GRAPPENHALL footballer Tom Davies has never been one to forget his roots.

He has praised the roles of Grappenhall Sports JFC and Lymm AFC in his early career that helped get him to the professional game.

Davies had plied his trade for Bristol Rovers since 2019 until getting a move closer to home in January – a loan deal with League Two side Barrow – to get consistent game time after a terrible spell of injuries.

The 28-year-old reflected on his time in the lower echelons of English football that helped shape the player and person he is today.

Davies in action for Bristol Rovers in 2019. Picture by David Davies/PA Wire

Davies in action for Bristol Rovers in 2019. Picture by David Davies/PA Wire

“When you’re growing up, you’re playing on the park with your mates and your Dad’s taking you down to your local team – it’s not one of those where you think ‘I’m going to play football for a living.’ You just do it because you enjoy it,” he said.

“I think that’s the main thing at that age. I was lucky enough to be in a good young team.

“I loved it. It was the team I was always going to play for because it was local to me.

“My mum and dad have always lived in Grappenhall and that’s where all my mates from primary school were playing.

“My Dad and another lad’s Dad took it on and that’s where I played.

“I think we started at under 7s or 8s – I was there for three or four years and it was brilliant.

“At that age, you don’t think about the bigger picture – what you’re going to do at 18, 19 – you just like playing five-a-side with your mates.

“It was brilliant and a time that I can remember fondly.

He continued: “I remember one day we were playing at Egerton, which is not far from me.

“We got in the car and my Dad was like ‘Man City have come to watch you’ and they wanted me to go on trial.

“I was buzzing. The week later, I went to play for Grappenhall again and he was like ‘United were there as well and they want you to go on trial.’

“I went to City first because it was Monday and Wednesday and United were Tuesday and Thursday.

“Then City said ‘we want to sign you’ and I was buzzing. Playing at a better level of football, big club in Manchester.

“Then a bigger club in Manchester the next day were like ‘we want to sign you’ and it was a no-brainer.

“I think United sort of got wind that City were there, and I just remember that the day signing was just the best day ever.

“I was about 10 or 11 and actually signing for United, going down to the training ground was unreal, but it all started at Grappenhall so I’ve got a lot to be thankful for.”

After being released from United and not getting a scholarship at Blackburn Rovers, the former Lymm High School pupil returned to Grappenhall while working at Lymm services and thoroughly enjoying it.

“I was disheartened and I hated being released at both clubs,” he said.

“It gave me a chance to fall in love with football again, which I did, but it helped me get back on track with my career,” he added.

Davies then joined Lymm AFC to play open age football in the Lancashire Amateur League with his friends from home.

Tom Davies, right, blocks a shot while playing for Lymm AFC. Picture by Lymm AFC

Tom Davies, right, blocks a shot while playing for Lymm AFC. Picture by Lymm AFC

“I think playing men’s football as quick as you can is good,” he said.

“Obviously, some people aren’t ready for it at 16 or 17 as everyone matures at different times. I started playing open age men’s football at 17.

“I’d sometimes go and play for Grappenhall in the morning then go and play for Lymm in the afternoon because I just wanted to go and play football.

“I remember five of you diving in a car and going in convoy to Bolton to play an away match and it was mad.

“It was completely new to me because obviously when I was a kid my dad would drive me everywhere and I’d go to open age footy and there would be lads at half-time having a cigarette behind the changing room and thinking ‘what is going on here?’

“But I loved it because I was playing footy with my mates.

“There were a few of us who used to play for that group which I enjoyed and we’d all just go into Lymm afterwards and get full of pints, it was a good laugh.

“At that point, you think there’s no chance I’m going to be playing pro.

“I was just working odd jobs and doing that on a Saturday, but it’s all experience you can draw on it all later and hopefully it benefits you.

“It was a good time, the people you meet and the times you have, it was a good laugh. It was a nice set up at Lymm, who knows when I finish football maybe I could go back and play a few games.”

In the meantime though, Davies has a relegation battle to tend to with Barrow, who have won six out of the last seven he has played in.

And who knows, maybe he can draw on the experience of amateur football over 10 years ago to help keep Barrow safe in the EFL.