I can't be bothered with my critics – Davies focused on becoming Malaysia stalwart
His place in the Malaysia squad was scrutinised by some due to Pahang’s poor defensive record, but Tigers’ right-back Matthew Davies feels ignorance is bliss.
Part of being a footballer is you always get some sort of criticism and people trying to bring you down a notch. But all you can do is ignore everything and stay focused.
He tells FourFourTwo of his first year as an international, the Elephant’s tough season and aspirations to venture aborad.
One year since making your Tigers debut, how has it been donning the colours?
Definitely a positive experience for me, donning the national colours. It’s something that no matter how many times you play for the national team, you can’t take that for granted and you always leave each call-up wanting to make the next squad … and in the starting XI getting more caps.
Do you feel S.Kunanlan's international retirement works in your favour if you keep up the hard work?
I wouldn’t say it worked to my favour … the competition is still there for the spot. His (Kunanlan's) presence is definitely missed but at same time I think there is a clear opportunity for me to go forward and really try to cement that starting position at right-back.
There was some criticism that you were in the recent Malaysia squad despite Pahang’s leaky defence. Do you have anything to say them?
Yes. Part of being a footballer is you always get some sort of criticism and people trying to bring you down a notch. But all you can do is ignore everything and stay focused.
Obviously if I’m being called up by Ong Kim Swee and the coaching staff it means they think I can bring something of value to the team and that gives me confidence going into games. I can only control some things, not all.
Was the atmosphere against Indonesia in Solo your most hostile yet?
Definitely a hostile environment and the first time I experienced something like that in Southeast Asia. 25,000 people against you and even when our names were being announced at the beginning, we were booed.
Last year against Palestine in Jordan ranks as the most hostile for me, though. There was one point where a balloon with a Palestine flag attached to it landed on the field and I stopped to pick it off the pitch. I think there were some 20,000 fans jeering and screaming at me.
How do you cope with a hostile atmosphere?
It's surprisingly easy for me. Once I’m on the field, it is like every other game. I'm not sure about everyone else. But for me, I don't concentrate or hear on what the crowd is doing. I just focus on the game.
Funnily enough, that is how it works for me.
You’ve been rather consistent since you arrived, how do you keep yourself at that level?
Consistency is something I’m definitely proud of. Obviously a lot of off-field work goes into on-field performances, whether that may be recovery, nutrition or other small, little things.
Coming from the Australian Institute of Sports really taught me a lot about that and opened my eyes to the world of sports science as a footballer. Just as much work goes on off-field as it does on-field to keep yourself consistent.
Tough season for Pahang, what exactly is lacking and what has the season taught you?
It’s been a difficult season, no denying that. There was a big turnover in the squad from last year – the imports and locals. We are building around a really young team, so there’s a lot of inexperience but at same time I think there is a lot to look forward to from some of the performances of some players this year.
I’m really excited about the SEA Games. It being held in Malaysia is exciting enough as it is.
Was the Pahang captaincy something you expected to keep till the end of the season?
Sure, it was something that I expected to stick with. I was handed it at a time when there was a turnover and they made it clear to me that I would be captain going forward. It is something I continue to treat with respect and I take it very seriously.
Any aspiration of captaining Malaysia some day?
That’s a little too far in advance to be thinking about at the moment. I’m still focused on trying to cement a position in the starting XI. It would be a huge honour nevertheless. I don’t think Bahasa would be a problem then because of the classes (I’m taking).
Are you excited about the 2017 SEA Games? How has it been moving from the under-22 team to senior team?
I’m really excited about the SEA Games. I have been telling myself that this year is all about the AFF Suzuki Cup, whereas focus next year ought to be on the SEA Games and the Asian Cup qualifiers. It (the SEA Games) being held in Malaysia is exciting enough as it is.
It was good to meet the (senior) team in my first time joining the training camp (in August). All coaches demand something slightly different. I enjoy playing with both. I just need to make small little self-adjustments to the game on what each coach wants and expects from you.
It’s enjoyable nevertheless and something you have to adapt to as a footballer.
Any aspiration of venturing out of Malaysia, and could the AFF Suzuki Cup or SEA Games be the springboard you use to land yourself on the market?
It’s a huge aspiration of mine! I have the self-belief that eventually I will be playing abroad. I’m just not exactly sure where that will be at the moment. Tournaments like these definitely provide massive opportunities to put yourself out there and showcase what you can do. Hopefully it’s just a matter of when and where.