PNE star Kev is back on glory trail

Kevin Davies

Kevin Davies

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Preston North End old head Kevin Davies is back chasing play-off glory again after only previously doing so at the other end of the age scale.

The 37-year-old front man will be in the Preston squad for tomorrow’s semi-final first leg against Rotherham (5.15pm).

It was the play-offs which gave Davies the one winners’ medal of his career to date.

He was a young pup of 18 when Chesterfield beat Bury in the 1995 Third Division final at Wembley.

The memories from 19 years ago are still vivid for Davies and he would love a taste of the same as the senior statesman in PNE’s squad.

“It is the only medal I have got – I think it’s in one of the kids’ bedrooms at home,” said Davies.

“Naturally I would like to get another one and the reason I came to Preston was to try and get promoted.

“I was 18 when Chesterfield went up through the play-offs and had played every game that season.

“But the week before we played at Wembley I had fallen ill and lost about a stone in weight.

“I had a fitness test on the Friday with the Chesterfield manager John Duncan.

“We went running round the park and the fact he beat me at his age meant that I didn’t start!

“I was on the bench instead and got on for the last 10 minutes when we were winning 2-0.

“When you are that age you are raw and don’t feel nervous in the big games.

“As you get older you tend to think about things a bit more and get more nervous.

“But when the whistle goes you put those nerves to one side and get on with the game.

“The prize of going to Wembley and winning promotion is the same this season as it was in 1995.

“As a professional player you want to play at the best standard that you can.

“Whether you are my age or a young kid coming through, you want to go to the highest level possible.

“There is the motivation and hunger in our dressing room to get promotion.

“It has been a good season for us but it will only be a great season if we beat Rotherham and then win the final at Wembley.”

There has been little to separate North End and the Millers this season.

Both league games ended in draws, with Rotherham finishing a place and a point higher in the table.

Said Davies: “We are two evenly-matched sides. We lost seven games in the league and they only lost eight.

“We are two good sides who won’t lie down and don’t know when they are beaten.

“What it will come down to is a bit of luck and a bit of quality.

“We have matchwinners in our side and are a good solid team, starting from the keeper and going right the way through.

“The last time we played Rotherham there was a bit of needle flying around and they scored late on.

“We’ve done our homework on them but the main thing is what we do.”

Davies admits that North End’s primary target had been automatic promotion.

But with that dream finally dashed by defeat at Brentford on Good Friday, the focus since has been trained fully on the play-offs.

“From day one this season I said that Wolves would win the division and if we finished one behind them we would be promoted,” said Davies.

“We were a bit disappointed that we didn’t push Brentford harder than we did.

“But as a whole, and bearing in mind the two previous seasons in this division, it has been a successful one for us.

“What is important now is that we train all of our focus on playing Rotherham tomorrow in the hope that we can take something into the second leg at their place.

“Hopefully we can take a lead over there and go into that game full of confidence.

“People will talk about our play-off record but that is history, we can’t change what has happened in the past.

“The club has changed a lot. Even during this season it has changed with the manager bringing new players into the squad as the months have gone by.

“What you have to bear in mind too is the manager’s record – we do feel that he can make a difference.

“He knows how to get sides ready for the play-offs and prepare in the right way.”

What role Davies has in the next two games will be interesting. In the first half of the season he was a regular in the Preston front line.

But starts have been harder to come by in recent months for the ex-England international. It might be that Davies’ vast experience sees him get the nod in the attack.

With 774 professional games under his belt, that know-how could be huge in the heat of the battle, if only for part of it.

He is good at holding up the ball and bringing others into play, five goals in a PNE shirt suggesting he has been more of a foil for others.