball, often running back to collect it from defenders. He looks comfortable in possession; he makes the difficult look easy especially when he had a couple of opponents on his back.
So why was Brown so quick to cut him this summer? Well Davis wasn’t the fittest of players, and has informed a couple of players to come back after the summer as athletes rather than just very fit footballers. Brown must have realised that as a midfielder who should have been used to working from box to box, Tom was finding himself removed from the action very often because he was so tired. Yes, as Dons fans we applauded him off, we appreciated the effort and the fact that he had ran himself into the ground. But Adjei and Hatton, his regular midfield partners, were doing just as much work as him and still had enough in the tank to compete that little bit longer.
Also, as I mentioned in his pre-season evaluation, for someone that gets forward as much as he did, he wasn’t chipping in with enough goals. We relied on Main and Kedwell too much last season, so when their goals ran dry, not scoring as many from midfield caused problems. Well Hatton got nine in the league last year, and Adjei managed to grab a couple himself despite frequently being asked to hold, and playing nowhere near as many games as Davis. But more importantly Adjei is one for the future. If he hasn’t got the scoring knack yet, if he snatched at chances, that’s something he will learn (and its likely he won’t be a first team regular next season…).
So while Davis must be devastated he won’t be playing in the Conference next season, he must be able to see that this was the wrong club at the wrong time for him to make the step back up. The midfielder brought in to replace Tom will be strong, will be tough in the tackle, will be able to run all day and will be able to play a season in the Conference, taking games from start to finish. He will also be young enough to improve, and have the potential to be a title winner in a few seasons. I don’t think Tom possesses the quality to take the step up into League football, especially as he will be 29/30 by the time we achieve it.
So while it may seem harsh to cast a 25 year old onto the scrap heap, ultimately it was the right thing to do. As a three times Conference South winner I don’t doubt Tom is good enough to play in the Conference. But not for an Oxford, a Luton or a Cambridge, so not for Wimbledon either. Because ultimately those clubs are going to be challenging for honours next season, and if we want to be among them, we have to be like them. As last season showed us, ‘consolidation’ shouldn’t mean any lack of ambition, just a realistic sense of where we sit relative to the strength of the division.
So I imagine Tom will find his way back to the Conference, perhaps even next season. But not with a side with designs on the title at some stage. Because although Tom was good, ultimately he just wasn’t good enough.