Kevin Davies, football agent: "I don't see myself as the next Mino Raiola"
"It can be overwhelming for a young player coming into this world. They can get a bit lost."
Kevin Davies has always derived a sense of satisfaction from helping people, so when he heard what his old club were planning, he picked up the phone.
Last July, Bolton Wanderers defender Gethin Jones had been preparing for the new season when his mother, Karen, was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease. The cost of her future care and travel to the United States, where she hoped to participate in a trial drug programme, would be expensive. To help raise funds, Bolton decided to hold a special charity game, where a Legends XI would take on the current first team.
After a chat over the phone with Jones, Davies, who devoted a decade of his playing career to Bolton, reached out to some of his old teammates. Jay Jay Okocha, Ivan Campo and a host of other names synonymous with the club's Premier League heyday were soon signed up.
The game took place earlier this month. Though the Legends went down 7-4 to Bolton's current side, the promise of seeing some of the club's old stars in action once again was enough to pull in a 13,000-strong crowd to the University of Bolton Stadium.
"It was great being back up there," Davies says, speaking to JOE from his Dorset home. "As soon as I heard about it from Gethin, I wanted to do what I could for him and his family. I've always believed in that: that if you're in a position to help someone, you should."
This same enthusiasm for helping others saw Davies set up KiDs of Bolton, a foundation to support local children, during his playing days. It explains why, as the pandemic tightened its grip on the country, he signed himself up as a volunteer for the NHS.
It also underpins the way he conducts himself in his current role, as a football agent.
After calling time on his playing days, the thought of becoming an intermediary had crossed his mind regularly. After floating the idea with friends and family, he was finally given the encouragement he needed to register in July 2020, quickly launching his company, KCD Management. In the time since, it has grown steadily, with 20 players signing up to be represented by Davies.
"I’d always had people turning to me for advice," he recalls. "Players would ask if I knew anyone who could help when they were out of contract, things like that. That's where the idea grew from, really.
"I thought with my own career - the experiences I’ve had, the contacts I’ve got and the respect and trust people have in me - I was in a good position.
"It can be overwhelming for a young player coming into this world. They can get a bit lost. There are a lot of good agents out there, but there are plenty of horror stories, too. I just wanted to make sure players are getting the right advice in terms of renewing contracts, financial advice, boot deals - those things. I wanted to make sure they’re not getting shafted."
Some of the players now represented by Davies are with clubs in the National League and National Leagues North and South; others are progressing to the fringes of first teams higher up the football pyramid. Ajani Burchall, a talented 17-year-old winger who signed for Aston Villa from Bournemouth in the summer, is one of the more high-profile names in the KCD stable, making his league debut for the Cherries aged just 16.
Davies keeps a close eye on his players. Where possible, he'll travel to watch them in action, but has also familiarised himself with Wyscout and other platforms which allow him to keep tabs on them from home. He prides himself on being present, being available to them when needed.
"I don’t like to call them clients as they’re just players: good lads who are hungry and striving to better themselves. Some of them will text me at gone 11 at night asking me things, but that's what I’m there for. I want them to feel like they can access me and what I know pretty much 24/7."
Davies' own playing career came to a close in 2015 after two seasons with Preston North End. Before becoming an agent, he had a brief spell in management with Southport in the National League North. He soon realised he was destined for a different path, openly admitting that management placed too much strain on him and those closest to him.
"Typically, retired footballers will into coaching or media. I was never sure where I wanted to go. With management, you look at people like Steven Gerrard now and you know it’s something they’ve definitely wanted to do. For me, I didn't know. That’s probably why I didn’t carry on with the coaching and managing.
"It didn’t suit me. The day-to-day was too much for me to take and was affecting my family life. I’d had that for 22 years playing professional football and you’ve got to be a certain kind of character to do that."
It's a Thursday morning when Davies speaks to JOE. Mino Raiola, the often-outspoken agent to some of football's biggest stars, has given an interview to the Italian media about the futures of Gianluigi Donnarumma and Paul Pogba earlier in the week. His name has been trending intermittently on Twitter ever since. Though they operate in the same line of business these days, Davies has no plans to emulate Raiola just yet. He laughs at the suggestion he might soon be poised to prise Erling Haaland or Matthijs de Ligt from his clutches.
"No, I'm not ready for that yet," he smiles. "I don't operate at that level so don't see myself as the next Raiola, no. I want to continue to grow this, of course, but I'm comfortable working at this level for now."
Davies has no issue with the likes of Raiola and Jorge Mendes, whose reputations as 'super agents' have seen them earn celebrity status and extreme wealth from the game. He is, however, very aware of the intentions of some individuals that share his trade, and understands the suspicion with which they are viewed by clubs.
"Agents do have a lot of power in the game, but with me, my focus is the players I represent. It will never be driven by me or how much money I can make."
He has already witnessed the fiercely competitive nature and sometimes underhand tactics that exist within the industry. Players he has signed are contacted regularly on Instagram with the promise of enticing transfers elsewhere, he says. Though frustrating, he accepts that this murkier element of the job is a natural byproduct of the money that had poured into football over the course of the last 30 years.
"Some people are chancers, but that's part of it," he says. "With the money involved now, I understand why. To me though, I just want to do things the right way. I think people in the game know this and that I can be trusted, too.
"It's still early days for me, but I'm at the stage where people are coming to me with players because they know I'm in it for the right reasons. There's no higher compliment than that, really."
Five years may have passed by between him hanging up his boots and embarking on his role as an agent, but Davies is grateful.
"As an ex-player, you’ve just got to find your way," he says. "You need to find something that drives you, that makes you want to get up in the morning.
"There’s no better feeling for me than when I can sort a player out, know that they're happy and their family's happy. That’s really rewarding. That's why I enjoy it."