The colourful Wales goalkeeper who became a bard

Former Everton and Wales goalkeeper Dai Davies, who has died from pancreatic cancer at the age of 72, was not your typical footballer.

Davies ran a natural heath clinic in Llangollen after his playing career and was the first Welsh footballer to be admitted to the Gorsedd of the Bards, a society of poets, writers, musicians, artists and others who have made a notable contribution to Wales, its language and culture.

Yet it is as a colourful goalkeeper who won 52 caps for his country and forthright media pundit that Davies will be best remembered in Wales.

Davies was born in the Carmarthenshire village of Glanamman on April 1, 1948 and attended Amman Valley Grammar School.

Pupils were encouraged to play rugby and Davies played second row for West Wales Schools before focusing on football and qualifying as a PE teacher in Cardiff.

He signed professional forms at Swansea in July 1969, but made only nine league appearances for his local club before joining Everton in a £40,000 deal in December 1970.

Everton were English champions at the time and Davies found himself third choice behind Andy Rankin and Gordon West.

But he remained patient and the 1974-75 season saw him established as the number one goalkeeper at Goodison Park.

Davies’ form saw him win his first Wales cap in Budapest in April 1975 – a 2-1 victory which marked Hungary’s first defeat at the Nep Stadium for more than 50 years.

Having established himself as Wales’ undisputed number one, he was part of the side which reached the quarter-finals of the 1976 European Championship.

Davies made over 80 appearances for Everton before joining Wrexham in 1977 and helping the club to the Third Division title and Welsh Cup glory.

Swansea boss John Toshack brought Davies, who was often unfairly referred to as ‘Dai the Drop’, back to the Vetch Field following their promotion to the first division in 1981.

The £45,000 was well spent as Davies played a key role in Swansea finishing sixth in the 1981-82 season, just four years after the club had been playing in the Fourth Division.

Davies left Swansea in 1983 and finished his career at Tranmere, Bangor and with a short second spell at Wrexham.

When he played against Scotland at Swansea in 1981, Davies overtook Jack Kelsey’s record of 41 caps.

He conceded just 51 goals in 52 games and remains Wales’ third most-capped goalkeeper after Neville Southall and Wayne Hennessey.

Davies eventually settled in north Wales where he was part-owner of a Welsh book and craft shop.

He also worked as a teacher before running a natural health centre, specialising in remedial massage, muscle work and reiki.

A proud Welsh speaker, he was admitted to the Gorsedd of the Bards at the annual National Eisteddfod festival in 1978 and was a regular football pundit for BBC Wales and Radio Cymru.

Davies, who was previously married to Ann, is survived by second wife Judy as well as his three children, Gareth, Rhian and Bethan.

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