Ex-Hatter Curtis Davies excited to make his Luton return this evening
Former Hatters defender Curtis Davies is looking forward to finally heading back to Luton this evening as one of the star guests for the club’s Christmas Dinner at the Auction House.
Davies, will be in attendance along with goalkeeper Marlon Beresford and striker Rowan Vine, the trio all members of the 2004-05 squad that won League One and went on to play in the Championship the following season.
The 34-year-old, who is now with Derby County, started his career at the Hatters, coming through the ranks at Kenilworth Road.
He played 48 times as the club won promotion from League One to the Championship that term, his first and last full campaign with the club, snapped up by West Bromwich Albion after just a month of the following season.
However, Davies has always kept the Hatters close to his heart over a lengthy career with Aston Villa, Leicester, Birmingham and Hull, moving to Pride Park in June 2017 and can’t wait to return tonight.
Speaking exclusively to the Luton News, he said: "Considering the success we had, we’ve not really had anything where we’ve got together.
“It would be better if all the players were together, that would be a nice thing to do, but people have different lives and things like that are difficult.
“Hopefully one day that can be arranged, but it will just be good to see people.
"I’ve gone back to Luton as a fan since I left and watched a couple of games, but I went back there with West Brom when we were in the Championship and Luton were in the Championship, but I was injured, so couldn’t play there.
“It’s been few and far between the opportunities to get back, so it will be good to hopefully see a few familiar faces from both in and around the club, but some of the fans that used to come to every function.”
Davies actually made his breakthrough in the 2003-04 season, when the club had been placed into administration, as aged 18, he made his debut in a 2-1 LDV Vans Trophy tie at Rushden & Diamonds in November 2003.
His league bow followed two months later in a 2-2 draw at Stockport County, playing seven times in total that season.
That was under Mike Newell's tenure, as Davies freely admits had former manager Joe Kinnear remained at the help, he may not have had a career at Kenilworth Road at all.
The defender said: "If you look at our team at that time, this is no disrespect, but Joe Kinnear was a manager that liked experience, that liked to get players in with money.
"If you can loan someone that’s experienced, for a week or two weeks at the time, then you do that.
"Whereas due to the restraints, we had to use the youth system and through that time, our youth system was really good.
"You look at the likes of myself, Leon Barnett, Kev Foley have all gone on to the Premier League and then you’ve got Dean Brill who’s had a good career, played for Luton, gone to Wembley with Luton, playing for Leyton Orient now, he’s been to Scotland too.
"We had a really good group and it’s unfortunate, but if administration never happened, we probably wouldn’t had got that chance and been able to show how good we were, so young.
"We probably would have had to move on before we reached our potential.
"The season before, I wanted to go on loan as I was an 18-year-old, I was a third year scholar at the time and I was playing U19s football.
"For me, I felt U19s football wasn’t doing it for me. We didn’t have a reserve team because of administration, we couldn’t afford it, so I was stuck, I’m playing U19s football, but I should be doing well in U19s football and I wanted the first team.
"At that time, Leon Barnett had been slightly pushed ahead of me due to the fact that he could play right back, left back, or centre back.
"So I was thinking if a young lad that’s a year below me, is ahead of me, I might as well go out on loan.
"I was going to go to Grays or Hornchurch and they got blocked due to the fact that we had no-one else.
"Eventually I got my chance off the bench in that LDV game, Sol Davis got sent off and I came on, just to solidify the defence.
"We won that game and I eventually got my league debut against Stockport, and that simply was because there was no-one else left.
"I don’t believe for one minute if we were under Joe Kinnear or if we weren’t in administration, that I would have played, but because of administration, we couldn’t transfer anyone in, so I was afforded the chance to play.
"I knew all I needed was one chance to earn the trust, and once I earned Mike Newell's trust, for the rest of the season, we had Emmerson Boyce and Chris Coyne, but when they weren’t able to play, or I had to come on, I was ready.
"The next season, Emmerson went to Crystal Palace and that was it.
"I didn’t see any reason why I wouldn’t play, and from that pre-season, I came back as fit I could and was ready to go.
"Throughout that pre-season I did really well and the manager put me in for the first game of the season and I never looked back really.
"It was a really good season, we won the league, I got player of the division, so in your first professional season, for that to happen, it’s a bit of fairy-tale really.”
The Hatters didn't just win the title that season, they romped to the championship, finishing on 98 points, some 12 in front of second placed Hull City and 19 ahead of Tranmere Rovers, in third.
Luton hadn't even been really fancied ahead of the campaign, but Davies always knew there was a good squad in place that were capable of doing well.
He said: "It was a bit disrespectful that they didn’t think a lot of us because of administration.
"Usually if a club’s in administration it means it’s going to be stripped of its assets, so they would probably have expected us to sell Stevie Howard, to sell Kev Nicholls, but in the end, we didn’t sign anyone, we just promoted a few youth players and kept the ones we had.
"We were lucky enough to be able to get Rowan Vine in on loan and then we had Enoch Showunmi, who was a student who we took for nothing.
"Our team was a very, very good team. Away from administration, we fancied ourselves as we were a really good team and even our squad, we had players that couldn’t get in the squad that were seasoned pros, because of us kids.
"We knew that if one of us got injured, Russell Perrett was there and Dave Bayliss and Alan Neilson that are fighting for my position in the team.
"They can’t get near it because I was pulling up trees and was doing my best to stay in there, because I knew that it’s easy for a seasoned pro to get in the team and keep his place.
"But for a young lad, you're one game away from being chucked out as people say 'it’s his lack of experience,' so I knew I had to be on it, and fortunately winning nine out of the first 10 was a good way to start."
During that season in League One, Davies formed a trusty partnership at the centre of Town's defence with Chris Coyne, as Luton conceded just 48 goals in their 46 matches.
On playing with the former Australian international, he said: "He was brilliant as Coyney was a top quality footballer.
"He handled the ball really well, and I was young, coming through, so I was more Boycey’s replacement as such.
"The way we did it was I was the quick one, I swept up and Chris, even though I could head it as well, Chris was the bruiser.
"So if anyone big, it was like big one, quick one, that was what the league had, the strikers had a big one and a quick one and so did the centre halves.
"I just tried to sweep up and defend well and organise.
"It was good to have his experience alongside me, because individually I’d back myself any day, but having an experienced player and a good player like that alongside you can guide you through games, especially early on in the season when you’re finding your feet.
"It makes a massive difference and I’m very fortunate for him and to be honest, people like Russell Perrett, Alan Neilson behind the scenes too.
"Alan was nowhere the first team, but he'd be the one in training talking to us, taking me and Leon Barnett to the side, saying 'why don’t you try this?' Or 'do that, I watched you on Saturday and what you need to do is this.'
"Just doing little things with us just to keep our minds ticking and he was brilliant for that.
“Also, I played on the right, so it was me and Kev Foley.
"We always had that relationship through the youth team as well, so even though Kev played everywhere for the youth team, he mainly was the right back.
"We had that understanding that we’re going to look after each other, so we had a mentality that if you’re in trouble, I’ll save you and if I’m in trouble you save me.
"That’s what we really helped us and we buzzed off knowing that the two of us came through together.
"I know Kev got in a bit earlier than myself, but in terms of being a first team regular, that was the season it started for him.
"It's good to be playing alongside your mates as Steven O’Leary started a lot of the games at the start of the season, Michael Leary started, so we had a lot of young players that I’d played with in the young team that had progressed into that first team."
Finally, when asked for his number one memory of the campaign, Davies had a swift answer, adding: “It’s got to be Wrexham away, that's the easiest one.
"We were 1-0 down, we can win the league on that day, I scored my first professional goal, we go on, Chris Coyne gets the second goal, we win the league on St George’s Day in Wales.
"I don’t think it can get much better than that, especially as a young player.
"You get into football as you love the game, you want to win things, you want to try and be the best at it.
"To get your first professional goal in a game of that importance and end up winning the league was fantastic. The celebrations after were fantastic as well, so that was brilliant."