D.N : Would you describe last season as a success or a failure Mark ?
MARK DAVIES : I would describe it as a success because we made the trip into Africa and performed extremely well in the African Champions League, just narrowly missing out in the end on qualifying for the final. We did quite well in the Knock-Out competitions (Rothmans Cup and Bobsave Superbowl) progressing to the last 8 of both competitions and to finish in the Top 4 in the Premier Soccer League (PSL) after an exhausting schedule is what I would definately describe as a success.
D.N : That 7-game losing streak towards the end of the season really kicked the tables out from under us - it is suggested
by many critics that other than the depth of the squad being found wanting, it was also a case of Rangers peaking too
early. Your comment ?
MARK DAVIES : I dont think that it was a case of us peaking too early, though perhaps there is a point to be critical about the depth of the squad. It was one area where we were found wanting because we hit a really bad patch where other than our first choice players in key positions were out injured or suspended, so were the replacements. So we basically had a case were we had mid-field players playing in defence and so on - which was sorely exposed in those games.
D.N : Gordon Igesund has spoken of the new style of playing he is going to bring into the Rangers gameplan. How
comfortable are you with it after playing the 'direct approach' way of football for so long ?
MARK DAVIES : Every coach has his own gameplan, and his way of playing the game. Before Gordon came to Rangers we had several different coaches and they also had their own styles of playing football. So we've been through quite a few styles and its up to us to adapt to the coaches methods. I'm sure we will have no problem at all - it will obviously take us a few goes before we become totally comfortable with it.
D.N : Rangers seem to have a mental block when it comes to the big clubs like Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates. Is this
a case of not having enough BMT (Big Match Temperament) or just a pyschological thing ?
MARK DAVIES : You know, I dont think that its any one of those things - people only seem to remember the games that we have lost to them. We pysche ourselves up really well before all games - and when we go out there on the field, the big names mean nothing. We've only lost to Chiefs and Pirates away and we drew with them at Chatsworth - so that in itself suggests that we're not short of BMT. In fact, in the game against Chiefs we had two men sent off - up until that point, I believe, that we had them running off the park. But to play the majority of the game with 9 men and still hold them to a draw is something in itself I believe.
D.N : With Clinton Larsen and Innocent Chikoya off to Pirates - just how big a void do they leave in the middle of
the park ?
MARK DAVIES : Clinton and Innocent have been with us for a very long time and are amongst our most experienced players. We are obviously going to miss them a lot because they were the kernel of the team - but we have new guys coming in who I'm sure will be able to fit in well and perform well to fill in the shoes of them.
D.N : Just how much responsibility is put on your shoulders (being the captain) during a match ? Obviously you are
there to execute the coaches orders - but how do you deal with errant players ?
MARK DAVIES : Ja, there is a bit of pressure in that I've got to communicate the coaches orders to the players and make sure that they are carried out the way that he wants the game to be played. In the end it boils down to the professionalism of the players and how they carry themselves on the field. They are being paid a salary to play the game to the best of their ability and as professionals, they should have the integrity to carry out their duties that way too.
Obviously, if a player does something wrong - or goes a bit overboard - on the field I will go up to him and have a quiet word or two telling him to calm down. Luckily at Rangers we dont have much in the line of players that step out of bounds and authority too much, so its not such a big problem. But like I said, ultimately, it is up to the player to carry himself as a professional.
D.N : Naughty Mokoena and Simon Makhubela have suddenly become volatile entities at Orlando Pirates. Yet, I
remember that when they were at Rangers they were hardly in the news for other than their soccer skills ....
MARK DAVIES : They are decent guys and soccer players - and I suppose that the change from the sizes of the club also has something to do with it. Comparitively Rangers is more quiet than Pirates where their fans soak up every bit of information they can get about the club. If you step slightly out of line in Durban then it probably wont even get whispered about - but at Pirates, where the players are more easily recognisable ... they become more bigger targets and stories.
D.N : How (as captain) do you go about assimilating new players into the side - is there a sort of welcoming/initiation
MARK DAVIES : Not really. We get introduced to each other at practise, and then as the practise goes on we get to know the player better - like by taking the mickey out of him if he does something wrong, or steps out of line. During practise games as well, you get to learn a lot more about the player and his styles of play and as a person.
D.N : Your partnership with Bradley Muir has been one that stretches back almost 7 years at Rangers ...
MARK DAVIES : Ja, we have been playing with each other for a long time and that continuity serves us well during games because we've grown to know each others playing styles really well -- in that, he covers me and I likewise.
D.N : Did thoughts of leaving Rangers ever cross your mind during the exodus of other long standing players
like Larsen and Chikoya ?
MARK DAVIES : Not really, I am perfectly happy where I am right now with Rangers and have a good contract. Obviously, as a player, if someone wants my services and for a good offer I will have a look at it but for the moment I dont think I can ever really entertain thoughts of leaving Rangers.
D.N : The knee injury that continually plagued you through the latter half of last season - is it a chronic one ?
MARK DAVIES : No it is'nt - I picked up a knock against Dynamos and I thought it was OK and then played against Sundowns where I took another bump on it and aggravated it. Playing with pain killers certainly does'nt help and after the rest and jogging in the beach in soft sand it seems to feel quite fine and no hint of the pain of last. Even a couple of practise games have not hindered it much.
D.N : Its quite interesting to see that you are a firm favourite of the Chatsworth crowd through the years and have
enjoyed their unwavering support. Is there a secret to this ?
MARK DAVIES : Nope, not really. I think its a more a question of being honest to the supporters and not putting on a front. Taking time out to chat, or exchange a few words does'nt hurt - and if a supporter confronts you with his opinion on the game then you be honest with him. I think that is what the supporters appreciate the most - honesty and integrity.
D.N : Do defenders admire fellow defenders or are strikers included in your favourite player category Mark ?
MARK DAVIES : mmm, if I had to choose my favourite player on the field it would definately be a midfielder. They have the best of both worlds. Defenders are not really appreciated much sadly and one can have a blinder of a game and yet be overlooked for the Man-of-the-Match award in favour of a lazy striker who scores an opportunistic goal. Mid-Fielders get to do the best of both worlds, running forward and scoring goals and yet also coming back to defend spectularly.
D.N : OK Mark, for the last question in rounding up ... Soccer players usually have a pet hate - what would yours be?
MARK DAVIES : Cheating ..... definately cheating, thats one thing I can stand, and should never belong in the sport.