Bolton Wanderers are one step away from a Wembley semi-final and the town is getting excited. Not only because the feeling is growing that a first FA Cup final since 1958 would be a fitting way to mark the passing of Nat Lofthouse, but because Birmingham City, Saturday's quarter-final opponents at St Andrew's, are thought likely to field a side that reflects the fact that Premier League survival is now their priority.
Kevin Davies does not quite see it that way, and the Bolton captain knows better than most that dreams have a habit of not coming true. Fourteen years ago, when Chesterfield's We Can Build Our Dreams was outselling the Spice Girls in Derbyshire, Davies admitted his mind wandered to the suit he would wear at Wembley when the third division side went two goals up against Middlesbrough in an FA Cup semi-final at Old Trafford.
But for a goal being disallowed when the ball was over the line Chesterfield probably would have recorded one of the greatest of all upsets by reaching the final. Instead they had to settle for a last-minute equaliser, a 3-3 draw and the knowledge they had taken part in one of most fondly remembered Cup contests.
"The euphoria of coming back in the last minute when we thought we were out was terrific," Davies says. "But you don't often get fairytales in replays – it was always going to be difficult. We lost 3-0, we had our chance at Old Trafford and we couldn't take it.
"It would have been 3-1 had the disputed goal been given, and the decision probably did cost us a trip to Wembley, but these things happen in football. There haven't been many semis like that, with a penalty, a sending-off, six goals and a last-minute equaliser, but all I remember now, apart from [the manager] John Duncan's glasses falling off when we scored, was starting to dream too early.
"At 2-0 up against 10 men we thought we were there, but Middlesbrough got back into the game with the quality they still had. It was a hard lesson and though I have played for bigger clubs since, I have never been as close to an FA Cup final. I don't agree with anyone who says the FA Cup has lost its magic. Not for me it hasn't. I still dream about it. From an Englishman's point of view, especially someone like me who has enjoyed his career but is still waiting for a major honour, the FA Cup is still the one to win."
Davies assumes Birmingham will think that way too, despite their perilous league position and the questionable precedent set by Aston Villa in the last round.
"I'm sure they will put a strong team out," he says. "We're both in the last eight with a great shout and these opportunities don't come around very often in football. We are expecting a difficult game but we've been there before and got a result."
Having been a coffin-bearer at Lofthouse's funeral in January, Davies agrees that Bolton returning to Wembley would be a splendid way to honour the great man's memory. But he is understandably wary of looking beyond the quarter-final.
"It would be fitting, but it's dangerous to get too carried away," he says. "Half the people in Bolton have already decided they would like to play Manchester United in the final, and they probably want me to bundle Edwin van der Sar into the back of the net as well. It's a nice thought, but I don't think we can afford to look that far ahead. Referees nowadays wouldn't stand for that sort of thing, anyway.
"There's no harm in dreaming – I still dream of winning a trophy because I can't imagine what it would be like – but we are not at Wembley yet. Everyone in Bolton is looking forward to going, hopefully twice, but we need to concentrate on getting past Birmingham first."
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