Curtis Davies is still trying to make sense of the craziest season. One that started with him nearly quitting football in disgust and went through one crisis after another before ending with a standing ovation despite being relegated.
He always follows newsletters and social media for positive updates. Still praying Derby County finds a savior after Chris Kirchner’s failed takeover bid this week. “I’m very invested in the club, emotionally,” said Davies, 37. “It’s my club, whether I’m there or not. I’ve been part of the fabric for five years and those five years feel like 20.
“I’m not going to sit here thinking, forget about Derby, they’ve gone into liquidation, whatever. I would be empty. If this takeover does not happen or is further delayed, people’s livelihoods are in doubt and with the cost of living crisis it could not come at a worse time.
Curtis Davies admitted that the most important thing is that the club survive this period
“Derby is a massive club with a massive following and it needs someone who is serious about pushing it forward in the right way.”
“It’s not Championship Manager. That’s what Mel Morris did. Mel did well with the Candy Crush money, bought his hometown club and ran it like he had the cheat code on Championship Manager. Unfortunately, there are consequences and we are facing them now.
“What we need is the next owner. And I’m not saying I want them to be, but if Derby were to be in Ligue 1 for the next five to 10 years but survive, stabilize and building is more important than finding someone who comes along and burns another load of cash.The key is that the club survives and is run properly.
Davies is out of contract and wants to continue playing, although he doesn’t see how to extend his Derby career. “I would like to stay under the right circumstances,” he says. “It’s my heart speaking. My head tells me that if something comes up at the championship level, I’d be a fool not to take it. I’m still hungry.
Centre-back says Mel Morris treated club as if he were Championship manager
He excelled in the Championship last season despite a most uncertain start when, after training all summer without a contract at Derby on the understanding that he would re-sign once the transfer embargo was lifted, he was summoned to the canteen by boss Wayne Rooney, along with seven other players operating under a similar verbal agreement.
“The gaffer said, ‘I’m terribly sorry, but it’s not happening,’ Davies says. ‘He said, ‘The president can’t do it.’ Mel was supposed to prove there was money available to lift the embargo, which he could not do.
“Everyone just left the room. Sone Aluko drove straight to Ipswich and signed for them. Tom Carroll signed for them a few days later. I grabbed my boots and shin guards and said goodbye.
Davies believed he had a close relationship with former owner Mel Morris before feeling let down
“I changed my workout gear and put it all in my car. I didn’t like the way it went. Pulled into a room with loads of strangers who were on trial for getting say, “It’s not happening so fast”.
“I thought I had a pretty strong personal relationship with Mel and if I did, I’d hold my head high.” I was smoking on the way out, like, “That’s it, I’m done, I’m going to retire and work in the media.” I was just going for a long drive and if I had left the parking lot, I don’t think I would have gone back.
Davies was fuming in his car when his agent arrived and they decided to head back and explore a deal within the embargo. Derby cooked up an offer based heavily on appearances and worth around half of what was on the table. He signs, collects his equipment from the car and heads back to the training ground.
Derby are a ‘massive’ club with a ‘massive’ following according to Davies as fans pray for a knight in shining armor
“Not exactly with my cock between my legs because I had nothing to be ashamed of,” Davies says. “I hadn’t done anything wrong, but I felt badly done and was the most reluctant I’ve ever been to sign for a club.”
The next day he was credited with a goal he didn’t hit in a 1-1 draw with Huddersfield and a week later launched a furious rant in the locker room after Derby conceded twice in stoppage time to lose 2-1 at Peterborough.
“Craziest start to the season,” Davies said, and it just got worse. In September, Morris plunged the club into administration, citing a 12-point deduction. November imposed another nine-point penalty for breaching EFL financial regulations. There were players sold in January to keep the club going and others sold in March.
“I never thought Mel would put the club into administration,” says Davies. “He was a Derby man and a Derby fan with a reputation in the community, and all of a sudden it all disappeared.
Despite a miraculous effort, Derby could not overcome the large points deduction suffered last season and could not survive
“I found out on Sky. Sitting at home when the yellow ticker comes on with Derby going into administration. Oh great, what now? When we lost the nine points I found out on Sky.
“At first I was trying to find out what was going on so I could pass it on to the guys, but the manager had no information, so how was I supposed to get any? I learned more from social media and the media than from an admin and it’s embarrassing because I was a senior pro.
Davies cajoled young players accelerated into the first team with stories of how his own big break came 18 years earlier when Luton Town was thrust into administration.
Wayne Rooney matured as a manager at Derby and saw his reputation improve
“We were lucky because they continued to run Derby like a real club,” he said. “We got paid a few days late by a month, but the creditors stuck with us, so we got buses to games. People were fed on the training ground and we had supplements. Usually in administration you cut everything and employ a chef to stick a big lasagna in the oven every day.
Rooney, meanwhile, has matured as a manager before his eyes. “He’s got big shoulders,” Davies says. “It was indeed his first season and it started with having to disappoint those eight players around whom he planned his team.”
“He was the spokesperson, rounding up staff for meetings, saying, ‘I’m told this and I’ll pass it on to you’, making it clear that we were together and needed to keep doing our jobs, and he did it well because that shouldn’t necessarily be his role.
Davies says the players were lucky Derby continued to be run like a real club
“He brought the groundskeepers, the laundry workers, the office workers, the recruiting, the youth team, everyone in the room and said, ‘I’m going to get us out of here.’ He made these employees feel important at a time when they were worried about their livelihoods.
“I don’t know why he didn’t leave. Maybe it’s the character of the man. Perhaps there was a slight buzz of challenge. You know, “I’m going to prove you wrong.”
“No young manager wants relegation on his file and it’s happened, but what’s crazy is that by sticking with us, bringing those young guys into his own style of play, he’s strengthened his reputation in a relegation season.”
‘He didn’t need it. He is worth a lot of money, had a great career. It would have been much easier for him to sit on the beach.
Derby gave their all under Rooney and fans were proud of the displays on the pitch
Davies also impressed. Perhaps he’s no longer as quick and mobile as he was when he was called up to the England squads, but an experienced centre-half who knows his stuff.
The fireplace in his house, filled with Player of the Season awards from groups of supporters from last season, proves he still has what it takes.
“A season like no other,” he says. “The most positive I’ve had in a relegation season. We were chasing play-offs when I signed and if we lost at half-time to an inferior team we could be mocked.
“Still, we have come through this season at the bottom, we lose at Forest and we are applauded, we lose 4-1 at Middlesbrough and we are applauded, we are relegated to QPR and our fans are applauding. They saw that we gave it our all and didn’t give up.