On a warm summer’s evening at Merthyr Tydfil’s Penydarren Park, I watched a young Swansea City XI deliver a very tepid performance against non-league Merthyr Town, yet somehow walk away with a 3-2 victory in what was admittedly a highly entertaining preseason friendly. On the Swansea teamsheet were a number of players’ names who I had become familiar with and had heard good things about: Rory Donnelly, who Swansea beat off competition from Liverpool and Everton to sign him up from Cliftonville; Curtis Obeng, a player signed from Wrexham by Brendan Rodgers and lauded by many to be the fastest player in the Swansea squad; and others such as James Loveridge, Gwion Edwards and Henry Jones who were all highly touted youngsters. It’d be harsh to say that the young Swans played awful, but nobody really jumped out at me as a special talent on that Tuesday evening in August 2012.
However, without me knowing it at the time there was one player on the pitch that evening who would go on to have a huge impact on Swansea’s brilliant 2012/13 season. I’d not even noticed Ben Davies’ name on the teamsheet, nor on the pitch, that night if I’m being honest, but amazingly Davies would go onto be one of the stars of Swansea’s season and arguably one of the best left backs in the Premier League; I still have no idea how Davies was excluded from the end of season shortlist for PFA Young Player of the Year.
Davies was truly superb last season. In his first few games for the Swansea he showed superb defensive traits far beyond his years, but as the season developed, along with young Welshman’s confidence, so did Davies’ ability to bomb forward and get at the opposition defence himself. By the second half of the season we had as accomplished and all-rounded a left back as you could wish for. It’s also great that Davies is such a grounded character, unlike some of the superstar-lite young footballers you find at many clubs – something that seems to be typical of players at Swansea City FC.
Personally, as a Swansea fan, I feel that only the brilliant Michu and the massively underrated Wayne Routledge had better seasons for Swansea than Davies last season and club captain Garry Monk even hailed him as Swansea’s best player last term.
Davies would end the season with 44 Swansea appearances to his name with 1 goal for the club as well as 5 Welsh caps to his name. Davies is very much a local Swansea boy and grew up watching the Swans at the Vetch; he even featured recently in Four Four Two’s local hero feature declaring his love for his hometown club. However, many don’t realise the influence Denmark has had on the career of Swansea’s latest footballing protege. Obviously Davies is managed by the greatest Danish player (and arguably one of the greatest footballers) ever in Michael Laudrup. It was Laudrup’s faith in the young Davies, especially following the long term injury to Neil Taylor, that has propelled Davies into limelight.
A less obvious link to Denmark comes from Davies’ youth career. As a young lad, Davies actually spent time living in Denmark and even featured on the books at Danish team Viborg as a certified Lost Boyo.
Ben kindly took the time to speak to Lost Boyos about his brief time in Denmark and his career so far.
Lost Boyos: Firstly, congratulations on a great first season as a regular in the Premier League. I saw you play for the first time in a friendly against Merthyr Tydfil during preseason – had you any idea then that you would feature so much in the first team squad in the upcoming season?
Ben Davies: I knew that I would be in and around the squad and played in the Merthyr game as a way of getting my fitness up! I didn’t expect to play as many games and at the time it was a huge thing for me to be on the bench and around the first team.
LB: Many Swansea fans don’t realise that you spent a year and a half living in Denmark as a teenager – how did that come about?
BD: I was 8 years old, and my father was working for a Danish company and he got a job offer to work in Denmark 5 days a week, so instead of him coming home for weekends we decided as a family to spend some time living out there.
LB: Did you find it tough leaving Wales at such a young age and adjusting to a Danish lifestyle?
BD: Yes, at the time it was difficult leaving all my friends, but my family made it easy for me to settle out there and making friends through football made it easy for me.
LB: You signed for Viborg as a youth player – how did that come about and how did you find your time playing youth football in Denmark?
BD: I got asked to go for trials with Viborg when I moved there. They signed me and I played in the academy team for all the time I was there. I don’t remember too much apart from playing indoor football in the winters when it was too cold to play outside. This was good for the technical side of my game and it helped me a lot, I think it’s something they should do more here.
LB: Did you find Danish football different to British football? If so how? And what was worse and what was better?
BD: It was a lot more technical and organised at that age and the indoor football was better as there were no games called off on rainy days. At that level I also found that the quality was better.
LB: Would you recommend more young players moving abroad to develop their career?
BD: Not really in my opinion; I think the best academies are in this country at the moment and that this is the best place for players to develop.
LB: How big an impact has Michael Laudrup had on your career? (And is he still as good as they say in training?)
BD: A massive one, he gave me my chance in the team and I’m always going to be grateful for that. He’s definitely still one of the best in training here!!
LB: I’m a very proud Welshman and obviously a huge Welsh football fan – tell me what it is like to pull on the Welsh shirt for the first time?
BD: It’s a massive honour and one of the best moments of my life. I’m very proud of playing for my country and will always do my best.
LB: We are currently doing a feature on our website called “Top Boyos” where we’ve asked people to contribute to our site explaining who their Welsh football hero is and why – do you have one? If so who and why?
BD: I’d probably say Ryan Giggs if anyone. I never really had a hero in football, but he was someone who I always looked up to just because he was the best player Welsh football had for a long time!
LB: My personal ‘Top Boyo’ is Gareth Bale – is he a joy to play alongside?
BD: He is certainly the best player I’ve played with!
LB: Finally, what are your aims for next season?
BD: To be number 1 for club and country and play as many games as I can.
Thanks to Ben Davies for speaking to Lost Boyos and, of course, here at Lost Boyos we wish him all the best with the upcoming season.