Davis on a new mission with his old club

MAL7445 V EHF / Björn Pazen

David Davis is back and back with a bang. For six months, the 45-year-old Spaniard used the time to re-charge his batteries, live with his family at the sea at Castellon and wait for new opportunities to come.

Davis, a three-time EHF Champions League winner with Ciudad Real as a player, wanted to be back in this competition, “my competition, the best in the world.” And now, Davis is back on the bench, back in the EHF Champions League - and back in Skopje with HC Vardar 1961.

From 2014 until 2018, the Spaniard had different jobs at Vardar, as assistant coach of the men’s team with Raul Gonzalez, then became assistant coach and eventually coach of the Vardar women’s team, before returning to the men’s team.

Davis was also the assistant coach of the Russian national team, followed by the offer from Egypt to build a team for the 2021 World Championship.

In 2018, a new life away from Skopje started, he steered the young Egyptian team to the eighth position of the 2019 World Championship and had become coach of Veszprém. When the club told him to focus on one task, he quit working for Egypt, and funny enough, his former Ciudad Real teammate and later-on Vardar coach Roberto Parrondo took over. In December 2020, he steered Veszprém to the EHF FINAL4 in Cologne, where his side was beaten by eventual winners THW Kiel in the semi-final after extra-time.

In the spring of 2021, Veszprém were eliminated by Nantes in the Champions League quarter-finals - a tough setback for the ambitious club. And when Veszprém lost the final of the Hungarian league in June, Davis’ time at Lake Balaton was over.

Ready for the call

“It was the worst moment to lose the job, as in that time, all clubs, of course, had coaches. So I had to wait, but that time with my family, the Mediterranean sea and a lot of paella was perfect for me. I went to see some matches of the Women’s World Championship at Castellon and I was ready, when a call would come,” the Spaniard says.

The call came - after seven straight defeats in the EHF Champions League, HC Vardar went their separate ways with their coach Veselin Vujovic in December.

“Five, six top coaches were on Vardar’s list, and I guess, my biggest advantage was that I know the club, I know the city, I speak their language. And I know to start a mission from scratch, and to re-start with a team in the middle of a season. And finally I am so happy to be back at Vardar.”

Only three of his former players are still in the new team - captain Stojanche Stoilov, Russian left wing Timur Dibirov and Vlado Nenadovski.

“I did not have much time to implement my ideas, but after the winter break, all players were physically fit, so this was a good start.”

Davis had three days to prepare his team for the match at Montpellier - Vardar had lost the last seven matches, Montpellier had an unbeaten run of eight games, so the roles were clearly set.

“I worked on the mindset of the players, it is all about providing them with positive energy and the will to believe in themselves, to get those seven defeats and bad moments out of their heads - and of course, as a Spanish coach, I worked on the defence,” Davis explains - and it worked: Vardar won 28:25 at Montpellier, their first EHF Champions League victory since October. The two-time Champions League winners are back on track - thanks to a great defence and the great work of goalkeeper Martin Tomowski.

“As long as there is a chance, we will fight”

But that was not the only major sensation as Zagreb beat Szeged last week, meaning Vardar have a true final ahead against the Croatian record champions on Wednesday at 20:45 CET.

“This is do-or-die, and the time to prepare is really short.” In the night after the sensational victory, Vardar had to travel to Nasice in Croatia for a SEHA League match, which they lost.

“The players were really tired, but we have to get the heads high. We believe in our chances to proceed in the Champions League, to make it to the play-offs. This is my mission, this is our mission.”

Looking upon the table of the group proves that Vardar still have the fate in their hands - Elverum, Zagreb and Vardar are separated by only one point - and as Meshkov seem to be out of the race for the play-offs, two of those three will make it.

“We cannot rely on the help from someone else, no one else will do our job, we have to do it on our own. It is a crazy situation, but as long as we have the mathematical chance, we will fight.”

Davis is part of a long list of coaches, who had been playing together in Valladolid and later Ciudad Real, and mainly the influence of Raul Gonzalez (now PSG) is huge for him - but also others such as Roberto Garcia Parrondo (Egypt/Melsungen), Didier Dinart (Saudi Arabia), Alberto Entrerrios (Nantes), Arpad Sterbik (goalkeeper coach Vezsprém), Olafur Stefansson (Iceland youth team), Ales Pajovic (Austria)  and of course their former coach Talant Dujshebaev (Kielce) are making waves in handball.

“I guess, no club on the world has produced more coaches than Ciudad Real,” says Davis.

And to have a Spanish coach means success in the last years. “This is much more than a trend, it is the Spanish handball school. In previous eras, coaches from former Yugoslavia, Scandinavia and mainly Iceland imprinted the scene, now it is Spain. I am sure we all do a good job.”

His contract at Vardar ends after this season, then both sides will decide on the future. “I believe in the team, and I hope that I find my way to bring back success.”

One factor will be on Vardar’s side in the crucial duel with Zagreb: spectators in the Jane Sandanski Arena.

“Vardar without fans is not Vardar, like Veszprém without fans is not Veszprém. We need their support, they are so important for us.”




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