Job Davies: Referee

Job Davies prepares to take charge of a match

This piece was featured in the Cables programme for the F.A. Trophy replay against Sheffield FC on October 2nd, 2018 and tells the story of a former Prescot player who went on to become a top referee.

During the late 1890s and early years of the 20th century, Prescot Athletic featured at centre half a local lad called Job Davies, who had previously played for the Prescot Rovers team. Davies featured in the team which won the Lancashire Alliance Championship in 1900. However, in a profile in March 1921, the Athletic News noted that, “he never made football his chief concern in life. He felt that the claims of business were too important to be ignored for any transitory fame or gain. There is no doubt that he could have made a reputation with clubs of a higher grade. (Davies was employed at the Cable works).”

He gave up playing football in his mid-twenties, “but accidentally he was induced to act as referee when that official did not appear for an amateur match at Prescot. His success was instantaneous and he was soon officiating in all kinds of local leagues in South West Lancashire and Cheshire.”

Davies’ potential was quickly noted and he was included on the Central League’s list of match officials. “Eventually he was placed on the (Football) League’s list of linesmen and was promoted to the position he now occupies. His rise has been rapid for he has not been in charge of important matches for more than five years.”

“His first great stride was made in that keen cup tie between Bradford City and Norwich City – the struggle that was fought out behind closed gates at Lincoln City (1915). His control of that match at Sincil Bank was perfect. During this season when clubs have been reporting to the Management Committee of the League upon the work of the referees there has not been a single adverse comment upon Mr Davies – a man of few words. Players have realised that he is an official who knows his work and has to be obeyed. An active and self-possessed man, the match can safely be left to his discretion.”

Davies was evidently a much respected Football League referee, and was honoured with officiating the 1921 F.A. Cup final between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge. His appointment to this game by the Football Association was considered something of a surprise to many supporters of the game as he was only in his second season of officiating at first class games. However, Davies was clearly a very popular and efficient referee. As the Athletic News commented, “We have no hesitation in saying that their choice has met with the approval of all men who are capable of judging the merits of an official.”  

Davies was widely complemented on his handling of the final, with his decisions being “prompt and decisive” and was considered the best English referee at the time. As the Sheffield Star noted, “There’s no argument when that staccato whistle of Mr. Job Davies sounds!” Davies was the first referee to receive an FA Cup Final medal.

Davies further enhanced his reputation through the manner of his handling of the replays during an epic FA Cup tie between Sheffield United and Nottingham Forest in 1923. Both clubs paid him a huge compliment by requesting that should also take charge the third and fourth replays, while Mr. J. C. CJegg, the Chairman of United and Wednesday Clubs and the Football Association – a former referee himself – went out of his way to congratulate Davies and his linesmen on their fine work.

At the end of the 1922/23 season, Davies decided on a complete change of career when he left his employment at the Cable Works and took over as licensee of the Coach and Horses Hotel in Rainhill. The pub was the headquarters of the Rainhill Bowling Club and well known for the standard of it’s bowling green and staged many important regional bowls tournaments. This was ideal for Davies as he was a very proficient crown green bowler in his own right, winning a number of club tournaments and featuring prominently in the famous Blackpool tournaments for many years.   

Unfortunately, it also meant that he was forced to retire from football officialdom, at the peak of his career.

As the Sheffield Star, Green ‘Un reported, he “wasted no time… in resigning his position on the list of League referees, thus forestalling the inevitable request from the Management  Committee to take the step, knowing full well the distaste of the controlling body to any official holding a licence. Mr Davies’ withdrawal will be regretted, for he was a capable man, and real good ‘uns are not too common. The League, however, do not approve of any distracting element in the work of the man in charge, and they regard such a result as inevitable where a man is away from his house for so long and at important times in pursuit of football.

Sadly, Davies died in Whiston Hospital in 1934, aged just 53, following complications arising from an operation for appendicitis, and is buried in the churchyard of St Ann’s, Rainhill.