Preston North End striker Kevin Davies’ FA Cup fairytale with Chesterfield has made him wary of tonight’s opponents Havant and Waterlooville.
A 20-year-old Davies was catapulted into the limelight as third tier Chesterfield reached the semi-finals of the competition back in 1997.
Davies was a midfielder at the time and his skilful performances in the Spireites shock cup run caught the eye of then Southampton manager Graeme Souness.
Souness fought off other top flight suitors to seal the Yorkshireman’s signature that summer as the magic of the cup gave Davies the platform to become a Premier League star.
And the 37-year-old believes PNE will have to be on their guard as the non-league players will be keen to cause an upset and showcase their potential just like he did 17 years ago.
He said: “Playing in the FA Cup for Chesterfield –and that cup run – helped me get a move to the Premier League.
“It was a fairytale run getting to the semi-finals and going 2 -0 up against Middlesborough.
“But a refereeing decision – the disallowed goal that would have made it 3-0 – cost us a place in the final as Boro fought back and beat us in a replay.
“Tonight’s match is an opportunity for some of the players to cause an upset and make history on TV.
“It is a classic English cup tie. They will be up for it and they will fancy their chances to cause an upset
“I think the competition can create a shop window for players, it takes one player to score a goal against higher league opposition to get scouted.
“It is an opportunity for those players and makes them raise their game so we will have to make sure we prepare for a tough game.
“They have played a lot of qualifying games in order to even get into this draw so we know how much it means to them.
“With how much hard work they have done they aren’t just going to rollover and let us through to the next round because we are a big club.”
After several impressive cameo’s as a substitute – especially in PNE’s 3-2 League One comeback victory over Fleetwood at Deepdale last month – the former Bolton Wanderers player admitted he is gutted that he hasn’t figured in North End boss Simon Grayson’s starting XI.
And as PNE travel to Hampshire on the back of two successive defeats, the veteran striker is hoping he will get the nod to fire PNE past the Hawks into the second round of the cup.
He said: “Of course I’m gutted not to be starting matches. I’m like everyone else who is not involved.
“I think the manager has shown that he will use the whole squad. John Welsh and players like that are getting games now.
“With the amount of games that we are playing hopefully it is an opportunity for some us to get start, impress him and give him headaches.
“That is what he wants. It is up to us as players to hopefully get that nod and take that opportunity.
“We’ve been working hard in training and when you are coming on as a substitute you can do what you can do in that period to try and push for that start.
“Nobody wants to be sitting on the bench or in the stands. Everybody is desperate to play but it is a really big strong squad.
“When the team has been doing so well it is hard to complain when you are out of that starting XI.
“But obviously when you don’t do so well you are hoping for a call-up – so we will see what team the manager picks for the game.”
Davies will be greeted by a familiar face on the touchline at West Leigh Park tonight as he knows Hawks boss Lee Bradbury from his Saints days.
The former Portsmouth player and Bournemouth manager is one of many ex top-flight professionals like Chorley boss Garry Flitcroft and Lancaster City manager Darren Peacock at the helm of a non-league club.
And Davies believes Bradbury will be keen to out wit PNE’s experienced boss Grayson.
He said: “Lee Bradbury –who I know from my time at Southampton– will be revving them up and looking to cause an upset.
“There are a lot of ex-footballers managing in football now. So for Lee if he can cause an upset against a team like us who are flying in League One it will be massive for him in terms of his managerial career too.
“We know they are going to be up for it, the crowd will be right behind them
“Non-league is a breeding ground for young managers and the cup is a chance for them to pit their wits against someone like Simon Grayson who is a proven manager who has had a lot of success.”
Despite having fond memories of the FA Cup, Davies has had his fair share of heartbreak in the competition as well.
He said: “I’ve got some good memories and some heartbreaking ones – it has been one of those competitions for me.
“I’ve had some good runs in it. I got to the semi-final with Bolton in 2011, which ended in misery – a 5-0 defeat against Stoke at Wembley.
“I do love this competition and it is a game I’m looking forward to tonight.
“I just enjoy these kind of games. It is a bit of a trip but it is an opportunity for us to go and play at a different ground.
“We know what to expect and we want a good cup run. This is the competition to be involved in.
“Obviously we have lost the last couple of games, 3-0 at Rochdale and 1-0 at Swindon, so we are feeling a little more fragile than we have been.
“But we have to prepare right for this match and treat it like a league game. Make sure we do a professional job and win the game.”
As for the future, Davies admitted he may consider joining the managerial game and hinted that when his two year contract is up at the end of the season he might contemplate hanging up his boots.
He said: “I’m possibly considering a career in management. I’m on my A license hopefully have that passed in the next couple of months.
“While I’m still playing, my focus is on playing. I’m not to sure when the day is going to come when I decide not to play.
“I will see where I am at the end of this season. I think if a management opportunity came up I’d possibly look into it.”
“It’s not something I want to rush into I want to try and learn. People automatically think that because you’ve played at a good level you will be a good coach.But I don’t sometimes think that is the case. I think you need to learn the trade a little bit.
“I’m doing a lot of coaching in Bolton and I’m just enjoying that side of it - we will see where it goes.”