PL to UCL – A sad fall from grace for this former England prospect

Few players will go from the Premier League to the United Counties League, with a whole nine divisions separating the two. Former West Ham defender Calum Davenport had his contract terminated by mutual consent in March this year and has dropped to non-league football in order to regain match fitness. Playing for his local side which contains old friends conveys his unrelenting love for football. Should he recapture his form, he may be able to restart his professional career which was so cruelly taken away from him.

Following a family disagreement the former Tottenham central defender was violently stabbed by his sister’s boyfriend. Davenport had been accused of attacking his older sister but has since been cleared of all charges. The shocking incident saw the footballer repeatedly stabbed in both legs, loosing half the blood in his body. The severity of the assault meant there were substantial doubts over whether Davenport would ever play football again after undergoing emergency surgery.

It has been a sad turn of events for a player who was once considered an England prospect. At an imposing 6ft 5in, the defender who began his career at Coventry City earned eight caps for England under-21s. His evident promise saw him transfer to White Hart Lane in 2004 for a fee of over £1 million. Due to the burgeoning defensive partnership between Ledley King and Michael Dawson, loan periods at West Ham, Southampton and Norwich followed. Having impressed during his spell at the Boleyn Ground, he sealed a permanent switch there in January 2007. Injuries have unfortunately plagued his career as shortly after this £3 million transfer, the centre-back was forced to have a hernia operation. After regaining match fitness he was loaned to Watford for one month. Davenport must have felt cursed as he fractured a bone in his neck on his debut for the Hornets, ruling him out for the remainder of the season.

He returned in pre-season and scored with an excellent headed goal in Alan Curbishley’s last game as West Ham manager, defeating Paul Ince’s Blackburn. A change of manager was yet another disruption in the career of this towering defender. With Sunderland looking to bolster their defensive options, he joined the Wearside club for the latter half of the 2008/09 season. Starting opportunities were not as forthcoming as he would have wished but he impressed Ricky Sbragia by keeping opposition attackers at bay particularly with his aerial strength. He played eight of their last nine games, helping them to stave off the threat of relegation.

After a managerial change at Sunderland and concerns over his injury record, Davenport returned to Upton Park and the horrific stabbing soon followed. He now faces the immense challenge of rebuilding his career from scratch. His new manager has said, “He is on a very long road and if we can help him one per cent of the way back to fitness it will have been worthwhile.” Fitness is critical for the stopper who purportedly attracted the attention of Leeds and Nottingham Forest this summer. A permanent deal may have been deemed too big a risk given his turbulent, injury ravaged past. Being used to adversity, hard work will eventually rouse the awareness of a Football League club who will hopefully offer him the stability he has long been deprived of.

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