Ten years ago today, Manchester United attacker Jimmy Davis died in a car accident. Aged just 21, he was due to report for the opening game of the 2003/04 season with his loan club, Watford. He never arrived at Vicarage Road.
In anticipation of this anniversary, I spoke with several people who knew Jimmy. Their reactions were strikingly uniform. To a man, every peer or coach labelled him ‘bubbly’. Each spoke of the youngster's fine balance between a lust for life and a thirst for professional success. Every one beamed as they relived their own special memories of Jimmy, before succumbing to wistful silence. It was not easy for them to once again compute that a life which had flickered so brightly had been extinguished.
“Jimmy was the best kind of person,” smiles Danny Webber, Davis’ close friend and strike partner. “He was just great fun to be around. He was top drawer as a person and on the pitch he epitomised the United way: a hard-worker with a lot of flair. The work ethic came first and the talent shone through afterwards. He had great attributes in every sense.
“He was serious on the pitch, but so breezy in life. He even forgot his boots for his United debut! It was a League Cup tie at Arsenal [in 2001/02] and Jimmy was convinced someone was playing a prank on him. In the end he had to borrow my spare boots, but once he was ready he was treating it like any under-18s game. No matter that it was a strong Arsenal team at Highbury; he wanted to have a go at them.”
The following season, Davis’ positive outlook helped to quickly establish him as a fans’ favourite when he joined Swindon Town on loan. Even though he spent just three months with the Robins in League One, scoring three goals in fifteen appearances, Jimmy’s impact at the County Ground cannot be understated.
“Most kids at Man United are the cream of the crop, make no mistake, but Jimmy was special,” says Andy King, Swindon’s then-manager. “I used to say that at the time and I’m not going back on that statement now. He was the best kid of that age that I’ve worked with.