HAMISH BIDWELL
He's an interesting acquisition, Chris Davies. Once the tendonitis in his knee quietens down, the former Reading and Welsh age-group international midfielder-defender should prove a useful member of Hawke's Bay United's side.
But it's the first-class honours degree that he's just left Loughborough University's sport and exercise science faculty with, that may prove his greatest asset.
With two internationals and an FA Cup winner among the coaching staff, Hawke's Bay are well served tactically and technically. The missing piece of the puzzle has been sports science. But with Davies keen to impart his knowledge of things such as biomechanics, psychology and nutrition, the New Zealand Football Championship franchise now has every base covered.
"I left school when I was 16 and went to play for Reading," Davies told SportToday.
"I captained the youth teams there and then progressed on to a fulltime contract, played for the reserves and made my debut for the first team, in a pre-season match, when I was 19. Alan Pardew was the coach and things were looking pretty good.
"Then he went to West Ham and Steve Coppell came in. One thing led to another and I ended up being loaned to Woking, in the Conference."
Having played at various age-groups for Wales, under the coaching of the great Everton goalkeeper Neville Southall, non-league football wasn't quite what he had in mind for himself. So when someone at the Professional Footballer's Association (PFA) suggested he might try studying, Davies quickly warmed to the idea.
"I went to Loughborough and studied for three years and did all my coaching badges with the PFA," the UEFA B licence-holder said.
"It was very hard, because I hadn't done much at school. But I just took all the dedication and attitude and commitment I'd put into playing and channelled into my study.
"I felt I'd failed at Reading, because I didn't go on and they didn't renew my contract. No-one could tell me I hadn't failed. To me I had and I lost a lot of love for the game and I put all that anger into getting good grades.
"Now I'm 22 and playing is there if I want it, but I've also got a lot of other things I'm excited about, like my sports science and my coaching."
Davies hopes to be fit to begin training once the NZFC season starts in November. In the meantime he's working for the Hawke's Bay United Football Academy, as well as the first team.
"I had the option of joining the academy at Chelsea or going and back to Reading and their academy. But I wanted to see a bit of the world, so I emailed clubs in Australia and New Zealand about playing and working over there.
"Gouldy (Jonathan Gould) was the first person to come back to me with a serious offer and I see this as a great opportunity. Arriving here and not being able to train is the worst thing in the world, but I've just got to be mature about it and get stuck into doing the other things I have to offer," he said.
Hawke's Bay will meet YoungHeart Manawatu in a pre-season match in Dannevirke today.