A fond farewell to Scott Davies, leader of the Tranmere resurgence
The last big piece of Tranmere’s vaunted core ebbed away last week as club captain Scott Davies announced his enforced retirement. Rovers’ talismanic goalkeeper since 2015, Davies suffered a ruptured Achilles in March 2021, and specialists have now advised the 34-year-old to call time on a distinguished playing career. With him go the last wisps of magic from the great Superwhite renaissance, the last batch of memories from Norwood and Cook, Jennings and McNulty, Harris and Hughes. His effort will never be forgotten, just as their efforts will live on forever.
Perhaps more than any of those aforementioned stalwarts – all of whom received more acclaim – Davies symbolised the transformation they collectively wrought. Before he arrived, the Tranmere goal was a relative wasteland. Sure, the likeable Owain Fôn Williams did a decent job, but the ghosts of Paul Rachubka and Gunnar Nielsen were all too fresh in the memory for most fans. Such interim ‘keepers spoke to the club’s myopic outlook and illustrated a ragged disconnect between the players and fans. Scott Davies changed all that. He led a cultural revival that underpinned Rovers’ success.
Scotty played 265 times for Tranmere. He won two promotions, suffered an ill-deserved demotion and helped re-establish Rovers as a sustainable Football League force. More than that, though, Davies took hold of a club edging towards national laughingstock status and provided the sturdy foundation for its long-awaited uptick. Without him, the past half-decade of success would not have been possible, and that is testament to the guy’s influence.
In all honesty, upon joining Tranmere in the National League, Davies could not have foreseen such a winding path to folkloric adulation. There was almost a nonchalance to his arrival at Prenton Park. Just another club, just another contract. Davies had enjoyed a solid career to that point, turning out for Morecambe and Fleetwood, but nothing prepared him for the furnace of Prentonia. However, following a quick crash course, Scotty hit the ground running and never looked back. An immortal epoch unfurled before him, as a sleeping giant came roaring back to life.
Through it all – the highs and lows, the tears and fist-pumps – Davies was a consummate professional, leading by example and carrying himself with fine decorum. The phrase ‘great servant’ is bandied about cheaply in football, but Davies earned that moniker. This is a guy who joined Tranmere at their lowest ebb, playing non-league football for the first time in almost a century, and stuck with the club through thick and thin. This is a guy who played for Rovers against North Ferriby and Guiseley, but also against Tottenham and Manchester United. This is a guy who believed in the power and potential of Tranmere Rovers, quite frankly, and he became part of the furniture at Prenton Park – a representative of the fans who just happened to play in goal.
“The gaffer once told me ‘Tranmere grabs a hold of you,’ and he was not wrong,” said Davies in a statement announcing his farewell last week. “It’s an amazing club that I’m truly blessed to have represented as many times as I have.” In truth, the blessing was ours, and we could not have wished for a more dependable goalkeeper at such a precarious time in the club’s history.
Indeed, we have seen some fine ‘keepers here at Tranmere. John Achterberg was a colossus. Steve Simonsen was a supernova. Eric Nixon moved mountains and Jim Cumbes even played first class cricket in the summer months. Throw in Danny Coyne, Joe Hart, George Payne and Dickie Johnson, and there is a mesmeric lineage to uphold between the sticks on Borough Road. Scott Davies carried that mantle with aplomb, and he now resides among the inner circle of Rovers’ goalkeeping demigods. He was steady. He was reliable. Oh, and he was the only player in the club’s 138-year history to remove a sex toy from the field of play – against Wrexham, no less. Now that will take some beating, let me assure you.
Scotty leaves so many colourful memories in that respect. The acrobatic saves and the maniacal rants at sleepy defenders. The peerless leadership and the emphatic celebrations. That point-blank save against Aldershot. That heroic stop against Newport at Wembley. Those tears of joy at the national stadium, too, so symbolic of our catharsis. Above all else, though, I will remember Scott sitting with his kids among the travelling Tranmere fans at Rochdale earlier this season. No selfie request went unanswered, as Scott made time for everyone who approached him. Where else would you see the club captain mingling with fans like that? And what other club captain would be bothered to make such an appearance? Scott Davies was bothered, and that is a measure of his love for this bewitching football club.
Few were surprised to see Scotty in the away end that day, of course. We have grown accustomed to his visibility, availability and consistency as an iconic Tranmere figurehead. Davies has long been involved with Rovers’ community work – delivering food parcels to the needy, visiting local schools and inspiring the next generation of supporters. Nothing was too much to ask of our classy club captain, and he personified what it means to represent Tranmere Rovers.
Sure, disquiet occasionally emanated from pockets of fans whenever Davies made mistakes, but show me a goalkeeper who sticks around for almost seven years without making an error and I will show you a flying pig. Such goalkeepers do not exist, because mistakes are an occupational hazard, especially for those who approach 500 career appearances. And besides, Scotty saved us far more often than he hurt us, so the criticism he received was often misplaced.
In truth, Davies was the understated leader of our halcyon revival, the gravity that held together the more glittering stars. Diminutive in stature but monolithic in heart, he was the first name on the teamsheet – literally and figuratively – and Micky Mellon relied on him as a chief lieutenant. That, alone, demonstrates the pedigree of this guy. He was Mellon approved, and that is good enough for me.
Looking forward, it is imperative we keep such characters around after they retire so they can pass their wisdom onto future iterations of Tranmere Rovers. There is more to football than meets the eye, just as there is more to football than sterile statistics. The importance of team chemistry – of having experienced players who know what it takes to win big matches – is greatly underestimated in the modern game. Here at Tranmere, we have a wealth of those intelligent professionals, masters of the dark arts who find solutions rather than creating problems. Scott Davies will remain part of that cohort, even in retirement, and the club must leverage his experience for maximum gain.
Scotty may become a coach one day. He may even become a manager. But even if he just wants to lurk in the executive suites as a club ambassador, regaling fans with tales of the non-league abyss – the time Jay McEveley used him as a ladder to fix a broken net at Solihull Moors; the time a man dressed as a hot dog ran on the pitch at Bromley – that is fine, too. The lad has earned his place in the sacred pantheon of Rovers immortals. He is a Tranmere Man™ who bleeds white and blue if you cut him open. We cannot squander that passion, regardless of the capacity in which it blooms.
“I have a heart full of memories to last me a lifetime,” Davies concluded in his goodbye message. “It’s a football club I will always love and one I now support. You always supported me in good moments and bad, and for that I’m forever grateful. One thing I’d like you all to remember about me, above all – whether you loved me or hated me, whether I was a good goalie or a bad one – just know that I gave you everything I had to represent this club in the Tranmere way, and I never left anything out on the field.”
Nobody hates you, Scotty – you can rest assured of that. In fact, you will never have to buy a drink in Birkenhead again, my friend, for you were the goalkeeper when Tranmere Rovers won their first trophy for 27 years. We will never forget your indelible contribution to our glory, nor will we forget how drunk you were in its celebratory aftermath. It may be time to hang up the gloves, Scotty, but it is never time to hang up the scarf. We will see you on the terraces – once a player, forever a fan.
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