Summary of career
Good Health – Interview with David Davies
Keepers of the Faith – Goalkeepers and Religion
Extracts from autobiography 'Never Say Dai'

Born in 1948, David Davies comes from Glanamman in the Amman valley and attended Amman Valley Grammar School in Ammanford. In Wales the diminutive form for David is Dai and in keeping with this custom David Davies has always been known as Dai Davies (in school he was known affectionately as Dai Dai). He played schoolboy and youth soccer with local clubs—soccer was not played at the local grammar school—before becoming a professional footballer at 21. Dai Davies trained first as a PE teacher after leaving school in 1966, qualifying in 1969. He never practised his chosen profession, however, signing instead for Swansea Town football club immediately after leaving training college. In his autobiography he explained that Swansea Town were offering him £17.50 a week while a teacher's salary at that time was just £14 a week. (Just a year later in 1970 the municipal status of Swansea was 'promoted' from town to city and the football club likewise changed its name to Swansea City.)

Carmarthenshire County Council in those days operated the two-tier school system of grammar and secondary modern schools, entry being determined by an examination at the age of eleven—the notorious eleven plus. The county's Grammar schools operated a rugby-only policy and no soccer was played—at least not at organised level. A game of soccer played with a tennis ball in the school yard was liable to be stopped if an eagle-eyed teacher spotted what was going on, and punishment by lines or detention could even follow. Soccer was not introduced into the curriculum of Carmarthenshire secondary schools until the creation of Amman Valley Comprehensive School in 1970. Since then both soccer and rugby have been played, to the detriment of rugby, some have claimed, and a contributory factor in the decline of that game in Wales.

Pupils were also encouraged to play rugby as a means of enhancing their chances of acceptance into teacher training colleges and universities, with the result that many pupils whose preferred game was soccer played both codes. It was not uncommon to play rugby for the school in an eleven a.m. kick-off, then shower and change before kicking off all over again at three p.m. for a local football club. As well as playing soccer for local teams while at school, Dai Davies also played second row for the school's rugby team, being selected for West Wales Schools in that position. It can't have harmed him too much in the long run, as he was eventually to win 52 full international caps for Wales at soccer, but the strain of playing both sports on a Saturday eventually showed, as Dai Davies himself admits in his autobiography:

I too can boast of some success on the Rugby field as well, particularly when I was in the sixth form. We had spent most of our schooldays in the shadow of a very successful first team, but when most of the players left for college the presence of a strong six-footer in the sixth was indeed a bonus. What followed was a hard year of playing rugby for the school on Saturday mornings and football for Ammanford in the afternoons. I also played second row for West Wales Schools and, looking back at the details of those games, I can see that I was on the same field as heroes like Paul Ringer, Barry Llywelyn, Peter Nicholas and Selwyn Williams.
.....I'm quite aware that there are thousands of boys who play football or rugby twice on a Saturday, but I must admit that I found it a strain playing twice the same day. I kept on until one day I decided I had to choose.
.....It was the day of the pinnacle of the rugby season, the match against Llanelli. In a mighty contest, though we were a man short from the first half, we only lost 5 points to 3. Unfortunately all feelings of pride disappeared when Ammanford [soccer team] lost 4 - 0. I was at fault for all the goals and it was the only game that Ammanford lost that season. Long before the final whistle I had decided that from now on there had to be only one sport, if I was to represent Wales. And that was the end of my rugby career. (Never Say Dai, the Autobiography of Wales goalkeeper Dai Davies, Chapter 2, published by Siop y Siswrn, Mold, Clwyd, 1986)

Dai Davies showed ability as a goalkeeper from an extremely early age—he was picked for his village under-18 team when only 12 years old and played for nearby Ammanford United's adult team at just 15. His professional playing career spanned 1969 to 1987. Clubs: Swansea, Everton, Swansea, Wrexham, Swansea and Tranmere. He was the most successful goalkeeper in Wrexham's history.

Here is his Wrexham record:

Seasons Played
Games Played
Goals Conceded
Goals per Game
Clean Sheets
1977-8 & 1985-87

He received 28 of his 52 Welsh caps while playing for Wrexham, making him the club's most capped player. And in these 52 internationals he only conceded 51 goals. Swansea-born Jack Kelsey, who played his entire club career with Arsenal until 1962 when injury forced him to retired prematurely at just 32, is generally regarded as the best goalkeeper ever to play for Wales. Yet in his 41 internationals for Wales, Kelsey conceded 63 goals, making Dai Davies's goalkeeping performance of 51 goals conceded in 52 internationals all the more impressive.

The Amman valley where Dai Davies grew up is usually seen as a rugby stronghold: current Welsh rugby star Shane Williams also comes from Glanamman, as does 1970s Welsh international and British Lion wing forward Trevor Evans. In fact, the local rugby team Amman United (not to be confused with Ammanford United, which was a soccer team) has produced 15 full international caps in its hundred year history. From the same village, and the same school, came Vernon Pugh QC, who would become the most powerful man in world rugby as President of the International Rugby Board (IRB) from 1997 until his untimely death in 2003. And just two miles up the valley is Gwaun Cae Gurwen, home of Welsh rugby legend Gareth Edwards, with whom Dai Davies shared a flat in their student days in Cardiff. But even with this great tradition all round him, Dai Davies grew up in a soccer household. His coal-miner father was an amateur soccer player of considerable ability, who had trials with Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sheffield United to prove it, and his older brother Tommy also played soccer.

Never Say Dai
Dai Davies was involved in a Welsh book and craft shop in Mold, and is currently a football commentator on Welsh TV, in both English and Welsh. Although a qualified teacher he now runs a natural healing centre in Llangollen, North Wales (see below for an interview with Dai Davies on this subject). He is a Druid, having been initiated into the Welsh Gorsedd of Bards in 1978. His autobiography was published first in Welsh, where it bore the title 'Hanner Cystal a' Nhad' ('Half the Man my Father Was') in tribute to his father. It was later published in an English translation in 1986, by when its title had become 'Never Say Dai'.

Ammanford United AFC Juniors 1962 . Dai Davies fourth from left in back row
Back Row (left to right) : Brian Williams, Keith Bevan, Alan Price, Dai Davies, Alun Davies, Phil Harry, Phil Cartwright.
Front Row (left to right): Malcolm Oxenham, John Mason, Malcolm Thomas, Fred Russ (trainer) Roger Beynon, Ken Fowler, Keith Thomas.
Photo provided by Roger Beynon

After a summary of his career we reproduce a 2001 interview with Dai Davies below. Next there is a light-hearted look at goalkeepers generally, a special breed of people who have been a source of puzzlement ever since homo sapiens decided that chasing a ball in your underwear was a perfectly acceptable way to behave. Finally, we reproduce the first three chapters of Dai Davies's autobiography, 'Never Say Dai', a 1986 English translation of an original Welsh version. These three chapters deal with the early years of Dai Davies's career, taking us to the time he became a professional footballer with Third Division Swansea in 1969, then joining First Division Everton in 1970 (those interested in the later years of Dai Davies's career will need to consult the full autobiography). The first chapter also gives a nostalgic glimpse into the social conditions of a small mining community in the 1950s:

Once the Amman Valley and District league had been formed, the village set up their own committee, men who suddenly became more important than the gods for the boys. For they had the power to select who should be in, or who should not be in the Glanaman Football team. At that time, my brother was almost always in that team, and that was one of the times I felt most frustrated that I was four years younger than him ...
.....But my father, the big force behind the scenes, knew perfectly well how to cheer me up. Every Friday night was a night of sleepless excitement thinking of all the tasks I had to perform the next morning in preparation for the big match. I have seldom been more eager, and never has the quarter mile from our house to the playing field, over the coal tip, along the old railway line, over the bridge, short legs running to keep up with my father's measured tread, been more of a pleasure.
.....The first task, more often than not, was to clear the water collected in the goalmouth. An old baked beans tin, hidden between times securely in the shadow of a nearby outcrop of rock, served as a baler. I wonder how many goalkeepers have appreciated the efforts of that small boy on all fours extracting the last drop of sticky wet black mud off his goal line. Meanwhile my father would be marking the pitch. He would cut a narrow furrow along the wings, and along the centre line filling it carefully with sawdust, before the advent of new technology, the chalk barrow. Then the nets would be hung in place on the iron goalposts, posts incidentally made by Uncle Dai, my mother's brother, who was a blacksmith at Betws Colliery where my father worked.
.....No one could say that the Glanaman Football Club did not have a proper changing room. For the purpose there was a luxurious corrugated iron shed —a single room divided into two by an old coalburning stove on which stood two enormous cauldrons. The last pre-match task of the assistant groundsman was to carry water from the nearby River Aman to fill those containers. It was incidentally the responsibility of the players to provide fuel for the fire, and as they arrived, the lump of coal in their sports bag was as important a piece of equipment as their boots. (Never Say Dai, the Autobiography of Wales goalkeeper Dai Davies, Chapter 1, published by Siop y Siswrn, Mold, Clwyd, 1986)

That should make today's football players realise how lucky they are in comparison.

Summary of career
Good Health – Interview with David Davies
Keepers of the Faith – Goalkeepers and Religion
Extracts from autobiography 'Never Say Dai'


1. From 'Wales: The Complete Who's Who of footballers since 1946', by Dean P. Hayes, 2004, pages 159-161

Dai Davies was a commanding goalkeeper who dominated his penalty area. Although he was prone to the odd mistake, he was a permanent fixture in the Wales side, keeping his place for some eight years. When he turned out against Scotland at Swansea in 1981, Davies overtook Jack Kelsey's record of 41 caps, going on to concede just 51 goals in 52 games, the best record of all modern Wales goalkeepers. Dai Davies tasted early success with Cardiff College of Education in 1969 when they won the Welsh Amateur Cup.
.....He began his Football League career with Swansea City, making his debut for the Vetch Field club against Third Division champions Chesterfield in the final game of the 1969/70 season. His first game in 1970/71 was against Preston North End, a match the Swans drew 1-1 before going on to complete a remarkable sequence of 19 matches undefeated, to equal the club record set some ten years earlier.
.....In December 1970 Davies signed for Everton for £25,000 but, after spending virtually four seasons in the shadows of Gordon West and his understudy David Lawson, he went hack to the Vetch Field on loan. Eventually he returned to Goodison Park and went on to appear in 94 League and Cup games before leaving to join Wrexham in September 1977 for £8,000.
.....In his first season at the Racecourse Ground, Wrexham suffered the lowest number of defeats in their history as they won the Third Division Championship. In 1978/79 the Wrexham keeper helped establish the club's best-ever defensive record of only 42 goals conceded. The Robins won the Welsh Cup and qualified for Europe. At the beginning of that season, Welsh-speaking Davies was accorded a rare honour when he became the first soccer player to be admitted to the Gorsedd circle at the Cardiff National Eisteddfod. He chose the bardic name 'Dai o'r cwm' (Dai of the Valleys) after his native Amman valley.
.....At the end of the 1980/81 season he returned to play for Swansea, where he was unbeaten in six consecutive matches. In the summer of 1983 Davies joined Tranmere Rovers as the Prenton Park club's player-coach. A year later he retired from the game. However, in 1985 Bangor City qualified for Europe, and Davies came out of retirement to play in the European Cup Winners' Cup matches against Fredrukstad and Atletico Madrid. The following season he turned out in Wrexham's Welsh Cup campaign, winning a medal after Kidderminster Harriers were beaten in the final.
.....He became involved in a Welsh book and craft shop in Mold and could be heard commenting on football on Welsh TV. Davies now runs a natural healing centre in Llangollen, North Wales.

2. From: 'Swansea Town/City, The First Comprehensive Player A-Y', Colin Jones, Dinefwr Publishers, 2005, pages, 84-85

David William Davies
Birthplace: Ammanford, 1/4/1948
Height: 6ft-1ins, Weight: 13st-4lbs
Swans Debut: v. Chesterfield (away), 22/4/1960

Ammanford Town
Swansea Town (signed in July 1969)
Everton (£20,000 signed in 14/12/1970) league games: 82
Swansea City (loan in February 1974)
Wrexham (£8,000 signed in 22/9/1977) league games: 144
Swansea City (£45,000 signed in 13/7/1981)
Tranmere Rovers (signed in June 1983) league games: 42
Bangor City (signed in August 1985)
Wrexham (signed in November 1985)

Honours: Wales Schools, Under 23 – 4 caps, Full – 52 caps, Third Division Champions – 1978; Welsh Cup Winner – 1978, 1982, 1986; Wales Amateur Cup Winner – 1969; PFA Third Division XI – 1978.

A late convert to football, Dai played rugby at his school, Amman Valley Grammar School, but he did play for Ammanford Town under former Swans player Roy Saunders, and it was Saunders who recommended Dai to the Swans manager Roy Bentley. During the time Dai played for Ammanford Town, he made one appearance for Swansea Senior League side St. Josephs, in an end of season relegation battle against Port Tennant Stars. After leaving school Dai went to Cardiff College of Education to qualify as a PE Teacher, during which time he picked up a Wales Amateur Cup Winners medal in 1969 with the college team. He returned to Swansea in July 1969 and signed professional forms before going on to make his debut in the last match of the 1969/70 season when the Swans played the champions Chesterfield away with promotion already assured for the Swans.
.....Making a further eight league appearances the following season, just before Christmas time he was transferred to First Division side Everton for a £20,000 fee. Prior to being transferred, he represented Wales at U-23 level against England at Wrexham. A further £15,000 came the Swans way after he had completed thirty league appearances. Finding himself understudy to both Andy Rankin and Gordon West, he made his Everton debut in March 1971 in a 2-1 defeat at Newcastle United. After another league outing he spent almost three years in the reserves, returning to the Vetch Field for a loan spell under Harry Gregg. Season 1974/75 saw him established at Goodison Park as first choice keeper for Everton. Regular First Division appearances also saw him given his first full cap for Wales, in Budapest against Hungary on the 16th April 1975.
.....Following the signing of George Wood by Everton, Dai was allowed to join Wrexham in September 1977, and by the end of his first season at the Racecourse had helped his club to win the Third Division Championship, and also beat Bangor City in the Final of the Welsh Cup. Signed by his international team mate
Arfon Griffiths, Dai developed into a commanding keeper, with superb organizational skills at club, and at international level.
.....Following the Swans promotion to the First Division, he returned to the Vetch Field in July 1981 for a tribunal fixed transfer fee of £45,000. His return to the Vetch Field was not taken kindly by a number of supporters who felt that Dave Stewart, who had played a large part in the club's promotion should have been given his opportunity in the First Division. Nevertheless, Dai overcame the sceptical supporters to play his part in a tremendous season for the Swans in the First Division, and also win his second Welsh Cup Medal, when the Swans beat Cardiff City.
..... Before the end of his second season at the Vetch Field, with financial problems off the field mounting, he was allowed to leave on a free transfer, joining Tranmere Rovers in June 1983. Missing just four league games at Prenton Park, Dai retired from the game at the end of season 1983/84, to start a Welsh Book, and Craft Shop in Mold. Answering an SOS to assist Bangor City in the club's European Cup Winners Cup games with Athletico Madrid, it was not long after that Wrexham manager Dixie McNeill asked him to appear for Wrexham in Welsh Cup matches, and at the end of the season Dai had won his third Welsh Cup Winners medal. His final season for Wrexham saw him utilised as substitute keeper for Wrexham in European games, also playing one game for the club in the Welsh Cup.
.....A proud Welsh-speaking Welshman he was the recipient of a rare honour in August 1978 when he became the first Welsh footballer to be admitted to the Gorsedd Circle of Bards at the National Eisteddfod in Cardiff. He works frequently for BBC Wales and Radio Cymru as well as appearing regularly on GOL (a Welsh language football programme), and as a TV pundit his views are always interesting to listen to, and he is not afraid of voicing his opinions on football topics. A qualified teacher, he has often done supply work, but he now runs a natural healing centre in Llangollen.

Summary of career
Good Health – Interview with David Davies
Keepers of the Faith – Goalkeepers and Religion
Extracts from autobiography 'Never Say Dai'

Peter Davies meets Dai Davies
Red Passion, issue 27 Feb 2001 (Wrexham football club fan magazine)

Background: Wrexham's most famous goalkeeper, possibly, and one of the heroes of the 1978 promotion side.

Setting: We're inside the Natural Health Clinic, Princess Street, Llangollen.

Tell us about what you do now…
'I run the health clinic we're sitting in now. I own the company – we specialize in herbal remedies and other alternatives to conventional drugs. I also rent rooms out here to a chiropractor and an osteopath. I specialist in remedial massage, muscle work and reiki. I offer a number of different therapies; they are all based on energy.'

Were you always interested in this kind of work when you were a footballer?
'I was influenced strongly by my ex-wife and also by a course I went on. I enjoy the work and I've now got all the required qualifications to practice in the trade. Drugs will always have their place in society; I just feel there's a need for something else, and in this sense I believe that natural health is complementary to traditional medicine and can help people.'

How strongly do you believe in alternative therapies
'I'm not a preacher nor an evangelist. I just equate disease to lack of health. Life is acted out at a pretty fast pace; I see my clinic as a kind of pit-stop. And natural health is a thriving area. My business is growing and I know it's the same in other places – throughout the UK and throughout the world. But as I said, I'm not an evangelist. If people want to find out more about my work, I'll tell them.'

How is Wrexham served for natural health clinics?
'The town itself doesn't have a clinic. So my clinic in Llangollen is really the only one around in the local area. People can come and enjoy the facilities and the local environment. As you can see, my clinic is next to the river. People come here and just go "Wow!" It's a wonderful place to relax.'

It must be a big change: from football to natural health?
'Yes, totally! I work here during the week and then work as a commentator for BBC Wales on Saturdays. From a peaceful, relaxing atmosphere to a violent, aggressive one! I like coming back here after an afternoon at the football and I generally enjoy having these two sides to my life.'

Glenn Hoddle was interested in 'alternative' approaches to healing – Eileen Drewery etc etc. Do you have a similar kind of philosophy?
'The one thing I've got in common with Glenn is this: I believe that there is more than one way to heal people. That's it.'

How does your clinic and its work connect to sport – football in particular?
'Injuries – and their prevalence in modern sport. Many young players overuse their bodies. I'll give you one stat: 15 out of every 50 young footballers never play again because of using their body too much. I believe young kids should play far less soccer. Obviously each individual case is different. Mental strength and toughness are big variables, but young bodies can't take too much wear and tear.'

Tell us about your early days as a footballer…
'I turned professional at the age of 21. I joined Everton but soon found myself surplus to requirements there. Gordon Lee had just bought George Wood and I had to prepare for a move. This was difficult – training every day for an uncertain future. But in a way Lee did me a favour. As one door shut, another one opened. I really wanted to prove that I could make it.'

Wrexham's interest?
'It was the Autumn of 1977. Arfon Griffiths got on the phone. He'd just signed Dixie McNeil – so me and Dixie became roommates and pals almost immediately. Wrexham had just missed out on promotion the season before and confidence was low. The club were fifth from bottom when Dixie and myself moved to the Racecourse.'

Summary of career
Good Health – Interview with David Davies
Keepers of the Faith – Goalkeepers and Religion
Extracts from autobiography 'Never Say Dai'

"And on him they laid the cross" Luke, 23:26

Goalkeepers have a reputation for being different from those who play in the outfield positions in soccer, welcome eccentrics amongst an otherwise colourless group of people. Why this should be so isn't fully understood, but if you spend a whole game with your own team-mates literally turning their backs on you, then perhaps you could be forgiven for feeling somehow excluded. A surprising number of goalkeepers have turned to religion; some have even taken holy orders—Pope John Paul II included. Read more about these 'Keepers of the Faith' below—the pun is intended and will recur. These snippets are from an excellent web site devoted entirely to goalkeepers, which can be found at: www.goalkeepersaredifferent.com. With sections such as 'Goalkeeping Greats', 'Quirky Facts', 'Getting Shirty', 'Goalkeeping Debuts', 'Quirky Inquiries', 'In the Net', 'Goalscoring Goalies', Getting Personal', 'Keepers of the Faith', 'I Fought the Law', 'On the Net', and 'Recommended Reading', the site, produced and designed by Neil Andrews, is a mine of information.

Keeper of the Keys to Heaven
In his youth, Pope John Paul II regularly played in goal for both his school and University sides and was described by one of his biographers, Lord Longford, as having something of a "powerful build". Hitler's invasion of Poland in 1939 put an end to the pontiff's footballing career as he dedicated his life to the Catholic Church. However, whether or not he was infallible between the sticks as a boy has been lost in time …

Heaven Sent
Between 1895-96, Oxford University student and Corinthians club member George Raikes won four full caps for England and may have even have captained the national side. He was highly praised for his shot-stopping efforts in match reports of all of his internationals but stopped playing altogether after he graduated from university and took holy orders.

Missed his Calling
In 1879 the Rev W Blackmore was selected to play for England in a match against Wales but was unable to play on the day. Rupert Anderson, a 19-year-old centre forward at club level, took his place. Neither player was selected to play for England again.

Saving Wales
Dai Davies' football career always had something of a religious theme flowing through it—he was nicknamed Dracula in his heyday because fans thought he was scared of crosses. In later life he underwent something of a spiritual conversion, which led to him becoming a medium and acquiring a belief in reincarnation. His transformation occurred after a visit to the pyramids. He entered the King's chamber of the main pyramid and was emotionally moved after reading a spell. So much so that he vowed to change his life for the better. His religious interests are not confined to orthodox areas of belief, resulting in him saying some unusual things to the press, one being: "There are fairies somewhere with tremendous energy. I can sense angels." After running a Welsh bookshop in Mold, the former Welsh international keeper now specializes in remedial massages and runs a flotation tank at the Llangollen Holistic Health Centre in conjunction with his Feldenkrais ('awareness through movement') classes (see 'Good Health' above).

The Holy Goalie
Ordained a minister of the Church of Scotland in 1931, Leonard Small made the most of his religious calling, rising through the ecclesiastical ranks to become Moderator of the General Assembly and Chaplain to the Queen. Just as well, really, because he gave up a promising football career to concentrate on his work with the church. Captain of the Edinburgh University Football Team, Small was keen to prolong his playing days once he had graduated and joined Scottish Second Division side St. Bernard's as an amateur. He received international recognition in 1929 when he was capped by Scotland at amateur level in 1929 and was a popular figure in the League, both with his team mates and the opposition. But his footballing antics were curtailed by his superiors in the Church, who felt it wasn't 'the done thing' for a minister to be seen throwing himself in the mud to prevent a certain goal. Small respected their opinion and retired. But his passion for the game remained, he occasionally turned out for his parish side and refereed the odd Scottish League game. Even in later life, he never stopped attending matches. Such was his love for football that he titled his autobiography 'The Holy Goalie'.

Never on a Sunday
In February 1974, Swindon Town's 19-year-old goalkeeper, Jimmy Allen, hit headlines for refusing to play in a League game against Bolton Wanderers. The game was scheduled for a Sunday afternoon kickoff, due to industrial action, and Allen refused to play on religious grounds. Swindon manager Les Allen (no relation) respected his keeper's decision but as a result Allen lost his place in the side and it was sometime before he re-established himself as the club's number one keeper.

Retiring Light
Your club is on the threshold of a place in the Champions League for the first time in its history and your country is about to take part in the Copa America. You're the first choice goalie for both, so what do you do? Well, if you're Carlos Roa, you retire. The Argentinean international, whose save from David Batty put England out of the 1998 World Cup, decided to quit football in order to devote himself to religion after announcing his belief that the World will end in the year 2000. A member of the Seventh Day Adventists, Roa claimed that football was getting in the way of his preaching.

'He truly is the Son of God'
"Sometimes we have wards full of them" – Dr. Heather McKee, Psychiatrist, London Charing Cross Hospital, 1991.

David Icke's football career was not what you would call spectacular. He retired at the age of 21 suffering from arthritis after brief spells with Coventry City and Hereford. But in 1991 he became a household name after claiming to be the Son of God. The declaration occurred at a specially convened press conference at Gatwick Airport where the former Grandstand presenter had just landed with his spiritual advisor, a Canadian by the name of Mari Shawsun. He let it be known that Shawsun would henceforth be referred to as the Daughter of God while his wife was to be called the Spirit of the Angel of God. He also predicted the Second Coming, numerous environmental disasters and said that the Channel Tunnel would never be built. Best of all, he said that Cuba, the Isle of Arran and the White Cliffs of Dover would all disappear. Of course, Icke may have been taken a little more seriously if he hadn't developed a strange passion for turquoise shell suits. Public humiliation followed, particularly on the TV programme 'Wogan' and the Green Party, of which he was a member, disowned him. Since then, he has lived the life of a recluse, rarely seen in the public eye.

God's Goalkeeper
Not many goalkeepers have founded their own religious movement, but Brazil's João Leite can justifiably make such a claim. The former Clube Atlético Mineiro and Brazilian international keeper founded the "Christ's Athletes" movement in his native country during his playing days and his involvement with Evangelist Church earned him the nickname God's Goalkeeper. Now a politician in Minas Gerais, Leite won six caps for Brazil and was part of the Atlético team that won ten Mineiro State Championships.

Friends in High Places
When Newcastle United and Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Shay Given got married, he and his wife received a papal blessing from the late Pope John Paul II.

Blessed are the Meek
American Adin Brown, who currently plays for Aalesund in the Norwegian Premier League, has had a career plagued by injury and often has trouble regaining full fitness due to his beliefs. As a Christian Scientist, he refuses many forms of treatment that would normally clear up innocuous knocks.

Source for 'Keepers of the Faith'
http://www.goalkeepersaredifferent.com/keeper/faithframe.htm (click to open). Reproduced with the kind permission of the author, Neil Andrews.

Summary of career
Good Health – Interview with David Davies
Keepers of the Faith – Goalkeepers and Religion
Extracts from autobiography 'Never Say Dai'

The Autobiography of Wales goalkeeper Dai Davies
(Published by Siop y Siswrn, Mold, Clwyd, 1986)
Originally published in Welsh as:
'Hanner Cystal a' Nhad' ('Half the Man my Father Was')
Translated into English by Iorwerth Roberts
(Chapters 1 - 3, pages 7 - 37)

(Note: in 1986 when this book was published the Football League was divided into First, Second, Third and Fourth Divisions. In 1992 reorganisation led to the old First Division being replaced by the Premier League and the remaining three divisions being renamed the First, Second and Third Divisions of the Football League. So whenever Dai Davies talks of the First Division it's equivalent to the Premier League today).

Chapter 1 – Never Say Dai
Chapter 2 – The First Transfer
Chapter 3 – Character Building

Chapter 1 – Never Say Dai
It is almost pre-ordained that a Welsh boy christened with the name William David Davies shall either become Will or Dai. The propensity of the Welsh to give their people nicknames, either as terms of endearment, or of derision or sometimes out of sheer perversity means that other names could just easily have stuck. I became in turn, Dai the Drop and Dai the Stop, but the pun that really describes my footballing career with its frequent Big Dipper ups and downs is 'Never Say Die.'
.....When I was born in one of those seemingly endless series of Welsh valleys, at 21 Bridge Street, Glanaman on All Fools Day 1948, no one thought of nicknames, or what the newborn would achieve to deserve one of endearment or fail to be awarded one in derision. Those nicknames which in turn appeared in headlines on the sports pages of newspapers indicate how fickle football fans, and sports writers, too, can be. At one point you are the hero, the idol of hero worship from everyone from small boys to old men who should know better. The next you are useless, fit only for the scrapheap. Yet you are the same man, inside, as ambitious, confident or worried as the day before, but in football you are literally as good as your last game, or for a goalkeeper, as I chose to become, your last save. This is essentially the story of a dream, a dream against the odds that came true for me, the son of William John a working man and his pretty wife Ceinwen, cleaner of the village chapel, and brother of Thomas Howard, four years older.
.....That dream came early, and for a lad from the valleys it was a perverse one. The valleys are more famous for rugby followers than for lovers of football, so that the childhood
idols of most boys are wingers, the scrum halves and the forwards who in packs chase an oval ball. But mine was another handler of a ball, Wales and Arsenal goalkeeper, Jack Kelsey.
.....In the way that small boys often have, I used to daydream of being in the stand at Ninian Park a few minutes before the kick off of a crucial game between Wales and Scotland, when suddenly there would be an announcement over the public address system: "Will David Davies please report to the Wales' football team dressing room immediately. This is an urgent message. Will David Davies …" I could imagine my reaction, indeed lived pleasurably through the experience dozens of time. For a moment I would sit in my seat, frozen, petrified. I would listen to the message repeated twice, three times before making my way to the dressing room. In my dream, Jack Kelsey had slipped and twisted his ankle, and I had been called up to answer my country's call in their hour of need. Somehow I would make my way to the dressing room falling over rows of chairs in my rush ...
.....That was one dream, one of hundreds with a similar theme that I had in my narrow little bed in that terraced house in Glanaman. The actual tragedy that had befallen Kelsey might change, the precise circumstances of the dramatic call might not always be the same, but in one essential the dream never altered, I desperately wanted to play in goal for Wales.
.....It is a family legend that at my birth my Aunt Pheb predicted that I would have a life of good fortune and travel extensively. I'm grateful that so far both predictions have been proved true.
.....Apart from Kelsey, my two childhood heroes were my father and my brother Tomi. My interest in Association rather than Rugby football is attributable to the fact that my miner father was an amateur footballer of great ability, and no small reputation in the valleys. He too might have been a professional footballer, but as the oldest son in a family of colliers, his destiny was settled the moment he was born. There are tales, romanticised out of all recognition no doubt, o
f his trials with Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sheffield United. His working life was to be spent not On the green swards of the football grounds of England but in the narrow confines of the seams of coalmines in South Wales. He did not have the opportunity to put his skill to the test in a professional career, and naturally I feel a little guilt when I recall that sacrifice. The only consolation is that a professional footballing career for him might have meant that I was born an Englishman! My father was industrious, and my childhood memory is of a man who was always busy. Life was hard, and every shift valuable. When I was nine, he built a new house for the family without any help except his own two hands and a bank loan, a project that can only have meant one thing, spending as many hours as possible in the dirt and darkness of the pit.
.....As I grew older, I came to admire and to be proud of the quiet, modest miner, who was so highly thought of in his community, and I have felt anger when the good name of the miner has been blackened, or when communities like mine have been destroyed in the name of economics. I too have been down a pit, and remember choking on the dust, petrified with fear at the sheer claustrophobia of narrow, low-roofed tunnels.
.....But my father did make his name in the local football leagues, playing for years as an important cog in the Llanelli team. He played his last game for Cathan Stars, a club which wound up in 1967 after almost 40 years in the Carmarthen League. Acknowledged as an expert both for his experience and knowledge of the world of football, little wonder he was the natural choice to administer what was a brand new idea, that caused a thrill of excitement among the boys of Glanaman. That was the formation of the Amman Valley and District League. Despite all talk to the contrary, there was interest in Soccer in the Valley, and when the men deserted their pigeons or their gardens for a chat, rugby and soccer as often as not were the subjects. Despite the general interest, it was a fact that football was not played in schools, though the boys themselves would be seen kicking a ball every available free moment. No one in his right mind would consider playing rugby in a school playground. Many of the old football leagues having already disappeared, and no interest at all in the schools, there was no opportunity at all to marshal the enthusiasm of those school boys. There were no organised matches, and I remember my brother complaining of this several times, while the newspapers debated whether it was fair not to give boys the chance to play their favourite game.
.....Once the league had been formed the village set up their own committee, men who suddenly became more important than the gods for the boys. For they had the power to select who should be in, or who should not be in the Glanaman Football team. At that time, my brother was almost always in that team, and that was one of the times I felt most frustrated that I was four years younger than him. I cannot count the number of occasions I watched longingly "as Willie John's boy", the calm, dependable central defender, received the plaudits of the local experts for his performances. I would have given my right arm to be there alongside him.
.....But my father, the big force behind the scenes, knew perfectly well how to cheer me up. Every Friday night was a night of sleepless excitement thinking of all the tasks I had to perform the next morning in preparation for the big match. I have seldom been more eager, and never has the quarter mile from our house to the playing field, over the coal tip, along the old railway line, over the bridge, short legs running to keep up with my father's measured tread, been more of a pleasure.
.....The first task, more often than not was to clear the water collected in the goalmouth. An old baked beans tin hidden between times securely in the shadow of a nearby outcrop of rock served as a baler. I wonder how many goalkeepers have appreciated the efforts of that small boy on all fours extracting the last drop of sticky wet black mud off his goal line. Meanwhile my father would be marking the pitch. He would cut a narrow furrow along the wings, and along the centre line filling it carefully with sawdust, before the advent of new technology, the chalk barrow. Then the nets would be hung in place on the iron goalposts, posts incidentally made by Uncle Dai, my mother's brother, who was a blacksmith at Betws Colliery where my father worked. I could never understand why players had so much difficulty putting such a small ball in such a big hole!
.....No one could say that the Glanaman Club did not have a proper changing room. For the purpose there was a luxurious corrugated iron shed – a single room divided into two by an old coalburning stove on which stood two enormous cauldrons. The last pre-match task of the assistant groundsman was to carry water from the nearby River Aman to fill those containers. It was incidentally the responsibility of the players to provide fuel for the fire, and as they arrived, the lump of coal in their sports bag was as important a piece of equipment as their boots.
.....Those days of innocence were happy, happy ones, for I could imitate my brother on my father's field, and no one can doubt the pride I felt, and still feel, in that insignificant little playground on the banks of the Aman. After all it was as big a part of the people's game to the boys of Glanaman as the streets of Belfast were to George Best or the beaches of Rio to Pele.
.....My horizons were even in those days not confined to the Glanaman first team. I knew about the big names of proper football, and they lived in my dreams, thanks to two aunts.
.....The excitement when Auntie Het, mother's sister, acquired a television was enormous. There was no other television in the whole village at the time, and a weekly pilgrimage, which was to last for years started for Tomi and me. It was three miles from Glanaman to Ammanford, and each Saturday night, well-scrubbed and shiny faced, we took the bus to watch 'Match of the Day' in the company of the immortal commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme. His words became our everyday vocabulary, and for the next seven days we were the stars of the previous Saturday.
..... Auntie Pheb lived further away. She and her husband Uncle Cliff bad left the valleys to keep a sub-post office in London, and our annual holiday was spent in Finnsbury Park, North London, an area full of immigrants from Greece and Cyprus. Apart from the excitement of spending time in that alien atmosphere what was for Tomi and me of far more significance in those holidays was that we could see a 'proper' football match.
.....Those were the days when there was far more interest in football than there is to-day. I remember having to arrive at Highbury three hours before their game against Tottenham Hotspur, and having to stand because no seats were left. But it was all worth it, for it was a chance to see Jack Kelsey, the Wales and Arsenal goalkeeper.
.....Though it was another hero that left the biggest impression in that game! Not at the time maybe, but curiously I clearly remember the incident to this day. Mel Charles was stopped in his tracks by a very doubtful decision, but despite the complaints of fellow players and the huge crowd, he was sportsman enough to run 20 yards to collect the ball, so that play could restart. The applause as he did so was deafening. Mel and I were to meet again, as fellow players with Ammanford Town, and I shall write later about my period as a fellow player with his son Jeremy in Swansea's successful First Division side.
.....Yes, those days were memorable, though they must have been difficult for my poor elder brother. I insisted on following him and his older friends everywhere. But he had the perfect answer to get rid of me. "Get into goal out of the way" he would say, and I little realised how significant to my whole life those words would prove to be.
.....My ability in goal, without any exaggeration, soon began to amaze Tomi and his friends. I can still remember the first time I was ever praised. After I had succeeded in parrying a painful and accurate shot round the post, somebody shouted: "That was better than Bill Brown on Saturday" referring to the Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper in the 1961 'double' winning team. I had a strange emotion at that moment, a feeling that perhaps I had more ability than usual between the posts.
.....The thrill of that remark was nothing compared to the joy when I had official confirmation of my promise. I was just 12 when I was selected to play for the Glanaman under-18 village team. For another two years, I was given the honour of playing regularly for the Ammanford United under-16 teams in memorable games against giants like Carmarthen, Talybont and Kidwelly! When I was 15, there came occasional calls to step up into Ammanford United's first team – this was the period I consider I came face to face with real football for the first time, playing among adults. It was a strong team playing in a difficult league, full of former professional players sucking the last traces of nectar out of their careers. It was a time when the protection afforded to goalkeepers by the rules was far less than it was to become, and in those circumstances I grew up fast. I can now appreciate just how harmful those days could have been to such a young lad. Towards the end of my career, in the period of Swansea's meteoric success, I recalled those days when I saw the damage caused to young players' confidence and physical development as John Toshack the manager threw them into the men's world. I was far more fortunate, for I played behind a solid defence of strong, experienced players, and in their care I learnt about shouting and supporting, encouraging, urging, and warning, and also all about swearing! My abilities developed by leaps and bounds, and I have throughout my later career tried to take every opportunity to pass on a taste of the philosophy I learnt so young from them to other young players.
.....One result of all this was that my name started to appear more prominently in the local press, and on the lips of local people. At that stage, the latter counted for more. People were talking about Willie John's second son, and before games, or sometimes afterwards, people were coming up to me to speak or to advise, more often than not ending the conversation with a touch on the shoulder and the words "Remember, David, if you become half as good as your father ..." I have gone through my life so far with those words ringing in my ears, and trying to live up to them. For I know, and I think knew then, that they were not just referring to his prowess as a footballer, but more, far more.

Chapter 1 – Never Say Dai
Chapter 2 – The First Transfer
Chapter 3 – Character Building

Chapter 2 – The First Transfer
Most footballers in the course of their careers have to go through the trauma of transfer. At whatever level, and it does not really matter whether a huge transfer fee has changed hands or not, it can have a severe psychological effect on a player. It is a time of soul searching and even when the decision has been taken, there is inevitably a period of adjustment to the new surroundings and to a new team of footballers. Perhaps the most difficult transfer of all is between two clubs in the same town. That is probably why transfers between Liverpool and Everton, or the two Manchester Clubs, United and City, are comparatively rare, maybe because of the danger there of a rebellion by the fans of one club if a favourite son leaves for the rival club.
.....My first transfer was just such a move, and the controversy which surrounded me was just as fierce, although the two clubs in question were Ammanford United and Ammanford Town. As a result of that move I can well appreciate the rationale that makes the big clubs reluctant to part with a player to their rivals. Only one thing worked in my favour, I was not exactly a native of the town but came from one of the nearby villages, but despite that small saving grace, I still sensed the enmity and the disappointment felt within the town. Not that it worried me too much, as for the first time, someossed the definite wish to have me in his team and had been ready to go to great lengths to secure that such a ne had expremove took place.
.....It was, to be perfectly frank, a great feeling, emotions that were not to be exceeded when later in my career, Everton, Wrexham and Swansea were to make approaches. Nights of sleeplessness, daydreams and visions of the shirt of Wales on my back were revived immediately.
.....The man responsible for it all was Roy Saunders, Ammanford Town's player manager, who in his more successful days had been a hard player with Hull City, and Liverpool before ending his League career with Swansea.
.....He was one of the first to leave Anfield when the unique Bill Shankly took over as manager, as he believed a weak knee would prove troublesome. After long consideration, he had joined Swansea, starting a connection between the two clubs that was to flourish on a much grander scale later in my career. Saunders loves to relate how he was advised by his friends in the North of England when considering the move to Swansea:
....."Don't go there, it's full of singing Welsh miners in costumes and silly hats." He must have found the singing Welsh miners in their silly hats congenial, for 20 years later he still lives in South Wales! I was later to play with his son, Dean, in the Swansea side.
.....Saunders was a hard man, perhaps bitter because his own career had been cut short. He would often annoy people by his direct could-not-care-less brand of plain speaking. He was regarded by some as a bit of a swine, but under his care – a man who hated to lose, but who experienced so much thrill at winning – my own career took tremendous strides. He taught me that a big lad who did not know how to take advantage of his size was despised. I spent days being knocked down time and time again as Saunders and I fought for the high balls into the goal mouth. More often that not I was left clutching at fresh air. I grew to admire and respect the man who was to be one of the biggest influences on my career as it progressed.
.....My first game for Town was for their under-18 team, in the Welsh Youth League. Fellow members of that league included youth teams of three League clubs, Cardiff, Newport and Swansea and I remember a long legged tall boy named John Toshack putting three goals past me in one game, and the chance to play against those teams under the eagle eyes of their managers and trainers was to be of great benefit to me very soon, the name of Dai Davies was connected with more than one of the big clubs in the newspapers, including Liverpool and Manchester United. But it was to his old club, Swansea that Roy Saunders took me to sign my first contract ever. The Swansea manager at the time was Trevor Morris, a man with whom I was to come into contact in rather more stormy circumstances when he was the Secretary of the Welsh FA. I remember that he had a rather small office, with a powerful smell of leather coming from the armchair. Signs of wear on the rather threadbare carpet were reminders that I was not joining one of the most successful clubs in football. I was to walk into that room twice again in my career, when the circumstances, like the carpet, would be rather more opulent
..... Still it was a day never to be forgotten by a young lad, though the visit in reality was of little importance. I remember it too, quite clearly for another reason, as the day when 1 came face to face for the first time with the cynicism and lack of trust in the world of professional football. Saunders and Trevor Morris were discussing an agreement that would mean £500 for Ammanford Town should I at any time develop to play in the Swansea first team, and £1,000 in addition should I win a full cap for Wales. I can see Saunders' face hardening and his mouth narrowing as he stared at Trevor Morris and suggested, "We'd better have that in writing, Mr Morris. With all due respect, but you may not be here when that time comes". Pen was put to paper, on the first little bit of reality to my dream of winning a Welsh cap.
.....As the Ammanford youth team played in the same league as Swansea's youth team, my games for Swansea were confined to cup games, but I was fortunate enough in my first season to be part of their most successful run in the English Youth Cup. That run started with an exciting win over the Severn on Bristol City's ground. Two of our three goals in a 3 - 2 win were scored by Giorgio Chinaglia, the son of a cafe proprietor in Cardiff who became one of the big names in European football. He was not offered professional terms by Swansea, and joined Lazio in Italy at no fee. Years later, Saunders related how while on holiday in Italy, he was in a luxurious restaurant when the band stopped playing and everyone stood up. All started applauding enthusiastically, as an idol named Giorgio Chinaglia, or Long John as he was known abroad, walked into the restaurant. What is it that's said about a prophet in his own land? Another member of that youth team was a muscular young attacker, John Roberts, who was later to play in the Wrexham and Wales teams alongside me.
.....Of all the experiences of that first year on the edges of the professional football world, it is the bitter and terrifying experience of the fourth round of the Youth Cup that stands out. After winning against Cardiff and Swindon, we were fated in the fourth round to travel to one of the hotbeds of English football, Molineux, Wolverhampton Wanderers' ground. The local press went overboard, taking photographs galore, speculating whether there was a possibility of David beating Goliath, while at the same time reminding us, young lads that we were, constantly of the man sized task ahead of us.
.....The night of that game was one of the great nightmares of my life, and the nadir of my career. The size of the crowd was altogether beyond our experience, more than 15,000 people. And though we were outplayed, their advantage at half time had been kept to one goal only, and I had made several good saves to contribute to that scoreline. What happened afterwards was three quarters of an hour of hell. My world fell to pieces as I came up for the first time against what has been threatening to kill football stone dead for years, crowd violence. I had my back to thousands of Wolves supporters, most of them skinheads, and I was the butt of non stop taunting, curses and spitting. Pennies, pieces of glass and rocks were thrown at me throughout the half, and because of my lack of experience, it all left its mark on me. I felt every taunt to the quick, and I could not, dare not, look up into the crowd each time the ball flashed past the goal into their midst. For the only time in my career I felt lonely, afraid and sorry for myself.
.....Three goals were scored past me, and I was to blame for each of them, two of them being scored by a frail youngster named Bob Hatton, who was to put many more past me during his brilliant career. I resolved that night that never again would I become victim of the crowd, From then on, I started every away game convinced in my heart that not only was I playing against eleven players but against all the crowd as well.
.....Looking back, II can see nothing odd that the Wolverhampton match should have been such a shock. After all, I was still a schoolboy at the Amman Valley Grammar School. And recalling those schooldays, I would be less than honest if I said I did not enjoy them.
.....For some reason I can remember my first day at school quite clearly. At the age of five I went hand in hand with Jennifer Evans from the village. We came out, two hours early, still hand in hand, having decided that school was too much like chapel. The headmaster cannot have been too annoyed, for I am a little ashamed to admit I grew to be one of his pets. One of the privileges that accompanied being his favourite was to be allowed to go to the shop everyday to collect his packet of cigarettes.
.....The reward for answering a number of pretty silly questions in an examination called the eleven-plus was a place in the local Grammar School. Without shining too much in anything, I had enough interest to succeed quite well academically. It was the same too, in the school's other field of interest, the Rugby field. While we were rather disgusted that we were not allowed to play Soccer in school, that was not going to be allowed to sour us against the oval ball. In exactly the same way as the giants of Rugby like Barry John and Gareth Edwards could claim a little success at soccer, so could several stars of Association Football boast of their prowess on the rugby field. I find it inexplicable that some people, for some reason, fail to understand that. I had tremendous fun from playing Rugby, though, ironically, it was at Rugby that I suffered the worst injury in my life, fracturing my collarbone when I was thirteen.
.....I too can boast of some success on the Rugby field as well, particularly when I was in the sixth form. We had spent most of our schooldays in the shadow of a very successful first team, but when most of the players left for college the presence of a strong six-footer in the sixth was indeed a bonus. What followed was a hard year of playing rugby for the school on Saturday mornings and football for Ammanford in the afternoons. I also played second row for West Wales Schools and, looking back at the details of those games, I can see that I was on the same field as heroes like Paul Ringer, Barry Llywelyn, Peter Nicholas and Selwyn Williams.
.....I'm quite aware that there are thousands of boys who play football or rugby twice on a Saturday, but I must admit that I found it a strain playing twice the same day. I kept on until one day I decided I had to choose.
.....It was the day of the pinnacle of the rugby season, the match against Llanelli. In a mighty contest, though we were a man short from the first half, we only lost 5 points to 3. Unfortunately all feelings of pride disappeared when Ammanford lost 4 - 0. 1 was at fault for all the goals and it was the only game that Ammanford lost that season. Long before the final whistle I had decided that from now on there had to be only one sport, if I was to represent Wales. And that was the end of my rugby career.
.....From then on, my team was the Ammanford first team, and I was part of a sequence of success which saw them rising from the second division to the top of the first division in two seasons.
.....In between exciting Saturdays for Ammanford there was my connection with Swansea, with practice games every Tuesday between the first team and the reserves. That connection was most valuable to a boy learning his trade, because I was on the same training ground with some of the greats like Ivor Allchurch. During my career, several commentators have remarked that I was perhaps at my best as a goalkeeper when I had to make last second saves, those saves that come when it seems inevitable that a goal will be scored. If that is true, the credit is due to Ivor Allchurch. At training one afternoon, I heard him shout mercilessly at a young forward, Keith Todd, who had just missed a goal when it seemed far easier to score. His message was quite clear, there is no such thing as a certain goal until the ball is in the back of the net. After that afternoon, I too believed that for a goalkeeper every save is possible.
.....For me, then the carefree days of youth had been exciting, but I'd also had a great deal of experience, fortunately, enough to at least keep my big dream alive. Yet in one area I had failure after failure, and that was my lack of success in trial games that mattered. Each ended dismally. Only once was I to reach a final trial, and disappointment again awaited me. It's not that 1 feel any bitterness. There are those who point to bias among
selectors towards North Wales players, but in my day, I knew that there was a great deal of difference in standard between us boys from South Wales and our Northern contemporaries. Compared with them we were diffident and lacked confidence. It was the only time I felt hard done by because the education system was doing nothing to promote Association Football in the South. The price to be paid was our personal pride whenever we had to show our prowess against North Wales players.
.....My personal sense of disappointment was compounded no doubt because my close friend, Jeff Thomas, from the nearby village of Glynmoch, whose Rugby career almost mirrored mine in Soccer, was awarded a Welsh youth cap, when I could not even jump the trials hurdle. All the same, we remained close friends, and he instigated a move by the local Rugby team to honour me when I became a First Division player – ironically the first acknowledgement of my Soccer success in my home village was to come from a Rugby club.
.....Still, it was sobering on my 18th birthday to realise I was no longer 'young' in footballing terms, for from now on, I was standing on equal terms with men up to 40 years of age and more. It was also when the realisation came that it was almost time to decide whether literally to use my head or my feet – my head to gain some measure of academic success or my feet to follow the rainbow to the dream pot of gold. Was it to be college or club for Dai Davies? The heart eventually yielded to the arguments and wisdom of headmaster and parents, and I sadly left home for the first time. It was barely 50 miles to Cyncoed Training College in Cardiff, but I was homesick. It's an affliction that I have suffered many times since, and many a marvellous trip has been marred by my longing to return home.
.....College days were when I thought least of becoming a professional footballer. It was a period of broadening horizons, and football was only part of a marvellous life that Included every imaginable sport in the company of people who were to become the best in the world in their field.
Football, of course, remained my main subject, maintaining its importance as it coincided with three years' unprecedented success by the college football team. I was their goalkeeper throughout as they dominated Welsh amateur football, reaching the final of the Welsh Amateur Cup three years in succession, winning it twice.
.....Curiously enough, of those Successful teams, very few players became well known in the professional game. Perhaps the significant factor was that football was no longer a religion for most of us but merely a part of the varied life of athletes. It is perhaps worthy of note that few would recognise the innocent bespectacled face of BBC Wales Sports commentator Ron Jones as the tough, mercilessly tackling full back of the first year team. A talented player and a close friend, it was not until later that I learnt that we might have met entirely by accident years earlier. It was my father who related how one very wet and windy night when driving home from Glanaman to Ammanford he gave a lift to a young boy pushing a bike on his way back from seeing his girlfriend in our village. The courtship blossomed, Ron and Wendy were married and their friendship is still cherished.
.....College days are recalled as a time of friendship and glorious fun, socially and on the sports field. Following the success of our college team I was selected for the British Training Colleges team competing for the first time for the Universities' Cup having never before been allowed to enter The wisdom of the decision was confirmed when we ran away with the cup. I was then selected to play for the British college against French colleges. But I still had not won a Welsh cap. Frustratingly, though I was so close to the top, the trials passed every time without any inkling of success. In that period I played in innumerable games, but only one stands out because it was to occasion the greatest disillusion of my young life. In heavy rain on a windy day, that made good football or any football at all impossible, the final Welsh trial was played between the Welsh FA and the Welsh Colleges team. I had a better game than normal, but once again the honour went to
he North, Gerry Pierce, who played for Nantlle Vale. I know to this day that the selection was made by a former referee from Aberystwyth, who did not even get his hair wet to watch the game. To him, selecting the national amateur team was simply a matter of politics and that meant choosing so many players from North Wales and so many from the South. The disappointment of that day was indescribable because of the conviction that I could never again get so close to a cap – and yet there was also a feeling that I could not care less if I never played for Wales!
.....One footnote to that game was that playing in the other team was a full back named Brian Price, who was to be selected for the Welsh team and who won several more amateur caps subsequently. We were to meet again, years later, when his sister Ann and I were married!
.....No period of my life has passed more quickly than those college days, and the memories are almost of unmitigated pleasure. Perhaps the only complaint was the strictly enforced rule that those who played for college teams were not allowed to play for any other team. I felt at times like a caged tiger as Ammanford and Swansea's successes were beyond my reach. But the college insisted and in my time that rule was only relaxed for one man. He was Gareth Edwards, who was not only a fellow student but a close friend sharing a flat with me, the third occupant being Nick Williams who later ran for Wales and became the Cardiff Rugby Club winger. Hundreds of thousands of words have been written about Gareth Edwards since those days, so it will suffice to say at this juncture that he was the most naturally talented and complete player cum gymnast cum athlete I ever met. It was in his blood, he was instinctively gifted, and it was obvious even in those days that he would develop into one of the great stars of sport. Of all his abilities, perhaps it was his reflexes that made him extraordinary together with the fact that he could have become a master in almost any sport. Just to cite one example – one of the college lecturers was the world famous athlete Lyn Davies, Olympic long jump gold medallist, but Gareth could create problems for him on the track – he once held a European Youth track record. Yet the same man could send a shot thundering past me into the net, play tennis and throw the javelin brilliantly and he excelled at gymnastics. He had more talent in his little finger than I had in my whole body. Add to this his temperament. Despite his intense desire to win and to battle to the end, it was very rarely that he lost his temper. He was truly a genius!
.....Keeping such company, it's easy to see how the desire to shine in one sport and to concentrate fully on it to the exclusion of all else could be blunted. It was indeed not until near the end of my course that I realised that I was still itching to become a professional footballer.
.....The realisation came at the end of a night out that had been rather wilder than usual in Cardiff's public houses, when the Neath Rugby player, Hywel Williams, came to stay in our flat with his brother. I had met him once before when I was a fresher, but on this one occasion, as I bent double in the toilet ridding myself of the evening's extravagance, he obviously saw a different man altogether. "You've obviously given up wanting to be a footballer" he remarked, quite honestly and naively. My reaction, yes, my anger, amazed me, for his words were like a knife to the heart. That innocent little remark confirmed once and for all, that despite everything, the desire was still there. The timing of that exchange could not have been better, for the time was getting nearer when I would have to make a decision once again to make a choice between becoming a teacher or a goalkeeper.
.....It was a difficult choice, extremely difficult, for on one hand there were favourable results in my final examinations and on the other, equally favourable Press reports on my skill as a goalkeeper, some newspapers referring to me as the best amateur goalkeeper in Wales, and recording that clubs like Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and Birmingham were interested in my future. There was also interest still from the Swansea club, where Roy Saunders was club coach, and Glyn Davies had replaced Trevor Morris as manager. Hundreds of boys every year experience the same dilemma; thousands more would pay dearly for that kind of problem. In the end what made the decision for me was to have beard my father asking himself many, many times "What might have happened if I had signed...". I was resolved not to go through life with the doubt that I might have missed an opportunity hanging over me because I made the wrong decision. So in 1969, I was back in that little office in Swansea, again accompanied by Roy Saunders, to sign away another year of my life to the club. This time it was to be a make or break year, I was giving myself twelve months to make my dream come true or shatter it once and for all.
.....The financial arrangements were conducted by a young businessman, Malcolm Struel, and the drama that was enacted in that office that afternoon was to be re-enacted again later, though the part of the script which had to do with money would change drastically.
.....Saunders had advised me to ask for £20 a week; Struel offered £17.50; a teacher earned £14 a week, so I accepted quickly before he changed his mind! That summer was carefree, for all life's pressures had been lifted off my shoulders. Once again my eyes were firmly set on that bright dream, as the college team left for a rather special holiday in Majorca. The team had been to Austria at Easter to play a college team from Austria and a German team. An extra game against a team of ski instructors was arranged, and after it there was a memorable night of socialising. A local travel agent, so delighted at seeing his customers joining in the fun, promised us a free holiday in Majorca. On that holiday, with my future secure, on the white beaches in bright sunshine, the lad from Glanaman felt that he had reached the promised land. Paying for nothing; every luxury to hand; a professional career in football ahead of me, I could see nothing but perpetual sunshine in the future.
.....Two days after returning to Wales, amid strangers on another rather different beach, the disillusionment was to begin The time had come to start training for the coming season on the beach at Aberavon. I was one of five goalkeepers on the club's staff, and by this time a new manager, Roy Bentley, had arrived. He had never heard Dai Davies, and he had no connection at all with Swansea decision to sign me. Within half an hour I had been left far behind by the other players in the intense loneliness an frustration of throwing up as my stamina was found wanting. My mouth was parched and the sun was so hot!
.....Roy Bentley's cruel voice, reminding his playing staff that the club had been languishing in the lower reaches of the division and that he had no time nor place for the weak and dispirited, seemed to be going further and further away. I was shaking all over and my head was swimming. I knew at last that the king of the amateur game was on the lowest possible rung of the professional ladder and that Gary Sprake's crown, as the Welsh National goalkeeper, was still as far as ever from my grasp.

Chapter 1 – Never Say Dai
Chapter 2 – The First Transfer
Chapter 3 – Character Building

Chapter 3 – Character Building
That first season in the professional football world was more or less a series of disappointments. One blow followed the other, both physically and psychologically. It was almost impossible to believe that starting a career with any other team could have been more difficult, though I was to learn differently later on. The fact remains however that that first experience was a tremendous test of my character, and it was a period when on several occasions I came within a hair's breadth of joining the ranks of Wales' teachers.
.....It was no help at all to me that the season had reached its final game before I had the opportunity to play for the first team. As a young lad, I was far too eager and hopeful, and far too easily discouraged by failing week after week to be selected for the sought-after first team.
.....Putting it in its proper context, no wonder I suffered such a terrible disillusionment. It is fair to warn any eager young lad that such an existence is the greatest possible cruelty towards an ambitious spirited personality. Through my own experiences I came to see the answer to the big question – why is it that so many young boys almost make it, but fall short in professional football? The simple fact is that the easiest part is securing a contract with a club. It's the period immediately following that separates the sheep from the goats, and discovers the strength of character so necessary for success. Taking into account the perseverance required at that particular stage and the need to remain resolute in the face of So many disappointments it is small wonder that so many footballers develop into selfish and inconsiderate personalities.
.....My main problem was that 1 found it incredibly hard to achieve a satisfactory standard of fitness. Unfortunately running was an important part of the training programme, and for one who went through his entire career heartily disliking that activity, I reached the stage where getting up in the morning was murder. Things worsened because I sustained an ankle injury within the first two months with the club. I missed training for all of three months, and incidentally, that ankle weakness remained with me for the rest of my career.
.....By missing training I also came face to face with another unpleasant aspect of the competitive world – the constant leg pulling and endless taunting amongst the players particularly directed at newcomers. It's difficult to describe just how much harm such treatment may have caused. I have seen several fellow players in tears many times and my own eyes have filled on scores of occasions.
.....When training is already hurting, the injury causing frustration, and the dreams becoming dimmer by the day, the frequent, unkind remarks and malicious laughter is like a knife. When someone was hurt he was immediately accused of swinging the lead, by faking the injury in order to miss the hard work of training. The truth was of course that no one would have been happier than I to be able to join the rest of the boys and to be part at least of the weekly battle for one of the eleven important nominations for the first team. After that injury, all I could win was one appearance every two weeks for the second team; Tony Millington seemed immovable as the first team goalkeeper, and I was left idle for another four weeks midway through the season by another injury. I became very depressed, for there's hardly anywhere worse to seek comfort than a world where everyone is fighting for himself against each other.
.....A good friend in such days is a rarity and something to be treasured. I was extremely lucky in the company of a young attacker, David Gwyther, who like me had to be content with two second team appearances a month. He, the forward, and I, the goalkeeper, trained together, testing and helping each other and somehow between us keeping each other's dreams alive. Strangely that relationship was to start a chain reaction and throughout my career I can say that attackers were my friends. Gwyther was followed by Joe Royle at Everton, Bob Latchford at Everton and Swansea and Dixie McNeil at Wrexham.
.....While we young lads were fighting our cause in the second the first team were enjoying great success in the league securing promotion from the Fourth to the Third Division. One of the other teams to be promoted was Chesterfield, and Swansea's last game of the season was against them, both having made sure of their Third Division places already.
By that time I was quite ready for the summer break, and the opportunity to consider seriously where my future lay, when out of the blue the long awaited call came. I was at last to be given the chance to appear for the first team in the last game of the season. Quite apart from the natural interest in a game between two of the most successful teams in the division, there was another element; Chesterfield were playing for the championship title itself.
.....I remember arriving in the town, passing the crooked spire of the city's Cathedral. Awaiting us on the Saltergate ground was a crowd of almost 17,000. Though the game did not reach the heights expected, I managed to play exceptionally well in a scoreless draw. My relief after that game was tremendous after days of anxiety that having been given the chance after waiting so long, I would squander it with an indifferent display. In those 90 minutes I had taken the first step into my dream, and I could say, whatever happened subsequently, that I had played in the English Football League.
.....The goalkeeper at the other end that night was Alan Stevenson, who was to keep goal for Burnley for many years, and I was additionally proud that I made my first League appearance, and a successful one at that, on the field of the club that had nurtured goalkeepers like Gordon Banks and Bob Wilson. Thankfully, I was not the only one who thought that I had performed well at Saltergate. This was proved during the summer when I was given a £3 a week rise, and an additional bonus was that one of the other goalkeepers, Dilwyn John, was allowed to leave on a free transfer. Despite those crumbs of comfort, I was back in the second team at the beginning of the next season, and had to stay in it for 12 weeks, though I had weekly games now. As an old man of 21 in a team of boys between 15 and 18 we had tremendous success under my old friend Roy Saunders, by then a coach with the club. The team was unbeaten for the first 12 games, surrendering only 10 goals, and suddenly, with the big game at the end of the previous season having put a bit of swagger in my gait, life was worth living again. Looking back, it's surprising just how little encouragement I needed in reality, despite what appeared to be an entirely hopeless existence. Perhaps a number of managers might benefit by realising that the smallest encouragement can overcome the greatest frustration for many potential young footballers. However, morale in the second team was good, and training a pleasure. I felt that anything and everything was possible once again, and this was underlined by a phone call one Monday morning after a Saturday first team game at Port Vale. In that match Tony Millington had injured his leg, and I was called to join them for Tuesday night's game against Preston at Deepdale. The team had lost heavily at Port Vale, but with the new born confidence of the new season sustaining me I arrived at Preston aware that I could once again remind everybody that Dai Davies was knocking hard at the door to the first team. Once again I played well enough in a drawn game to keep my place for the next game … and the next and the next. Suddenly the pieces of the jigsaw were falling into place.
.....Almost without my realising it, 12 second team games without defeat had been stretched to eight more in the first team. I became more acutely aware of this as the press paid more and more attention to the run. It was hard to believe that, within months of seriously considering giving it up, I was being associated with the names of managers like Harry Catterick of Everton, Joe Mercer of Manchester City as a young goalkeeper who had not been on the losing side in first class football.
.....The Swansea team of those days was rich in characters who became good friends and teachers, among them men like Mel Nurse, Len Allchurch and particularly Herbie Williams. For the first time in my career I was truly happy in my work, though it must be emphasised that through it all it was difficult to come to terms with the idea that I was beginning to be successful. One insignificant little piece of paper made it all appear even more a dream.
.....We were at training when one of the apprentices ran on to the field to hand me a thin brown envelope. At first I paid more attention to the string of curses directed at the poor apprentice for daring to break in on the training of the first team. But I was nailed to the ground when I opened that envelope.
.....I recall that the first words I read were the names 'Brian Lloyd', (the Southend goalkeeper) and then my own name. Instantly I knew that it all meant that I was a member of the Welsh under 21 squad and as if that were not enough, the game was to be against England! Yet, if I were to be perfectly honest, I suppose I must admit that I reacted oddly unexcited after the original amazement and wonder. Remembering that I was, possibly, on the verge of achieving my life's ambition, the bitter experience of the past, and my knowledge that I was merely a member of the squad jointly served to lessen my elation. But that only lasted a few days. On the morning of the game, after the squad training session, the Welsh manager, Dave Bowen, came to me and whispered in my ear that I would be playing in goal on the Racecourse that night. There is no way I can convey the emotion on paper. I feel no shame at all in confessing that my eyes filled with tears, and that I spent hours that day on the telephone making sure everyone in South Wales knew!
.....It is just as impossible to convey the anticipation and the nervousness before the game. But the newspaper cuttings carefully kept to record the great moment remind me still of the little boy excitement I felt. Gradually I began to realise that I was to play against the team that all the expert commentators were predicting would take England back to the top of international football. Names like David Nish, Leicester City, Colin Todd, Sunderland, Alan Hudson and Tommy Hutchinson, Chelsea were discussed not as footballers but as gods, for famous names like Joe Royle and Brian Kidd were being left out of the team. The question everyone was asking was not whether England could win, but rather the margin of the victory that Alf Ramsey's "young lions" would register. It was a different story altogether after the game for they were 90 memorable minutes, as Wales performed heroically to hold England to a 0-0 draw. The big names of England meant less to me now, than the knowledge that I shared in the success of my country's team, among heroes like Terry Yorath and John Toshack. Yorath in particular made a deep impression on me that night. I had never previously seen so much dedication, so much heart. On top of that he showed another valuable aspect of his play when he tackled Alan Hudson mercilessly in the early minutes of the game. In that short time, he had realised what the great danger to the Welsh team would be, from which direction it would be created, and with that one tackle, he broke Hudson's heart, and halved our team's problems. Incidentally, at the end of that game, my unbeaten run had extended to 21 games.
.....I could not sleep at all that night, even though I had slept hardly at all the previous night. At last, I could lie in my bed, re-living, not a dream as I had so often done in that little terraced house in Glanaman, but an actual successful performance in my country's shirt!
.....Inevitably, almost, the result of the Racecourse game was discussed in terms of an English national tragedy. After all, the cream of the English First Division had failed to beat a side composed of second and third division players, and the reasons were analyzed ad nauseam. From the personal point of view, I had tremendous satisfaction from noting that there was one other general consensus, that I had played a key part in the game, and had been particularly authoritative in the all important battle for the high balls with the giant Tommy Hutchinson of Chelsea. As I read every word, I became prouder and prouder still that I was a Welshman.
.....That game was of immeasurable benefit to the development of my character. After all I had been part of a game which had been living testimony to everyone that the impossible was after all possible if the will is strong enough, and the effort sufficiently strenuous. That lesson in itself became a key part of my game throughout the rest of my career.
Just as my character benefitted, that game did not exactly have an adverse effect on my career either! On the Thursday after the big game, when I was looking forward to a day of leisure in the reflected glory of the praise of the national press, there was a phone call.
.....The message was to meet my manager, Roy Bentley in Swansea urgently. I remember his words clearly – the club had received two definite offers for me that morning, one of £30,000 from Eddie Firmani, the Charlton Athletic Manager, and the other of £25,000 from Harry Catterick, the Everton Manager. Everton were also prepared to pay a further £15,000 once I had played twenty first-team games. "The choice is entirely up to you" Bentley said, "but I would suggest Everton." I have no idea how l drove home that morning, with so much to consider, but one thing is sure I was never closer to being involved in an accident.
.....Without implying any disrespect on the London club, I had come to my decision almost before Bentley had had the chance to put in his word of advice. After all Everton were the Football League Champions, Everton was the team with the magical midfield trio of Alan Ball, Howard Kendall and Colin Harvey. It was rumoured that it was Harry Gregg, the famous goalkeeper who had suggested my name to Everton, and it was due to him therefore that I travelled north on a cold day a few days before Christmas 1970. That indirect connection with Gregg was to prove ironic indeed in the light of later developments in my career with Everton.

Chapter 1 – Never Say Dai
Chapter 2 – The First Transfer
Chapter 3 – Character Building

Date this page last updated: September 28, 2010