THE man who discovered Mark Davies and sent him on the road to a professional football career has backed him to play for England and a top-four club in the next few years.
Chris Evans, the former Wanderers assistant manager, was instrumental in the midfielder’s early progress whilst in charge of the famed youth academy at Wolves.
He also helped bring Davies to the Reebok from his former club in January 2009 for £1million, and watched on as he became a first team regular under Gary Megson and Owen Coyle.
It came as no surprise to Evans that his former charge was a wanted man in the last transfer window, nor that Swansea City came hunting with a £6million bid in August.
But the Welshman has predicted that more interest will soon materialise in the 24-year-old, who bounced back to his best form with the winning goal against Sheffield Wednesday at the weekend.
“I’ve known Mark and his family for many, many years and he’s a player whose potential in my view is limitless,” he told The Bolton News . “I’ve noted that Owen Coyle regards him highly and that the club have moved to sign him to a long contract, which puts them in an excellent position.
“If Mark progresses, and I think he will, and helps Bolton back into the Premier League, then I think it’s inevitable that he will play for a top-four club and for England one day.
“The club have been terrific for him, and I’d say that he has also been terrific for them. And I’d predict that their return on the original investment would be very large indeed.
“But football is an incestuous business, and I know for a fact that the big clubs who have watched him throughout his career are still looking at him now.
“At the age of 24 he’s got everything going for him. His game has matured and he’s striving for that consistency in a team looking to do well this season.
“I know he is happy at the club and I think a lot of credit has to go to Phil Gartside and Eddie Davies because when things are not going well, it’s the big decision makers who get it in the neck. But the decision to invest in Mark back then will prove a very sound financial decision, I’m sure.”
On top form, Coyle described the fleet-footed midfielder as “unplayable” after his stunning strike settled the game at Hillsborough, although Wanderers fans have not seen that on a consistent basis for several months.
His performances dipped at the tail end of last term, and conjecture over his future also appeared to have an effect on his pre-season preparations.
But Evans reckons Davies could take the Championship by storm this season and ignite Wanderers’ promotion push.
“I don’t see anyone outside the Premier League that matches up to him,” he said. “The game has changed a lot in the last five years but for me, he is a perfect example of a modern midfielder. He wouldn’t look out of place in Serie A or La Liga, where he would actually get a bit more time on the ball.
“I know he’ll be disappointed that Bolton are not up there with the big boys after a long run, but knowing him, I also think he’ll work hard to make sure they bounce straight back. I’m sure they can do that too.”
Evans is currently out of work, having left Sheffield Wednesday in March, and is busy adding to his extensive database of footballers up and down the land, watching the game at every level.
But the man who also set Robbie Keane and Joleon Lescott on their way to stardom, says he will always keep a close eye on the progress of one of his most treasured discoveries.
“He’ll always be in my thoughts,” he added. “When we brought him to Bolton not many people knew of him because he’d barely played for Wolves for three years because of niggling injuries.
“But I remember sitting up in the director’s box with Phil Gartside and watching his debut against Tottenham, where he came up against £25million Luka Modric, £7m Jermaine Jenas and £8m Wilson Palacios and he absolutely ran the show.
“The chairman gave me a pat on the back for that one, and I couldn’t have been more proud.
“He is still only young and capable of giving Bolton a lot more years of service. He seems to have become more confident, and worked on the weaker areas of his game, and there’s no doubt in my mind that he can reach the very top in this sport.”