By Matthew Bird.
My Dad, moved to Manchester when he was 15 from Nottingham. Consequentially he is a Forest fan whom still regales me of trips to Munich and Madrid when they won stuff back in the days of black and white telly, and Managers whom used to give fans clips round their ears. As such my main memories of away trips back as a kid were always to Nottingham, mostly to the City Ground but every now and again to Meadow Lane.
We had Stapleton and Hughes, the finest strike force in the Football league (I was too young and impressionable to give Ian Rush any kudos). I thought it a crime when other players scored against us, and one name, because I saw Forest home and away every year kept popping up. And he was Peter Davenport.
And then Big Ron did it, made my dreams come true. You still get those moments, admit it, when you found out Robin van Persie had signed for us, a shiver went down your spine. I got the same feeling when as a nine year old found out we’d signed Davenport from Forest for £750,000*
At school it was a lot of “Peter who?” but I knew…… I watched this guy; I’d seen him in action. I knew he could finish. I told my mates don’t worry about Hughes leaving in the summer. This was the fella to lead us to the title.
That season had started so brightly too. We’d won 10 straight out the gate in 1985. One of the 10 being a 3-1 win in Nottingham where Davenport had scored the sole goal for Forest. However by November we’d come off the rails and were slowly slipping up behind Everton and Liverpool, who the latter went on to win the league.
When Davenport arrived in March 1986 it took him 10 games to score. This lead to worrying comparisons between him, and our last Forest striking bust Garry Birtles. This was harsh. We can look back that time with fond memories but our midfield of Whiteside, Olsen, injury plagued Robson and Strachan wasn’t the greatest and did have a reputation for going out on the lash. Hughes was leaving, we were slipping away and the players in my ten year old mind couldn’t give a toss any more.
The following season 1986-87 was a disaster, we were dismal. The Atkinson era ended with us in a relegation dogfight before Christmas and Ferguson came in and we climbed to 11th by season’s end. However during this tumultuous season was when Davenport had his best spell for United finishing the season as top scorer with 14 league goals.
One of these goals, should give Davenport legend status with any fan whom prizes a late winner at home to Liverpool to deny them the title. And who amongst us doesn’t like that?
However Davenport, seems to have been grouped in with Ian Storey-Moore and Garry Birtles whom also came from Forest highly touted and then died a death when all was said and done. I think looking back that Davenport had not just the weight of expectation of his own transfer on his shoulders, but the weight of the Birtles fiasco too. But it’s all nonsense really. The fact remains that Davenport was one of the last of a dying breed, playing non league football on the Wirral, after being rejected by Everton only to be picked up by Clough and then banging them in left right and centre in the old First Division. To be fair, in that regard he has more in common with Roy Keane than Birtles. As Birtles had the luxury of learning his trade in the second division initially.
His time in the limelight was short and he was sent packing to Middlesborough after Sir Alex signed Brian McClair and brought Mark Hughes back from his spell in the continent. And he never really cut it elsewhere becoming a bit of a journey man around the leagues.
Davenport scored 26 goals for Manchester United. And in our worst team for a generation. He scored a winner against Liverpool. It’s not too shabby when you just look at it like that.
Thanks for the memories.
*£750,000 or £570,000 depending on the source
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