The National League has produced several players to have become Premier League mainstays, such as Jamie Vardy. In its former guises, the likes of England internationals Stuart Pearce and Ian Wright have made it through to the top echelons of the game from the fifth tier.
However, the presence of arguably an even bigger world star, former Juventus and Netherlands icon Edgar Davids, in the fifth tier may be the most bizarre story the league has ever seen.
Who is Edgar Davids?
Now, our readers of a younger vintage may not be familiar with the game of the Dutch midfield maestro. Davids started making his name in the European game in the vibrant young Ajax team of Louis van Gaal in the 1990s. The midfielder won three Dutch titles with the Amsterdam giants before the crowning glory of the Champions League in 1995.
Davids went on to feature for some of European Football’s biggest clubs, the likes of Milan, Juventus, Barcelona and Inter. During his career, he established a reputation as a tough-tackling but skilful central midfielder, his tenacious tackling saw Davids’ nicknamed ‘The Pitbull’ by former head coach Van Gaal.
He’s gone where!
Davids brought his illustrious playing career to a close in 2009 before briefly coming out of retirement to play for struggling Premier League outfit Crystal Palace. He made just six appearances in his short stint playing for the Eagles, leaving the English capital club just a few months after his arrival.
Davids left Palace in November 2010 but maintained his residence in London. He even played street football and managed amateur team Brixton United in his spare time. However, his next move in the professional game was a surprising one at 39, to say the least, as he was appointed player-manager of struggling League Two outfit Barnet in October 2012 alongside Mark Robson.
The Bees were rock bottom of the fourth-tier table and winless on the Dutchman’s arrival. Davids suffered a 4-1 defeat against Plymouth on his managerial debut, having omitted himself from the playing squad.
However, his second game in charge produced a more positive result, as he captained the team to a 4-0 win over Northampton, a game in which he also received a man of the match award. Davids’ presence lifted the team, and they briefly got out of the League Two relegation zone.
The lift spread off the pitch, too, as he sent the team coach to pick up 36 Barnet fans who had broken down on the motorway. The coach then took them to the next service station. Unfortunately for the Bees, the lift provided by Davids’ arrival didn’t last, as they suffered relegation from the EFL on the final day of the season after a 2-0 defeat against Northampton Town.
Davids in the National League
Despite the north Londoner’s relegation from the Football League, the Dutchman stayed on as the club’s boss. He even prolonged his playing career, rather bizarrely wearing the number one shirt, traditionally worn by goalkeepers worldwide. When asked about the number change, Davids claimed he was attempting to ‘set a trend’ for midfielder players. It’s safe to say it didn’t catch on.
Also, rather strangely, Davids decided that he would not travel to any away games that needed an overnight stay, with his assistant coach Ulrich Landvreugd taking charge of the away games that Davids didn’t fancy.
The player-manager found life tough on the pitch in the then-Conference Premier, as he received eight yellow cards in his opening eight games in the fifth tier, having been dismissed in three of the games too.
The first eight games he played in the fifth tier were his only appearances in the Conference Premier. The Dutchman resigned as Barnet’s head coach on 18th January 2014, with a managerial win ratio of just 36.8%.
It looked like Davids’ Non-League adventure may continue in June 2014, when Southern Counties East Football League outfit Greenwich Borough held advanced talks with the Dutchman with a view to him becoming their new head coach.
The club’s chairman, Perry Skinner, even claimed that Davids was “70% sure he’ll come on board”. However, in the end, Borough failed to secure his signature, and that was the end of Davids’s short and rather memorable stay in the fifth tier of the English game.
Can you remember Edgar Davids’ stay as Barnet player/manager? Let us know what you think about the Dutchman’s time at Barnet