A degree, COVID and life in the back three - a special interview with Ben Davies
Wed 29 December 2021, 17:00|Tottenham Hotspur
It could be said that Ben Davies is having something of a renaissance under Antonio Conte.
In an in-depth interview with the defender first published in our official matchday programme for the Boxing Day visit of Crystal Palace, Ben reflected on his impressive start to life under our Italian supremo.
Despite having started just one game in the Premier League this season prior to Antonio’s appointment as our Head Coach, the Welshman has barely missed minute in the competition since – and his performances have been outstanding.
A signing from Swansea City in the summer of 2014, Ben has made almost 250 appearances for us in the last seven years and has been ever dependable and reliable in our colours however, in the past few weeks, he has become a lynchpin of our side – largely thanks to a new position.
Redeployed by our Head Coach to sit on the left of a back three, he has started there in all bar one of our league games so far under Antonio and has performed exceptionally every time.
While it is not quite a new position for the defender, having earned 27 of his 69 Wales caps to date performing the same role, he had only played there seven times in a Spurs shirt prior to our Head Coach’s arrival. But now, ever eager to learn, he is keen to keep building on his performances as part of that back three and quickly make the position his own.
“It’s somewhere I really enjoy playing,” he admitted. “Having played there for Wales, when the manager was coming in, and having seen him play that system previously, I was very hopeful that I could do a job in that position for him.
“I think that position probably gets the best out of me with my best attributes. In that position, I feel like I can defend pretty well, be solid and read the game well. And I’m not necessarily expected to go and beat people one-v-one, which is probably not the strongest part of my game. I prefer to be able to see the game, pass the ball and make better runs, and so I think it suits me well.
“Antonio’s probably seen a lot of football, seen me play in that position for the national team and so was aware that I could play there. I’ve now played there in the first few games, but I haven’t played that role a lot in my career, so now I need to just keep picking up little things here and there to get a bit more used to it and a bit more comfortable with it. I’m feeling good in that position though.”
It hasn’t been all plain sailing for Ben under Antonio so far however as, amid the COVID-19 issues that the Club experienced earlier this month, the defender was one of our players unfortunately affected by the virus.
Describing a few rough days as he battled the illness, the Welshman admits he was thankful he was double vaccinated - something he believed helped him get through the period. And now, having recovered from the virus and returned to action following a period of isolation, he also feels that the virus hasn’t affected his fitness too much.
“I had COVID a couple of weeks ago, so it was a bit of a stinker,” he revealed. “I was quite rough for four or five days where I couldn’t really do anything, I was very tired, very achy and stuff. But, after that, I was fine. I was very glad that I’ve had the vaccine. I think that helped me to not get hit too hard to be honest. At the end of it all, I don’t think I lost too much fitness.
“It was just unfortunate that some of us got it during that period. And, while the last couple of weeks have been a bit stop-start, primarily, everyone needs to be healthy. We had to make sure everyone was alright - that was first and foremost.
“After that, we just wanted to get back into the swing of things and try to get back playing again as normal as we can. And we can’t be too disappointed or frustrated with the period as we know we’ll have the chance to play (the postponed) games again later on in the season."
On a brighter note for Ben, while he has of course been getting his head down on the training pitch, the Welsh international recently revealed that he has also been studying off the pitch, having spent the last five years earning himself a degree.
With an interest in numbers and the world of finance, under his own steam, Ben enrolled on an Economics and Business course with the Open University when he was aged 23 and set about developing his understanding.
Completing the relevant modules whenever he was able to fit them in, he studied for five years before graduating with an Upper Second-Class Honours degree – something he believes will put him in good stead with his career in life after football.
“I was awarded it last summer. I got a 2:1 in Economics and Business so I was very happy,” explained the 28-year-old. “I had been doing it for the last five years with the Open University because you can do your modules at your own pace, you don’t have to rush through them at any point. It’s something that’s kept me occupied away from the pitch and I enjoyed doing it.
“I’ve always been into numbers. I did a Maths A-Level when I was playing at Swansea. I got that and then had a couple of years when I wasn’t doing anything academical but, when I was 23, I started the degree. It was just something that interested me, I stuck to it, and I did quite well in the end.
“We’re very lucky as footballers. I just wanted to be in a position where I understood the world around me a bit better and how things worked. I didn’t want to have to rely on other people to help me along the way. So, getting that understanding of global economics, I found it quite interesting, and it was something I wanted to do.
“It is a tough subject. There is a lot of theory and detail to it but I’m very glad that I’ve done it. It’s good to have it under my belt and it was also something I had at the back of my mind that maybe I would want to do something after football and having that skillset, that knowledge, can take you down many different paths.
“I learned a lot while doing it and I think I’m in a much better place now than I was when I started it. If I want to stay in football, having that understanding of how it all works, how the world works, how finance works, it puts you in good stead.”