At the age of 16 years and 176 days, Kevin Davies became Chesterfield's second-youngest League debutant: four days later, he became the youngest to play for any club in the Football League Cup when he came on as a substitute at The Boleyn Ground on September 22nd, 1993. An England youth international, Kevin was the finest prospect to emerge from the club's youth ranks for many years. After being overlooked by his boyhood heroes, Sheffield United, Chesterfield realised his potential and signed him as a full professional a few weeks after his seventeenth birthday. For one so young, he looked remarkably mature and confident in his first couple of seasons, playing, it seemed, without the fear of failure. He proved a strong and purposeful runner, difficult to dispossess and calm in front of goal, and Premier League scouts were soon beating a path to Saltergate.
After becoming the club's top League goalscorer in their '94-5 promotion season he began to suffer a little from fatigue and nagging injuries; these eventually manifested themselves as a pelvic strain, and he was forced to miss a significant chunk of the '95-6 season. Without him, Chesterfield were unquestionably a poorer force, and slipped out of play-off contention at the death.'96-7 was a season of vastly mixed fortunes for him: he gained national attention with a marvellous hat-trick against Bolton as Chesterfield reached the FA Cup semi-finals, putting the fear of god into Middlesbrough in the Old Trafford game, but was one of a League-record five players sent off in an infamous match against Plymouth.
In broad terms, though, his last season in the Spireite blue might be considered disappointing. He played through a slight but continuing injury, and the long struggle to maintain full fitness took a toll and made him less effective. Incredibly, the lad began to suffer abuse from the crowd.
Still, scouts flocked to the Rec to watch him, and the club began entertaining offers for his transfer. A bid of £400,000 from Bristol City came to nothing after Kevin himself vetoed the deal, and the same happened to an offer of around £1 million from Southampton. Kevin could afford to be patient, though: his contract lapsed in the summer of '97, enabling him to negotiate a substantially better deal at his next club. With Southampton safely clear of Premiership relegation trouble for another season, Kevin considered a move to the south coast again. This time, player and buyer concluded their part of the deal quickly, leaving the clubs to agree a undisclosed fee of £750,000. Saints' boss Graham Souness knew what he was buying: "He is far from the finished article," said the Scot, "but has lots of potential and ability."Kevin thus broke the club's record for a fee received, and became the first Chesterfield player to move to a top-division club since Danny Wilson in '82-3.
Kevin was soon being trumpeted as the bargain of the season and his progress was recognised in a glorious November, 1997.He was called into the England under-21 squad, making his debut in Greece; he shared the Carling Premiership Player of the Month award and also came first and third in the BBC's "Goal of the Month" competition. He was voted runner-up to Liverpool's Michael Owen as the Premiership's Young Player of the Year. A knee injury brought an abrupt end to his first season in the Premiership and prevented his playing for the England under-21s in the 1998 Toulon Tournament.
On June 1st., 1998, Kevin became Blackburn's record signing when completing a move said to be worth £20,000 a week to the lad, for seven years, at a reported fee of seven and a quarter million pounds. In injury-blighted season his valued had soared by ten times, yet Chesterfield received no more money from this deal: a year previously, they failed to negotiate any sell-on clause. Kevin's first Blackburn season was terrible. He spent the early part of it out of the side with a serious throat infection that required a spell in hospital and he failed to impress when fit. Certain Rovers players - especially one established forward who obviously feared for his own place - displayed a level of hostility towards Kevin that he had not seen at either of his two previous, more closely-knit clubs. Blackburn were relegated to Division One and Davies, widely regarded as an expensive misfit, opted for a return to the south coast in exchange for Egil Ostenstadt in August 1999.
Despite being back where his career took off, Kevin found it difficult to bond with a succession of managers on the south coast, and his form reflected this. Only ten goals came from 59 league starts, and a loan spell at Millwall looked set to signal the end of Kevin's Premiership career. From out of nowhere, Bolton Wanderers came in for him and snapped him up on a free in July 2003. Davies went to a club where the manager, Sam Allardyce, cared about the man-management side of the game and recognised how to get the best from his player Until their relegation in 2012, 302 Premiership starts for the Trotters yielded 67 goals, and Kevin made many more for others as Wanderers used his classic "English centre-forward" gifts to their fullest.
The full England cap that appeared to be nailed on as a youngster came late. In 2010 Davies was asked if he might qualify for Scotland, but the player rejected these overtures despite being overlooked by the nation of his birth. The call eventually came in 2010 when, at the age of 33 years and 100 days, Kevin came on for Peter Crouch in a Euro 2012 qualifier against Montenegro. Within minutes he’d caused confusion in the Montenegro defence and set up a chance for Wayne Rooney but he finished the game with a yellow card to his name after a trigger-happy ref took objection to his physical presence.
Kevin remained loyal to Bolton after the departure of Allardyce in 2007 and relegation to the Championship in 2012. His half-brother, Jamie Jackson, came through Chesterfield’s youth ranks but was unable to make much of a dent on the first team, making 20 appearances before being released in 2008.
For Chesterfield: 113+16 league appearances, 22 goals.