A new player has appeared. I would like to have his babies

Hunter Davies's The Fan.

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In these last few weeks of the season – which, thanks to Spurs, have been incredibly exciting (as Sky tells us all the time) – a new player has appeared with whom I am in love. Oh, yes, I would like to have his babies.

In this miraculous medical age, it is perfectly possible to have babies with male or female, dead or alive, animal or vegetable, though I suppose there might be a problem if it turns out that we’re related – which I hope we are. Wouldn’t that be bliss?

His name is Tom Davies, and he is only 18 but a regular in Everton and the captain of the England under-19s team. I spotted him early in the season, which you do, if someone is running around with your surname on their back. Your home town, your fave team, your name: they jump out from a sea of grey print even when you don’t have your specs on.

My surname is the sixth most common in Great Britain, so I’ve enjoyed following the careers of my fellow Davieses all my football-watching life. I
also allow the odd Davis into the fold (hence I like Steven Davis, the captain of Southampton).

Tom is a straightforward, unaffected name, very middle class, not like those awful Jasons, Shanes, Waynes and Darrens we’ve had too many of in recent years.

I assume he must have Welsh blood. In Wales, Davies is the second most common surname. He was born in Liverpool, where there are loads of Welsh, so probably his family came over the border at some time, as mine did: back in 1815, it so happens. The legend is that my great-great-grandfather (or something) was a Welsh soldier at Waterloo. He changed loyalties. No, he didn’t join the French, but he went back to Scotland with a Scottish regiment.

Young Tom Davies does not seem to have given many personal interviews, presumably because his manager is protecting him. He has been at Everton since he was 11 and apparently has an uncle, Alan Whittle, who played for them in the Sixties. I remember him well: very blond, just like Young Tom.

The first thing I noticed about him, apart from his name and his incredible skill and confidence for one so young, was his hair. It’s so old-fashioned, floppy and tangled, awfully public school boy.

I’d have expected someone who was brought up from childhood in a football academy, surrounded by professional footballers, and was picked by Roy Hodgson when he was 17 to train with the England squad, to have copied the appalling hairstyles of modern footballers.

They come in three varieties. First, short and very boring (see Ross Barkley, the child prodigy before Tom Davies in the Everton team). Second, there are the young players who fancy themselves as tough who have it short but shaved, with silly flashes and razor cuts.

Third, the ones with a preening pompadour. Their hero is Cristiano Ronaldo, who sometimes has a quiff, heavily gelled, occasionally brushed up, which requires a personal hairstylist permanently in attendance. All good Prem players should have one.

Long hair is not so common these days, unless it’s tied up in a bun like Zlatan Ibrahimović’s or Andy Carroll’s. Tom Davies is unusual. He has long hair but lets it flop about, rather knotty, hippie-ish, unwashed-looking.

Not conforming to tonsorial type is clearly a sign of his innate confidence, because on the pitch he exudes self-belief, determination and willpower, combining skill, foresight and excellent passing with an ability to get stuck in when needed. But he does look a bit effete, with his floppy fair hair and slender figure. The thugs must have been trying to rough him up since he was 16 and first came to our attention – but, as we say in football (and in life), he can handle himself.

Will he last the pace? They go through rough patches, these gilded, gifted youths. Some disappear by the age of 25, or end up at Carlisle United. And what finer aspiration can there be? The sheep grazing by Brunton Park will love him. 

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article appears in the 20 April 2017 issue of the New Statesman, May's gamble

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