“My foot­ball career at Southamp­ton was a bless­ing but when you move into man­age­ment, it’s a new chap­ter,” East­leigh boss Kelvin Davis admit­ted.

When Davis arrived in Hamp­shire, near­ly 20 years ago, the expe­ri­enced shot-stop­per had endured Pre­mier League rel­e­ga­tion with an all-time low points tal­ly at Sun­der­land.

When he final­ly hung up the gloves 10 years lat­er at the age of 40, Davis had expe­ri­enced fur­ther rel­e­ga­tion, back-to-back pro­mo­tions and Euro­pean foot­ball.

Emerg­ing on the right side of that tur­bu­lence, 299 appear­ances — and per­for­mances like that against Leeds at Elland Road — made Davis a Saints hero. 

“Southamp­ton will always be a mas­sive part of my career,” Davis told the Dai­ly Echo.

Daily Echo: Kelvin Davis introduces himself to the Eastleigh supportersKelvin Davis intro­duces him­self to the East­leigh sup­port­ers (Image: Gra­ham Scam­bler) 

“The way it end­ed for me on the pitch was as good as I think it could be, to have a tes­ti­mo­ni­al after 10 years and have the club fin­ish in the high­est posi­tion it’s fin­ished.

“I am gen­uine­ly thank­ful for how that turned out. Saints fans know that I have always appre­ci­at­ed them.

“Now, when you move into man­age­ment, I wouldn’t say you’re start­ing again but it’s about carv­ing out a career in a new direc­tion.”

Davis did not dis­ap­pear from the club when his play­ing career fin­ished and he worked towards his UEFA Pro Coach­ing License.

After a brief stint work­ing behind the scenes, Davis became a first-team coach in Decem­ber 2017 and main­tained that role for near­ly five years before his dis­missal in one last roll of the dice on Ralph Hasen­hut­tl.

Now four games into his fledg­ling man­age­ment career, Davis finds him­self call­ing on the expe­ri­ence of for­mer boss­es — as var­ied as George Bur­ley and Nigel Adkins to Mauri­cio Pochet­ti­no and Ronald Koe­man.

“I am extreme­ly for­tu­nate to have worked with some super high-lev­el coach­es and peo­ple, and that is man­agers I worked under and with,” Davis said.

Daily Echo: Kelvin Davis made 299 appearances for SaintsKelvin Davis made 299 appear­ances for Saints

“Every coach gets to the stage where they want to go their own way but often I feel myself hav­ing images of pre­vi­ous man­agers imprint­ed in how I want to do things.

“I am very for­tu­nate to have those expe­ri­ences, and from a lead­er­ship side of things we had guys like Les Reed, Ralph Krueger and Ross Wil­son, see­ing how impor­tant it is to treat peo­ple right.”

He con­tin­ued: “You always look at what your expe­ri­ences have taught you and there were some tough times, I found myself in some dif­fi­cult posi­tions as a play­er.

“We are still very con­nect­ed to what we felt like as play­ers and we say that to the group in debriefs and team meet­ings.

“I don’t feel like it was that long ago I was sit­ting in that chair look­ing at the details on the screen.

“We are try­ing to cre­ate an envi­ron­ment where the team are in it togeth­er, it’s their game plan to per­form and it’s right to ask that ques­tion they might have.”

Davis admits he had some sleep­less nights in the build-up to his first few days at East­leigh, appoint­ed on Feb­ru­ary 19. 

The Spit­fires were with­out a win in 11 match­es in all com­pe­ti­tions before Richard Hill’s exit and at risk of being drawn into a rel­e­ga­tion scrap.

Daily Echo: Eastleigh were knocked out of the FA Cup third round after a replay with Newport CountyEast­leigh were knocked out of the FA Cup third round after a replay with New­port Coun­ty (Image: PA)

Some strong ear­ly results have helped the process but Davis has set­tled into his work at the Sil­ver­lake Sta­di­um. 

Davis is on an ini­tial deal until the end of the sea­son. All par­ties hold inter­est in extend­ing that but the focus is first on secur­ing the club’s Nation­al League sta­tus.

“I feel like I have been here a lot longer,” the 47 year old insist­ed, reflect­ing on his first month as boss. 

“The first few days were a whirl­wind, we got a call on Sat­ur­day night, met up on Sun­day and then were tak­ing a ses­sion on Mon­day for Tuesday’s game.

“I think the famil­iar­i­ty of the area helped and I have been down the Sil­ver­lake before, I have tak­en my kids down there to watch games.”

Davis has an 18 year old lad, Son­nie, cur­rent­ly play­ing with his shirt tucked in at right-back for Southamp­ton’s under-21s acad­e­my side. 

“I took Son­nie down there because I didn’t want him to be blink­ered by the Pre­mier League and want­ed him to see the dif­fer­ent lev­els of foot­ball,” he added. 

“Get­ting in the office and get­ting to know the envi­ron­ment, Jason (Bris­tow, assis­tant) and Vince (Bar­tram, goal­keep­er coach), it felt like I had been there a lot longer.

“I worked with Vince at Saints and felt like I knew Jason from see­ing him on the touch­line. The staff in place are the con­ti­nu­ity and the peo­ple are the essence of the club.”

It has been a promis­ing start to his tenure with East­leigh, with a 5–2 win at Oxford City just 48 hours after his appoint­ment last month.

The Spit­fires fol­lowed that up with a home win over high­ly-tipped play­off con­tenders Brom­ley four days lat­er.

Although, only one point has fol­lowed in the next two — Soli­hull Moors scored a last-minute equalis­er in a 3–3 draw at the Sil­ver­lake last week­end.

Davis said: “We had to try and under­stand everyone’s capa­bil­i­ties to under­stand what we want to achieve as a club.

Daily Echo: Eastleigh went 5-0 up at Oxford City in his first game in chargeEast­leigh went 5–0 up at Oxford City in his first game in charge (Image: Gra­ham Scam­bler)

“We got a great response in the first cou­ple of weeks and the per­for­mances were fan­tas­tic. We couldn’t have asked for any more.

“Every coach has ideas and we haven’t got a mas­sive pool for a squad so the play­ers you’ve got are who you’re work­ing with.

“I like to play an intense game of foot­ball with high ener­gy and high press­ing. We want to keep the ball, but you have to be aware of the lim­i­ta­tions of the play­ers.

“There is always lots to improve on, you’re try­ing to get a per­fect per­for­mance and the play­ers have found a lev­el we can work at imme­di­ate­ly.”

It was notable that Davis list­ed every­one from the chair­man to the kit­man to the club sec­re­tary as inte­gral to the organ­i­sa­tion’s per­for­mance. 

The club have allowed him to bring in a for­mer Saints team­mate, Dan­ny But­ter­field, as assis­tant man­ag­er. 

But­ter­field, 44, made 54 appear­ances for Saints between 2010–2013 and has forged his own coach­ing career in recent years. 

He coached in the Saints acad­e­my for two years and has held promi­nent roles at MK Dons, Mac­cles­field Town and Lin­coln City. 

But­ter­field was also a huge­ly pop­u­lar loans man­ag­er at Saints before depart­ing to become assis­tant boss at Lin­coln in Decem­ber 2022. 

“Mine and Danny’s rela­tion­ship is built on play­ing togeth­er and a friend­ship,” Davis said. 

Daily Echo: Kelvin Davis and assistant boss Danny ButterfieldKelvin Davis and assis­tant boss Dan­ny But­ter­field (Image: Gra­ham Scam­bler)

“We have a group which are fam­i­ly friends with the likes of Dan Hard­ing, Richard Chap­low, Lee Holmes and these guys.

“For what­ev­er rea­son, we have stayed in touch and our kids are friends and hope­ful­ly we will always be friends. That is a bond that foot­ball and being a team has giv­en us.

“The oppor­tu­ni­ty for me and Dan­ny to put our heads togeth­er in a pro­fes­sion­al sense has been great — he wouldn’t be with me if I didn’t think so much of him as a coach and a foot­ball per­son.

“Like­wise, I am sure Dan­ny wouldn’t want to work with me if I had dif­fer­ent ideas or was a dif­fer­ent type of char­ac­ter. The con­nec­tion we have is strong we are open-mind­ed guys.”

East­leigh have nine fix­tures left until the con­clu­sion of their league sea­son and a six-point gap between them­selves in the drop zone.

Once their Nation­al League mem­ber­ship for an 11th suc­ces­sive cam­paign is con­firmed they will press on with plans for next term. 

“In foot­ball, you nev­er know what’s going to hap­pen,” Davis con­clud­ed. 

“But what I do know is the com­mit­ment and open-mind­ed­ness to make some­thing bet­ter that East­leigh will def­i­nite­ly receive from myself and the staff.

“We are real­ly hop­ing that we can put our­selves in a posi­tion to be think­ing about next sea­son soon­er rather than lat­er.”