When people think about the world’s top players the usual names come up: Iniesta, Messi, Ronaldo.
So when UEFA released the top 32 players for its 2012 Best Player In Europe Award, many were surprised to see a new name: Les Davies, forward with Bangor City of the Welsh Premiership.
That long list is chosen by a panel of journalists representing each of UEFA’s member nations. One of those is Dave Jones of the Daily Post. To date, Jones has eschewed all interviews with the national press, television and radio in the UK but made an exception to speak exclusively with the Caymanian Compass and reveal how the nomination came about.
“Each journalist is asked to provide a list of their five best-ranked players from one to five, with the first player receiving five points, the second four points, and so on,” he said. “This year, I chose Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Andres Iniesta and Joe Hart as my first four, and decided, as I represent Wales and cover the Welsh Premier each week, to select the player I rated the best in the league last season – and that man was Bangor City’s Les Davies.
“When UEFA published their long list of 32 contenders last month, I did not think Les would be included as I expected him to receive only one vote – mine. However, The Truck ended up in the 32-strong list and it sparked a massive worldwide reaction, generating huge publicity for Bangor City, Les Davies and the Welsh Premier League. A patriotic but genuine gesture which spiralled into a media frenzy.”
A burly centre-forward or winger once described by former England international Peter Davenport as being “like a runaway truck”, Davies has been one of the Welsh Premiership’s prominent players for a decade and like most of the largely semi-professional league, holds down a day job to make ends meet. But what did the man himself think of it all?
“Les was the perfect man to receive this kind of accolade as he is so down to earth,” Jones said. “Had Les been embarrassed about it, or been angry about being on the list, then I would have regretted my actions, but he was delighted to be thrust into the forefront of the football world.
“He knows he does not have the ability of the 31 other players he found himself amongst, but he also pointed out he works as hard as any of those players in training and on a Saturday, trying to be the best player he can be while holding down a job and supporting a wife and three young girls.
“He felt he deserved to be on the list. As his third daughter was born the day before his nomination was revealed, and then the media interest which followed, he described it as the best week of his life.” And if you were wondering, Davies, 27, missed out on the final shortlist, which comes to a conclusion in Monaco on Thursday, 30 August. No surprise that the top three comprises Messi, Ronaldo and Iniesta.
“Despite the fact I went against the grain, dared to be different and did something none of the other 52 judges did, my choices ultimately ended up amongst the norm,” Jones added. “It was the fact I threw in a part-timer from a lowly-ranked league into the equation that caused such a stir, yet I broke no rules, was proud of what I did and would do it again without question.
“Why should it always be about the fat cats? More and more fans are turning their backs on the big-money clubs and returning to watch grassroots football. Grassroots football is my life and that is why I pushed it into the limelight. I did no harm, I have not affected the overall outcome of the competition, just generated more publicity for it and for my country. And life’s meant to be all about having a bit of fun now and again, isn’t it?”