You don’t get labelled a prospective England captain for nothing. And when Blues scouted Curtis Davies in his early days he reminded them of a young Paul McGrath.
High praise, exalted company indeed.
Davies’ career path has not panned out as one right to the very top, as once was imagined. There are always twists and turns and circumstances beyond a player’s control along the way.
But this season Davies has undoubtedly performed in the manner of a top class defender and leader.
After his big move from Albion to Villa in 2007, it wasn’t quite the lift-off expected for Davies. Injuries and a feeling that Martin O’Neill didn’t give him a fair crack at things meant his career stalled.
After a loan spell at Leicester City, Blues brought him to St Andrew’s just over a year ago.
He had a difficult settling-in period as Blues slithered to Premier League relegation. But his immense performance on the last day of the campaign at Spurs hinted at what was to come.
And as one of the holdovers from a huge summer of upheaval that saw Roger Johnson, Scott Dann, Martin Jiranek and subsequently Liam Ridgewell leave, Blues reliance on him was always going to be critical.
Davies has responded in style.
He scored Blues’ opening goal of the season at Derby County for good measure (and has continued to be a major threat at set-pieces) and settled into a vein of form that has him earmarked as a player-of-the-season candidate already. Davies has found a home, he has the trust of his manager, he has responsibility and he is playing regularly.
The wily knowledge of Steven Caldwell alongside him has helped, as has David Murphy and Stephen Carr/Jonathan Spector at full-back.
Yet Davies has emerged as a class act and an inspiring figure this campaign in a redoubtable Blues team.
Of course, Davies and Blues are not pitting themselves against some of the world’s best attacks week in, week out in the Premier League. In Europe and in the FA Cup at Chelsea, they haven’t done badly, mind.
Fernando Torres was seen off at Stamford Bridge last Saturday by half-time, then Didier Drogba didn’t get his own way.
Davies has insisted that whilst the plaudits are nice, his mission to help Blues gain promotion from the Championship is the main concern – and performing consistently against whoever his opponents are.
Asked about his own worth after Blues 1-1 fifth round draw, and how he didn’t look out of place, he commented: “It’s easier to judge as you don’t get the same quality in the Championship. And I didn’t feel that anyone took advantage of me. But it’s important to keep it up in the league every week.”
And that’s as a team, he added: “People talk about the defence as a defensive four. But the five in front of us, they put in a great shift.
“Their midfielders, even their holding midfielders, everyone was bombing on so you have to follow your runners and basically cover other people. Everyone covered every blade of grass and worked hard for one another, and that’s what we’ve done as a team all season.”