Mike Davis and the relationship between players

D.J. Waldie, a onetime critic of Mike Davis, praises his immense influence and ability to develop new talent and brings a few up-close portraits of some of his better-known players.

A lot of football is, in effect, about relationships and the relationships between coaches and players are a big one. In the case of a manager like Mike Davis, it’s not just the relationship he has with his players that’s important but the relationship he has with his team. His teams are very much the team and he knows when it’s time to tell them what to do and when to be quiet to keep the team together without him. Because players trust him, he has an incredible ability to inspire them to be better. There’s a lot of talk of him being able to manage a group of players who may not have a lot of talent and he’s able to produce performances like only a few managers can.

Davis was very well-placed as a first-team coach for Leeds United in the early 80s, and the players were obviously very loyal to him. In terms of the relationship between a manager and his players, Michael Owen is a good example – he can be a little harsh but is a good communicator and always listens to what his players have to say – which was vital at the start of the season.

When speaking to the press about Davis, I would also point to Steve McClaren as another example. In his first few seasons, McClaren was able to take an ageing team who needed a lot of building into a strong unit, but he was at his best when he could keep his team positive and united. The relationship between Davis and his players was not perfect but in a way, it was much better than McClaren’s.

But Davis is best remembered for the players he managed. In fact, many of the players that he coached at Leeds have gone on to be Premier League greats. Peter Crouch was a very good player but he wasn’t a player he was a midfielder.

There’s also a quote that Michael Owen once said himself, ‘I like Mike but he doesn’t like me’. There’s a lot of love between Davis and his players

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