One of Southampton’s finest goalkeepers of modern times, first team assistant coach Kelvin Davis shares his favourite memories from his Saints playing days…
All things considered, it would have to be Leeds away. It’s been spoken about a lot, but from a goalkeeping point of view, I probably only had three of those performances in my whole career; games when you make saves, keep a clean sheet and you win. We were going for promotion and it was a big game, and everything just came together for me.
Winning promotion from League One. There was quite a lot of pressure on us to get out of that league, so it was pure elation when promotion was sealed. A big part of why that League One experience was so good was because on and off the pitch we spent a lot of time together and a lot of the families had a connection, so it was a special time.
The Championship promotion. That was down to the momentum we’d built from League One, but also the way we added to the squad, because the guys who came in were an instant success – not just with the ability they had, but because of the characters they were. I remember we beat Leeds at home on the opening day of the season and we never looked back. I can’t remember how many times we came out of the top two, but it wasn’t many.
Adam Lallana. Ads always played and trained in the right way – he absolutely loves football, and the things he could do with a ball at his feet were special. On top of that, he had that acceptance that he was the guy we could call upon to turn a game around. Rickie (Lambert) was the prime example of what the club speak about: potential into excellence. He scored big goals and his mentality to want to win games was there for all to see, but I think Ads just edges it.
My first roommate was David Prutton – I remember thinking he was a bit of a weirdo. He’d probably agree with that! Then I roomed with Andrew Surman, Dan Harding and a few goalkeepers as well. Bart (Bartosz Bialkowski) would also go with Marek Saganowski or Grzegorz Rasiak. They liked a sneaky beer on a Friday night! I’ll go with Andrew Surman – he was a good tea-maker. He used to take the glasses off my face when I fell asleep at night!
There’s been a few for different reasons. Claus (Lundekvam) was a great captain when I first came to the club and made me feel very welcome, and Michael Svensson was a great lad. Later on, we were fortunate enough to have a few lads who found anything funny. Paul Wotton certainly knew how to get a bit of life out of the dressing room.
With the stage of my career that I was at, I would go with Poch (Mauricio Pochettino). He understood me on an emotional level and what my issues were, coming into the later years of my career. Having a manager who kept believing in me and kept wanting to drive me on was exactly what I needed at that time. He’s a top coach and it’s obvious for everyone to see what he’s gone on to achieve.
Best team talk?
Poch was very animated at half time – it was almost like he read people’s minds, because he always understood what issues different players were having. He was never scared to ask the players what they were feeling on the pitch, and would instantly have an answer for them. Ronald (Koeman) was very different at half time – one or two things, very simple. He would almost put the onus on you, as players, to change it. It was a different way of managing.
Best goalkeeping coach?
I had Malcolm Webster, who I worked with from the age of 19 at Luton. He pushed me very, very hard at a time when physically you can really grow. He was very heavily involved in me coming to Southampton. Once George Burley left, Keith Granger came in and opened my eyes to a different side. Whereas Malcolm was very much about the training, Keith was very much about the psychological side – motivation, watching videos and improving different parts of my goalkeeping.
Performance-wise, I think my best-ever season as a goalkeeper was the year we got relegated from the Championship (2008/09). We must have conceded a lot of goals, but it just felt like every week I was making three or four saves. That was the Keith Granger era. Purely from a personal point of view, that’s probably the best level I was at in my career.
Best away day?
I always enjoyed travelling into London to play – I think some of my best away performances came in London. Travelling from my former clubs, Luton, Wimbledon and Ipswich, you could always get into London in an hour or so, and it’s no different from here. I had a couple of strong performances at Charlton, which I really enjoyed.
Best personal performance?
I think the Leeds one is up there, but I also remember one performance at Charlton away and one against Cardiff at home. When I was a kid, I played for Luton against Watford and we lost 5-0, and I had a bit of a falling out with the manager. He told me before the next game, ‘Kelvin, I’ve tried all week to get another goalkeeper and I can’t, so you’re going to have to play tomorrow’. It was Plymouth at home, we won 3-0 and I ended up getting man of the match! I made probably the best save of my career in that game.
Best team performance?
The one that sticks in my head was Oldham away. We won 6-0, and they seriously didn’t have a touch of the ball that day. I remember the fans were singing, ‘it’s just like watching Brazil’ and it certainly felt like it at the time! There was another game in Poch’s era when we played Barnsley in the League Cup. I remember being told my pass completion rate was 100 per cent! I’d never looked at that before, but it just goes to show the style of football we were playing.
Best opposition team?
I can remember in my early Southampton days we played away at Swansea when they were on the way up. We lost the game 3-0 and I don’t think we touched the ball – they absolutely played us off the park. In the Premier League, we put up a really good fight against Man City a couple of times, so I’ll say that Swansea game, because it’s one nobody will remember unless they played in it!
Best opposition player?
In my career, it was Thierry Henry, but that was when I was at Sunderland. For Southampton, I remember we were winning against Man United and Paul Scholes came on as sub and just dictated the whole game from then on. He’s a player I’ve always admired anyway, so I’ll go with him.
Best opposition goalkeeper?
I was always one who was appreciative of all goalkeepers’ qualities, whether they were in my squad or somebody else’s. Kasper Schmeichel was one I always liked – I think he had a similar style to myself in how he liked to play the game, and he ended up winning the league whilst we were playing against each other in the Premier League.
I think my best save in a Southampton shirt came at home against Cardiff in the season we got relegated. It was a volley back across me, so I moved across into position and then had to throw out a left hand. I’ve got a picture of it at home – I remember that point of just turning my wrist slightly to try and get a bit of spin on it to work it around the post. It was a good feeling.
Best penalty save?
The obvious ones were from Robin van Persie and David Silva, but when you don’t get anything out of the game, it takes the shine off it. There was one in the Championship against Brighton, when we’d dominated the game and they got a penalty, so it would’ve been heart-breaking to lose, but we ended up drawing the game 0-0. In the League One days, I made a double save from a penalty against Millwall on the opening day of the season, so those would be my two favourites.
Best goal conceded?
I know which one it is, and it still drives me mental. Being a Southampton man, you know how important the Pompey games are, and it was the volley from little Norris. We were 2-1 up and he hits a left-foot volley from outside the box. He’ll probably say himself he never scored another goal like it. I did everything right – I was set, I dived full length and ended up outside the post. It was just one of those, ‘how has that gone in?’ That goal sticks with me – one of those I would’ve loved to have saved.
Best outfield teammate in goal?
They all try and throw themselves about a bit. Dan Harding would go in goal and have a laugh until people started hitting the ball too hard! I’ll go for him.
Best thing about Southampton?
The people in the club. When you come through the door, it’s the first people you see every day. I’m sure other clubs are the same, but I have experienced other clubs that aren’t. When you talk about the sense of a ‘club’ where everyone’s in it together, it’s something I’ve truly tried to encourage on a daily basis. The bottom line for me is coming to work and seeing like-minded people who just love working here and want to see us all be successful.