Ask Fred Davies to name the two greatest influences on his footballing career, and the answer will be provided without hesitation.
So there was a semblance of comfort for Davies that, while was coming to terms with the death of a fellow ex-Shrewsbury Town manager and his former boss as both player and coach John Bond, he was sharing the company of Bert Williams.
“I owe so much to John and Bert,” said Davies, who had a spell as a Wolves, Cardiff and Bournemouth goalkeeper before being working as a coach under the colourful management of Bond, who died yesterday after a long illness at the age of 79.
“I spoke to John’s son Kevin on the phone yesterday and then I was with Bert, who is 92 now, a couple of hours later.
“It’s strange how things work out but it was a very sad because John was brilliant.”
While England legend and Shifnal-based Williams provided the inspiration for the goalkeeping career of Davies, it was Bond – whose spell at the Town helm ran from January 1991 to May 1993 – who helped lay the platform for his move into coaching and ultimately management in the mid 1970s.
Davies could ask for no better tutor than the man who was to lead Manchester City to the 1981 FA Cup final and who he assisted at Bournemouth, Swansea, Birmingham and Shrewsbury.
And he vividly remembers the day in which Bond convinced him to turn his attention to life after playing.
“John signed me as a goalkeeper when I was at Bournemouth and I remember us going to play at Rochdale,” remembered Davies, who still lives in Telford and guided Shrewsbury to promotion to the third tier in the 1993-94 season after succeeding Bond in the Gay Meadow hot-seat.
“I got a neck injury from somebody putting a hand on my head as they were shielding the ball back to me.
“I blanked out but carried on playing when I came round. When we got back to Bournemouth I had x-rays and was told I was fortunate because I could have snapped my vertebrae and been crippled.
“I came back and played a few games for the reserves but John had seen something in me and mentioned trying to get my coaching badges.
“He pushed me and pushed me because he knew I wouldn’t get a job without them and so I went down to Cardiff to do them on the same course as Tony Pulis. I owe John everything in terms of coaching and management.”
The grades made, Colchester-born Bond immediately recruited Davies to his coaching team at Bournemouth and the pair went on to work in tandem at Swansea, Birmingham and Shrewsbury.
The long-lasting double act was only concluded with Bond’s resignation from Shrewsbury’s top job at the end of the end of the 1992-93 season, allowing Davies to take the top job at Gay Meadow.
“John knew how to spot a player and had so much knowledge,” added Davies.
“I remember watching a game with him and he spotted something. I asked him how he saw that and he told me to take my eye off the ball and watch the bigger picture.
“There were times when I had to pick the players up because John had told them what he thought.
“But if you gave him everything you had then he appreciated that.”
Former West Ham defender Bond, an FA Cup winner as a player in 1964, started his managerial career with Bournemouth and led them to promotion from the old Fourth Division at the end of his first season in charge.
However, it was at Norwich during the mid-1970s that Bond developed into one of the game’s most colourful characters, taking the Canaries back up into the top flight and to the 1975 League Cup final, which they lost to Aston Villa.
Norwich wore black armbands as a mark of respect during last night’s Capital One Cup tie with Doncaster, with the minute’s silence impeccably observed around the stadium where Bond had overseen the team from 1973 until he left for Manchester City seven years later.
Howard Wilkinson, chairman of the League Managers’ Association, paid tribute to the charismatic Bond.
“It is an extremely sad day for all his family, who have lost one of the few remaining people who spent their lives working mostly in the old Football League,” he said.
“John was a real character with a great sense of humour and presence. He will be sadly missed.”