Davis: “I love this job and I want to spread my passion”Article
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INTERVIEW: What Veszprém coach David Davis has changed since his arrival and why he, like all Hungarian handball fans, hopes for the trophy at the VELUX EHF FINAL4

Davis: “I love this job and I want to spread my passion”

He won the EHF Champions League three times as a player of Ciudad Real, now Veszprém’s David Davis can become only the second former player to lift the coveted trophy also as a coach.

The only one who has achieved this feat so far, is Davis’ opponent on Saturday in the semi-final at the VELUX EHF FINAL4, Kielce head coach Talant Dujshebaev.

The 42-year-old Davis got his first coaching experience as an assistant of both the men’s and women’s teams of Vardar. In 2018 he became Egyptian national team coach and steered the Africans to the quarter-final of the World Championship 2019.

In October 2018, Davis succeeded on Ljubomir Vranjes at Telekom Veszprém HC. With Davis’ arrival, a series of victories started – and now Veszprém are back in Cologne for the fifth time.

Speaking with ehfCL.com, Davis explains his change management at Veszprém, the successes of Spanish coaches, and how he wants to beat his former coach Dujshebaev.

ehfCL.com: When you arrived at Veszprém, the team was down on the floor, now you made it to Cologne. Do you have magic hands?

David Davis: No, of course not (laughs). It is all about work, hard work to improve the club. Veszprém are a big club, with great players, a great management, a high budget and great fans. At a club like this, you cannot do things on your own, you need help. And from the first moment the players have supported me, so I could start some changes.

ehfCL.com: What exactly did you change?

David Davis: A bit of everything, from mentality to training to tactics. I love my job, and I learnt so much at Vardar and the Egyptian team. My biggest idea is always to spread the passion I have for handball to the players. But to change a certain system, it takes some time. But my advantage is that the squad has such a high quality. But first, when I told them what I want to change, they looked at me as if I was crazy. From the first day, I told them: ‘We can reach something big, we can go to Cologne.’

ehfCL.com: Besides those psychological matters, what is different in the way Veszprém play now?

David Davis: In the end, it is all about defence. All top teams in the world more or less play the same attack tactics. And Veszprém were used to some Spanish impact on their attack when they were coached by Carlos Antonio Ortega or Xavier Sabate. So it was easy for me, but for defence I had other ideas, different to the coaches they had before. We started to improve our 6:0 defence. And of course it is my aim to implement another 5:1 defence, too. But it takes time. Besides, the cooperation of defence and goalkeepers is crucial.

ehfCL.com: On the goalkeeper position, Veszprém definitely do not have a problem with Arpad Sterbik and Roland Mikler in the squad?

David Davis: Talking about Arpad, he is a mystery. Look at his career: He always smelt the club with which he could win the Champions League. He is chasing trophies. And Mikler is always there, when you need him.

ehfCL.com: From which coach did you learn the most?

David Davis: Oh my god, I had so many great coaches. Juan Carlos Pastor, Talant Dujshebaev, I worked at the side of Raul Gonzalez at Vardar. I always tried to take the best of them, combining it with my individual style. I got so much experience as a player and then could learn so much in the past years, mainly in how to prepare for matches.

ehfCL.com: Your former coach Talant Dusjshebaev and your former teammate Roberto Parrondo are also competing in Cologne. Do Ciudad Real still have a huge impact on the world of handball?

David Davis: This is a really crazy story, even include Raul Gonzalez in this ‘club’. The four of us were in the quarter-finals. How proud must Talant be, as he was our coach and we learnt so much from him. I think all of us do a great job.

ehfCL.com: Spanish coaches are dominating international handball. Tell us, what is their secret?

David Davis: Many clubs and national teams are completely crazy at the moment searching for Spanish coaches. Right now, the Spanish handball school is truly successful. And everybody wants to profit from this success.

ehfCL.com: In the semi-final, pupil David will face his teacher, Talant. Is there any tactic that could surprise Talant?

David Davis: Our main problem is the short time of preparation. We have just played the Hungarian league finals against Szeged so we only have four days to prepare for the VELUX EHF FINAL4. There is no chance for many new tactics, but we will prepare some little things to surprise Kielce, but for sure we will keep those things which went well throughout the season.

ehfCL.com: For Talant Dujshebaev, Barça are the favourites for the trophy this year. Do you agree?

David Davis: Exactly, because you do not have to calculate that much: All four teams were in the same group, Barça were the group winners, so they are the favourites now after PSG were eliminated.

ehfCL.com: The biggest question for all Veszprém fans before the VELUX EHF FINAL4: Can your team end the final curse and win the trophy after three defeats in three previous finals?

David Davis: Another easy answer: This is my job, this is why I came to Veszprém, to win this trophy. We are confident after winning the last 11 Champions League matches, but we all know, what can happen in Cologne, how long the way to the winner’s podium is. But this trophy means everything for us, so we fight for it.

ehfCL.com: If Veszprém win the title on 2 June, eight different teams would be in the winners’ list of the last eight years. What does this variety say about the VELUX EHF Champions League?

David Davis: That it is harder to make it to Cologne than winning the title, when you are there. Eight different winners in eight years show that everybody can win the trophy, that all four teams approximately have a chance of 25 percent, and that everything can happen in Cologne.

ehfCL.com: And another look into the crystal ball: Györ have won the Women’s EHF Champions League, Siófok the Women’s EHF Cup… Will 2019 become the best ever year of Hungarian club handball?

David Davis: Györ have such a great team and Gabor Danyi showed that he can continue the way of former coach Ambros Martin. Handball is so huge now in Hungary, you can watch handball matches almost 24 hours on TV. And if we win, this definitely will also boost the interest for the Men’s EHF EURO 2022. But the biggest, biggest thing what all handball fans in Hungary and the whole team hope for: We want to raise this trophy for Laszlo Nagy in his very last handball match. He is a legend and he deserves this trophy, this is our main motivation.

TEXT: Björn Pazen / ew