Tom Davies Talks Sustainability, Chopsticks, & The Highs & Lows Of Football
Tom Davies is one of the great creatives of the modern game. Unique, inspired and confident enough to be who he is, he’s a rare breed, and one that should be celebrated. Always a pleasure to catch up with the Everton midfielder, this time as he battles back from injury.
It’s a tough time for Davies when we meet up. He’s currently on the road to recovery from his latest injury setback – something that has blighted his 21/22 season so far. But ever the optimist, the time has not only given him the opportunity to embrace new adventures and avenues for his creative nature, mostly centred around his passion for sustainability and making the world a better place, it’s also given him the chance to rediscover his pure passion for the game. With a new manager and an icon in Frank Lampard now in place at the helm at Everton, it’s the beginning of what Davies hopes will be a new and exciting chapter in his development as he strives to return and help the Toffees push up the table.
We’ve seen you make quite the appearance at New York fashion week in the past. Did you get to go this year?
This year? No, I was in London. With the injury and stuff it’s not the best time for me to go. But got down to London and it was nice to enjoy the capital, you know. Always good.
Have you been painting still?
Yeah, I’ve just finished one recently. It wasn’t painting, it was pastel, but that was nice. Now it’s quite nice because it’s kind of like a fresh start again, so I’ve set myself a project to do and I’ll try and finish it within a certain time. It keeps me busy and I enjoy doing it.
How’s it been to have that to focus on away from the pitch, to keep your head in a good place?
Yeah I think it’s important for everybody, but especially for me. Being injured at the minute, and when times are tough you just sometimes need a break from the constant stress and the pressure of football. With this happening, with a new manager coming in, you want to be fit and you want to be able to play. You want to show how good you are and you want to help the team through the difficult situation we’ve been in as well, not just sitting there watching. It’s great to be as involved as much as you can and try and help in these situations, but sometimes you’ve just got to take a step back and accept the situation. Enjoy what you can while you can.
There were some reports recently about the club giving you a role around sustainability… can you tell us more about that?
So it still hasn’t happened yet, but we’ve had a meeting about me sitting on a board with a group of people involved with sustainability at the club and around the ground. Obviously it’s something I’m massively interested in, and the club are too, and they’re pushing it really well and doing things around the training ground. The new stadium they’re trying to make it the best in the world and certainly the league for sustainability. It’s interesting and it’s the way the world has to go.
"I just can’t wait to play footy again. Simple as that. It’s made me realise how much I do love playing."
Is that something you’ve reached out to the club for, or is it just a happy coincidence in the way it’s come about?
I asked at the club if we were doing anything and I found out we were doing a lot – planting trees, filtering water for the sprinklers on the pitch, where we get our food produce from, how we use our waste food. So yeah, we’re doing a lot of stuff and I was really interested to find out more and try and help where I could. Put my two pence in, so to speak.
Great to see you taking such a proactive approach, which leads on to your association with ChopValue. Can you tell us more about that?
So ChopValue started in Canada with a chap called Felix. We’ve met and he’s a great guy. My agent came up with the opportunity to a friend he knows and he thought it was perfect for me. As soon as I heard about it – I was a bit confused at first as to how it would work, what was needed to make it succeed and how it would help the environment, but after listening to Felix and sitting in on endless meetings and Zoom calls and finding out what we needed to it sounded like a great fit.
Basically the idea is chopstick waste across the world is huge. We don’t recognise, but it’s a thing that maybe you wouldn’t think is necessary, but the amount that goes to landfill, I don’t have the exact figures, but there’s millions that go everyday.
For me there’s enough products in the world for us to work out a way to reuse those things and make them into better products. So Felix came up with the idea of taking the chopsticks and giving them a second life, and that’s what we do. At the minute we’re trying to find a factory to house the equipment and begin the process, then link with restaurants that use chopsticks to then collect them from them help them recycle and make them into a second product.
What an amazing journey…
So far it’s been great. Meeting a lot of new people, all involved in sustainability and wanting to help the world. For me, I’ve been able to put a lot of focus into this and think about it due to my injury, and it’s been great for me.
"Community is one of the biggest things for me. If you can be part of a community you feel wanted and you feel you’re adding to it and people are benefitting from your work and you’re benefitting from people’s work. It’s a beautiful thing when you can have a group of people like that. That’s what Everton’s about."
Have you found the same buzz and energy from this that you get from your fashion tastes?
Definitely. It’s the same with football as well. When you play football and you know you’re playing well or you just put one in the top corner and you get that feeling. Maybe it’s not the exact same rush, but when I first got the product made from chopsticks and I saw how good it was I understood how this was going to work. It’s like that lightbulb moment where everything fits together. I think with this, this is one of those things where I have to give my time and attention to it because it’s so important to the planet.
What about bringing that into adidas, have you looked to see if there’s anything you can do there?
I’d love to. Adidas are doing a lot now with sustainability and trying to reuse products, such as the Parley stuff. I’m getting a lot more clothes that are reused products or that are environmentally conscious products, consciously designed and manufactured. So yeah, hopefully I can sit down with them and speak to them about what we want to bring and how maybe we can link together in some sort of way. It’d be great for us both, to spread awareness of how adidas are working to go forward to be one of the big brands that push these messages and objectiveness that we need to try and reach as humans, as footballers, as creatives.
It’s great that you’ve got all this going on, but aside from it all how are you coping with the injury?
It can be tough. I’d just come back from a six-eight week injury for my knee. Was feeling good, was getting ready to play, was getting ready to help the team, then you get another injury.
It’s interesting actually, I watched the Gascoigne documentary last night. It was heartbreaking about how he dealt with his injuries. It seemed like he didn’t have any one to turn to. In football, not that it’s the case as much now, but it can be a lonely place when your team is out training or playing and you’re the only one in the gym that’s injured, working with the physio. Progress is slow and you know you need to do the work, but it can be difficult. For me that’s been the same. But the club’s been great with me. The physio’s I’m working with have been really helping me out, when I need time off or just need to talk to anyone. My family and friends are around me too. It’s important for a footballer, to have this support network. I think for any person in particular, but when you have these uncertain times it’s great to have friends, family, or a club like we have.
The word ‘club’ is often forgotten in football, but it’s so important to be a club and a community…
Community is one of the biggest things for me. If you can be part of a community you feel wanted and you feel you’re adding to it and people are benefitting from your work and you’re benefitting from people’s work, it’s a beautiful thing when you can have a group of people like that. That’s what Everton’s about, it’s what adidas is about, giving back but doing it in a way that involves everyone.
Being in the peripheral because of your injury have you still been able to take positives from things like the manager change?
It’s been one of my most unfortunate years on the pitch, and not my best due to the injuries, but I’ve learnt so much off it: how to deal with myself, how I think in difficult situations, watching the team. It’s like I’ve been taken out of the kitchen and I’m watching everyone else cook. You can see what things are going well and what things maybe when you’re back you’d like to try and improve. And the manager that’s come in now has been great with me. He spoke with me and made me feel part of it.
What is it like when someone like him, of such stature, walks in the building?
For me he was someone I watched when I was growing up and loved watching him. So when you have that one to one moment with him it’s a bit surreal. Being a midfielder I want to learn as much as I can from him, because he’s done everything I’d want to do in the game. I feel really lucky to have the opportunity to work with him, because in my career it’s going to be a big few years coming up. Hopefully working with him and his staff I can really kick on to the next level.
It’s obviously personal between you and him, but those first conversations that you’ve had with him, what have they been like?
I didn’t expect anything different, but he’s so down to earth. I really liked that he spoke to me, even though he knew I was injured and would be out for an amount of time. He took the time to speak with me and tell me what he thought and wanted to involve me straight away, which is great. I’m not saying the other managers haven’t done that, but it was him reaching out to me and it was a nice touch for me to have especially.
"It’s been one of my most unfortunate years on the pitch, and not my best due to the injuries, but I’ve learnt so much off it: how to deal with myself, how I think in difficult situations, watching the team."
Football’s full of ups and downs. You seem like someone that’s grateful for the lows as well as the highs. Is that a fair assessment?
I think so. As much as you love the highs you take a lot from the lows too. That’s ultimately where you grow as a player and as a human. Difficult situations give you time to reflect on what you’ve done or what’s happened and next time it happens you do it differently or maybe in a different style. If you think it was the right thing you’ve done you can reflect and do it the same again and hope for a better outcome. But I think everyone loves the highs, but it’s just as important to reflect on the difficult times too.
You must be craving the noise and the highs of being back out there. How has the last year reset your targets, and what’s 2022 for you?
As you said I just can’t wait to play footy again. Simple as that. It’s made me realise how much I do love playing. I’m going in and I’m not allowed to kick a ball, I’m not even allowed to pass it against the wall. It’s frustrating.
I watched football before, but the amount I’m watching now is ridiculous. I’m just on the telly constantly. I don’t know what it is, but it’s really just come back to me. I don’t know if it’s been going through those difficult times and falling out of love with playing – not playing, but how your life’s set up. But this has been a step back and I’ve really fell back in love with it and I can’t wait to get going again.
New chapter for Everton. You must be pretty pumped?
Yeah, I think we’ve got great times ahead.The new manager seems like he understands the club and he gets it, so I’me really looking forward to the next few years. It’s exciting for us.