Colourful Dutchman now coaching in Portugal's third tier

          FEATURE | Revisiting Edgar Davids' eventful stint at Barnet

          2021/01/12 11:04
          Stephen Gillett / Ricardo Lestre

          As a Champions League winner who had played for Ajax, Inter, AC Milan, Juventus and Barcelona, Edgar Davids entered uncharted territory back in 2012/13 when he wrote an unlikely and colourful chapter in his glittering career by becoming Barnet player/manager.

          Now back in the management game with Portuguese third division side Olhanense, Playmaker caught up with Matthew Badcock, editor of The Non-League Paper, to revisit Davids' time at Underhill and discuss whether the 'Pitbull' has bitten off more than he can chew in Portugal. 

          (Note: This interview was conducted a couple of days before Davids' first game in charge of Olhanense: a 0-0 draw with Lusitano that was by all accounts fairly subdued until a brawl at the final whistle - after which Davids was sent off!)

          ©SC Olhanense

          1. What can Olhanense fans and the Portuguese fans in general expect from Edgar Davids the manager?

          Well, it won't be dull that's for sure! Edgar Davids is still one of the most recognisable faces in football and they'll soon be used to his unique style in the dug-out. Famously intense, he doesn't take any prisoners much like in his playing days. 

          2. It was obviously sensational news when Barnet, then in League Two, appointed him player/manager back in 2012/13 - just how big an impact did he have?

          The whole of English football was surprised! Having played at the top of the world for so many years and won so many things, Davids' career speaks for itself. So for someone of his calibre to join a club like Barnet in League Two, isn't exactly normal. 

          More than anything it actually showed how much he loves the game because I'm sure most, at his age as well, just wouldn't have bothered.

          ©Getty / Charlie Crowhurst

          3. Did he still show flashes of magic as a player despite being 39 back then?

          He definitely showed flashes of what made him such a special player. Occasionally he would just do something that allowed his class to shine. But football is a tough sport and, at his age, it would have been unfair to expect the same impact. 

          Plus, players knew all about him and they were desperate to get one over him on the pitch, if they could. To say you've nutmegged Edgar Davids - or even wound him up - would have been a motivation for all players. He was a prize scalp!

          4. Davids' debut managerial season ended in a heart-breaking relegation to what was then the Conference - what was the verdict on his performance?

          Barnet have always been on the smaller side compared to some of the other clubs in League Two. They're battling against much bigger teams with bigger resources. 

          The previous two seasons they had finished just above the relegation zone and the year before 21st in the division. So the club had been just about keeping their head above water anyway - even before Davids arrived. In many ways it probably wasn't a surprise they got relegated.

          5. After relegation to the Conference, it all went a bit wild! 'The Pitbull' assigned himself the number one jersey, refused to travel to some away games and got sent off three times in five games...what on earth happened?

          Non-League probably didn't know what had hit it! 

          In the close season not many people were sure if he would stick around for the challenge. 

          The Conference is a tough league, a mix of full-time and part-time teams who are uncompromising. He gave himself the No.1 jersey which was a big talking point - it's just not the done thing in football! 

          ©Getty / Charlie Crowhurst

          There were rumours the players had to call him Mister but that was probably getting lost in translation where English players normally refer to the manager as Boss or Gaffer. 

          Again, players probably relished the chance to play him and get under his skin. It worked with a flurry of red cards...he would get a fair few yellows too. And that eventually led him to stop playing. 

          On the sidelines he caught the eye with the clothes he wore. Edgar Davids was never seen in a tracksuit like other managers, he always wore his own clothing and that got a lot of attention.
          Away games that required overnight stays would often mean Edgar wouldn't travel. That would have become a problem quickly. Even in the fifth level of English football, you have to show full commitment to the cause and lead a group of players into all sorts of challenges. It was certainly another talking point!

          ©Getty / Tom Dulat

          6. Was it a surprise when he left Barnet in January 2014 (with Barnet 10th in the table)?

          Probably not a surprise. This was the time when more and more chatter surrounded him not going to away games. The Conference is tough. Not many clubs bounce back. 

          7. Overall, how is Davids' time at Barnet regarded?

          It's difficult to speak for Barnet fans. It all seemed a bit of a whirlwind. I think many enjoyed the ride. He didn't always get it right. He let striker Jamal Lowe go and he is now playing in the Championship for Swansea. But Barnet were definitely one of the most talked about clubs in the country while he was there.

          Eventually the Bees ended up appointing Martin Allen, who got them promoted back into the Football League. He too could be unconventional but he knew what it took to put together a title winning squad. 

          8. Do you expect him to be a success at Olhanense?

          Hard to say as he's been out of the dug-out for a long time now. 

          Hopefully he fully buys into his squad and that can get his players playing good football for him. It always struck me that he just loves football. He would often be seen playing Sunday League football in a local park in England or having a kick-a-bout in the office with his scout. We'll see for Olhanense fans. It will certainly be interesting!

          9. Any words of warning...?!

          Only to the journalists! Make sure you ask good questions!


          Edgar Davids
          NameEdgar Steven Davids
          Born1973-03-13(47 -yrs-old)
          Dual Nationality
          PositionMidfielder (Centre Midfielder)


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