Back to reality for Ben Davies as Swansea City host Newcastle
BEFORE sitting down to discuss Swansea City's match against Newcastle, Ben Davies is confronted with a mountain of shirts and balls to sign.
In an otherwise deserted Liberty Stadium, the Welsh international works his way through the masses of memorabilia with an ease and minimal amount of fuss typical of his on-field performances.
It is an almost daily duty for Swansea's players, though the demand for signatures has rocketed since last Sunday's Capital One Cup victory at Wembley.
Not that Davies has noticed anything different.
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"This is one of the quieter ones, to be fair. We'll do them quite happily, it's not a problem," he says.
"There's been no change here. Everyone's gone about their business as usual and we've prepared for the game like any other."
Davies's phlegmatic nature belies his 19 years and, although he may find the adjustment from Wembley's grandeur to the routine of the Liberty a simple one, today's match against Newcastle could prove problematic.
The streets of Swansea still bear the marks of Tuesday's open-top bus parade, while conversations in the city centre can barely last a minute before the dazzling 5-0 dismantling of Bradford is brought up again.
For the players, however, last Sunday's delirium will have to be put to one side when they return to Premier League normality this afternoon.
"It's been a bit of a mental week and now it's a case of getting back to reality and focusing on today's game," says Davies.
"We were back training on Wednesday morning and it was good to get back together as a team.
"Everyone enjoyed the celebrations but we all knew how important it was to get our heads back on the game this weekend.
"It is a bit tough but we're all professionals here and we're all capable of kind of forgetting last week and getting on with our week-to-week games.
"Winning the cup has given us a lot of confidence but you've also got to think that's gone, we've done our job in that competition and now we've got one to do in the Premier League."
Motivation should not be an issue for Swansea — Newcastle, after all, are among England's most popular clubs.
The Swans will also be reasonably confident of victory, having won 2-1 when the sides met at St James' Park earlier in the season.
"That gave us a lot of confidence, going up there and getting the win," Davies adds.
"I think we deserved it up there — we put in a good performance and got the result we deserved.
"That gave us a lot of confidence, particularly in terms of our away performances.
"If we put a similar performance in today, there's no reason why we can't get another win."
Newcastle are much changed since that defeat by Michael Laudrup's men in November.
They signed six players — five of them French — during the January transfer window, and the new arrivals have helped Alan Pardew's side recover from a slow start to the campaign with three wins from their last four Premier League fixtures.
"They didn't start off as well as they would've liked to, and I think it surprised a few people to see them down the table," says Davies.
"But their quality is coming through again now and they're showing what a good team they can be.
"There's going to be a lot of different players to the team we faced earlier in the season.
"But we'll just go out there and play our own game. Hopefully that will be enough to get us the win."
Davies is set to make his 37th appearance of the season today, a remarkable figure considering the teenager had not yet made his Swansea debut when the campaign began.
After a brief cameo as a substitute against West Ham in August, Davies was thrust into the first team the following month when Neil Taylor broke and dislocated his ankle against Sunderland.
Since then, Davies has revelled in his newfound responsibility as Swansea's leading left-back, though keeping his place in the side might be difficult next season.
Taylor returned to training this week, with a slim hope of making his comeback from injury at the end of this term.
He is expected to be fully fit by the start of the next campaign, and it promises to be an intriguing duel between Taylor and Davies for club and country.
The latter has won three Wales caps in Taylor's absence and excelled to such an extent that neither Laudrup nor Wales manager Chris Coleman are sure of who they will select next season.
"That's nice to hear and it just means I have to keep working hard to try and stay in the team," says Davies.
"It's good to see Neil back in training and it's more competition for places now.
"I've got to try and hold on to my spot like I have done this year.
"It's another challenge for the two of us really, and it's a good problem for the manager to have."
Before he can worry about a shoot-out with Taylor for international and club honours, however, Davies insists his focus remains fixed on today's match.
"I think everyone's going to be switched on — that shouldn't be too much of a problem," he says.
"If we pick up three points, we will have got to the 40-point mark.
"We don't really have any set targets for the season at the moment — we just have to go into every game looking to pick up three points.
"Then, come the end of the season, we'll be trying to get as many points as possible and finish as high as we can."