By Gary Pritchard

Tuesday evenings in our house in Holyhead used to see my brothers and I run down to the newsagents to pick up our copies of Shoot! magazine and Roy of the Rovers comics before heading home to see which, if any, of our favourites were featured on the inside pages.

One of my most prized posters was a double-page spread prised very carefully from the centre pages of Shoot! showing Dai Davies in a canary yellow Welsh goalkeepers’ shirt with the words “Dai Davies – Wrexham and Wales” written underneath.

That’s Wrexham AND Wales, don’t forget … not only did Dai play for Wrexham, he was also Wales’ number one.

By the time I got to ‘Big School’ watching the Home Nations matches on television wasn’t enough for me, so I spent weeks and weeks pestering my dad until he finally relented and agreed to take me to the Racecourse to watch Wales v Northern Ireland.

Even though Dai had now left Wrexham for the Swans and despite Mickey Thomas having also departed the Racecourse, to us Wrexham fans, Dai, Joey and Mickey were still “ours” and I was so looking forward to seeing the three of them line up for Wales together … but no, what a disappointment, we arrived at the Racecourse to find some bloke called Neville Southall had been handed Dai’s shirt for the night!

Many years later I had started working as a fresh-faced football commentator for Radio Cymru and that is when I met Dai for the first time. It was an incredible honour to sit next to him in press boxes the length and breadth of Wales and England. Visiting these stadiums with Dai was an experience in itself as he seemed to know or was known by almost everyone – from St James’ Park to Richmond Park and from Wrexham to Rotherham.

Dai also had an anecdote for every ground, every team and, more often than not, some member of staff who was either the salt of the earth or the devil incarnate. They were never dull trips! Despite being a footballer then a pundit Dai was, first and foremost, a fan. The story of him berating one of the BBC’s main football commentators has become legendary.

Wrexham had travelled to Chesterfield in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup and Saltergate was known in press circles for having a very small press box and it became more and more apparent that a certain commentator had quite obviously become used to the luxury of the Premiership’s all-seater stadiums.

After a quarter of an hour of listening to the huffing and puffing from behind him, Dai turned to the gentleman and, in typical Dai fashion, gave him a piece of advice: “There are literally thousands of Wrexham fans who would give their right arm to be here today – you are being paid to be here. I think you should be a bit more appreciative of how lucky you are … and shut up!”

No more complaints were heard in the Saltergate press box that afternoon!

There was one other thing I learnt quite quickly when commentating with Dai; if he asked “How are you?” the answer … without fail … was “I’m fine thanks, Dai “.

And the reason for that? The one time I happened to mention having a sore elbow after a game of squash, Dai preceded to spend the whole match massaging my elbow and shoulder in between bouts of punditry. Despite the embarrass of having Dai tickle and tease me for 90 minutes it was impossible to say “no” … he was a big lad, was Dai!

After leaving the BBC, Dai became a large part of my broadcasting life with Sgorio, working together on Welsh Premiership matches, FA Cup matches and international matches. As I moved from being a pitchside reporter to working behind the camera as an assistant producer and then producer, Dai’s years of experience as a broadcaster and as a player were invaluable. He was always prepared to give advice and if Dai ever said “you did well there Gary” I knew I’d done something right!

Dai, you were a great goalkeeper, but more importantly, you were a friend and one of life’s true gentlemen.


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