As thousands of Preston North End fans mourn their ninth play-off disappointment, ROSIE SWARBRICK talks to Emma Davies about life away from the floodlights as a real footballer’s wife.
“By the end of the game I had all three kids in floods of tears.”
Emma Davies knows more than most about the highs and lows of football, having spent more than 11 years in the stands cheering on husband Kevin Davies.
In the topsy-turvy world of sport, the Davies household went from elation to devastation as family man and PNE striker Kevin trudged off the field earlier this month. North End’s promotion dream had evaporated with a 3-1 second-leg defeat to Rotherham at New York Stadium.
Emma said: “It is a horrible feeling for them to see their dad look so disappointed on the TV.
“I have to tell them it will be OK and it will ... of course.”
The 47-year-old mother-of-three was devastated with the play-off defeat and is consoling Kevin and their three children – 10-year-old Lucas, eight-year-old Lana and four-year-old Leo – but admits the last few years have been hard to take.
The last three seasons have been emotional for them - relegation at Bolton, Kevin leaving the Wanderers and now the play-off disappointment.
“But we are all looking forward to starting it all over again in August,” Emma says.
“As a family we have grown very fond of PNE – the club, staff and fans are so welcoming and friendly.”
Kevin endured a rough ride at the end of his Bolton career as manager Dougie Freedman declined to renew the targetman’s contract after a 10 year stint with the Wanderers.
And Emma admits that criticism of her husband is still hard to stomach.
She said: “In the first leg of the play-offs, my daughter Lana turned around and asked why they were shouting mean words about daddy.
“It is tough and hard to explain but there are negatives in any job. Kevin has spent 22 years in professional football and it is something you have to get used to.”
On a more positive note, Emma and her three children - who all attended football games days after birth to cheer on their father – cherish memories of Kevin’s one England cap against Montenegro at Wembley in 2010.
She said: “We were gutted not to get through to the play-off final we have been lucky enough to see Kevin play for England.
“He came off the bench and we videoed it from the stand but all you can hear is our screams.”
Despite 37-year-old Kevin’s Bolton exit, the family are still based in the town and Emma – who is originally from Solihull – is settled in the North West despite the weather. Emma used to work in PR and now runs successful charity KiDs Of Bolton. She says her life is far from the stereotype of a shopaholic footballer’s wife.
She said: “We love living in the north – despite the rain. My friends always so ‘oh you are so normal’ and we are.
“The amount of money some people spend on a jumper is disgusting. I couldn’t imagine parting with a ridiculous amount of money as it can help so many other people.
“We run a charity in Bolton because we were overwhelmed with people asking for signed shirts and footballs to give away to charity.
“You want to help everyone and so we set up our own and there is no better feeling than helping a small junior club get a new kit.”
The couple’s son Lucas is in Bolton’s academy and is hoping to follow in his father’s footsteps.
Emma is realistic about his prospects.
She said: “He is a bright lad and we are making sure he concentrates on his school work.
“Statistically the majority of children in an academy team don’t make it. A lot of it is not just talent, it is mental but we are hoping Kevin can teach him about the mental side of the game and how to be mentally strong.
“I’m a big believer in mind control – I’m like Mr Motivator in our house.”
The two-leg defeat was the Davies family’s first taste of play-off loss – Kevin was a member of Chesterfield’s 1994-95 promotion winning play-off side – and Emma believes the disappointment can fuel North End to promotion next season in Kevin’s second year of a two-year contract.
She said: “The disappointment for Kevin is terrible as it is what the team have worked all season to achieve.
“But life goes on and we will all be there next season to support Kevin and the team again. I just hope that next season will be the one.”