Footballer, manager and coach

Born: May 10, 1933

Died: June 2, 2018

HAROLD Davis, who has died, aged 85, was not dubbed: “The Iron Man of Ibrox” for nothing.

The fact he was able to sustain a lengthy, and distinguished, professional career, in spite of being almost killed by enemy fire while doing his National Service with the Black Watch during the Korean War, is testimony to his strength of body, and mind.

A Fifer, born in Cupar, he left school to train as a dental technician, while played junior football for Newburgh, from whom he signed for East Fife in 1951.

He had barely got to know his Bayview team mates, however, before he was called-up for National Service, naturally for a Fifer, going into the Black Watch.

He was posted to Korea in spite of the Army convention, which was to keep footballing National Servicemen out of the firing line – Davis insisted on going with his mates.

He took a burst of machine-gun fire across his abdomen and was on the brink of death when helicoptered out of the danger zone.

He came-to in a hospital in Japan, the start of a lengthy recovery process, which saw him shipped home to Bridge of Earn Hospital, close to where his parents ran a pub.

It was 1954 – two years later - by the time he returned to East Fife, by which time, Scot Symon, the manager who had signed him had departed.

But, Symon had not forgotten him and, in 1956, as part of his rebuilding process at Rangers, he signed Davis, on the recommendation of trainer Davie Kinnear, who, as a physiotherapist, had treated the player in Bridge of Earn.

Over the next eight years, Davis became a Rangers’ legend. He kept the back door firmly closed as fellow Fifer and Black Watch National Serviceman Jim Baxter worked his magic further forward.

He mentored the young John Greig: “I taught him to tackle,” Davis would say years later .

Having made some of his first Rangers appearances as stand-in for skipper George Young, he later took over the right-half spot from future Scotland team manager Ian McColl.

He bridged the gap between the 1949 treble-winning “Iron Curtain” side and the Baxter-inspired 1964 side.

Speaking of Baxter, one of the great Rangers stories tells of Davis, having been annoyed by Baxter’s messing about at training one day, hanging him by his jacket collar on a dressing room peg, only to be told by manager Symon, to put him down.

He was one of the Rangers players when they became the first British club to reach a European Final (losing to Fiorentina in the 1961 Cup-Winners Cup final).

Yet, despite this, and his 261 first-team appearances; his four Scottish League Championship, two League Cup and one Scottish Cup winner’s medals he is one of the few Rangers’ regulars to never win representative honours.

His service to the club, however was noted when he was inducted into the Rangers Hall of Fame in 2009.

Perhaps his reputation as: “an enforcer” told against him. Yes he played hard, but with no little skill, but, football was a different game back then.

There is one hilarious Davis story, of how, in a European Cup game against Anderlecht, Belgian internationalist Jef Jurion, who played wearing spectacles, kicked Davis, who sought immediate retribution.

Jurion legged it to safety, chased by the irate Davis, who, suddenly realising this was stupid in the extreme, stopped and burst-out laughing.

On another occasion, in an Old Firm game, Bertie Auld fouled him and Davis required treatment in the dressing room.

By the time he returned, Greig had “sorted-out” Auld, an outcome which did not please Davis, who had wanted to kick Auld back himself.

He left Rangers in 1964, crossing the city to play-out his career with Partick Thistle. He had gained his coaching badges, which he immediately put to use with Queen’s Park, where his demand for discipline certainly found a willing audience in player Eddie Hunter, but impressed the Spiders’ players of the time.

Davie White then replaced Symon as Rangers’ manager, recalling Davis as his assistant, then, when Willie Waddell returned, Davis was a casualty of the change of regime.

He had a short spell as manager at Queen of the South, before linking-up, yet again, with White, as his assistant at Dundee. At the same time, he was running a poultry farm just outside Dunfermline,

The Dens Park post was his final job in football, on leaving Dens Park, Davis and his wife Violet,who survives him along with their son Alan, moved to Gairloch, where they built and ran a hotel for many years.

He continued to live in the quiet Highland community he had come to love, by becoming active in the community.

He golfed on the small nine-hold local course, which he helped re-develop, and was Captain of the Gairloch Golf Club. He was also able to indulge in his other hobby of fly fishing.

He wrote a memoir: “Tougher Than Bullets,” telling of his time in Korea and his football exploits. The title is, perhaps a fitting metaphor for a true Iron Man.