Davies dreams of rolling back the Wembley years
Birmingham City 2 Bolton 3
Monday 14 March 2011
Your starter for 10: which Premier League chairman has been to the "new" Wembley dozens of times and never seen his club win? Phil Gartside, of Bolton, was the answer to his own quiz question after a Kevin Davies-inspired win in a thriller at Birmingham earned a semi-final date at the stadium.
Gartside was at the Bolton helm when Aston Villa beat them on penalties at the "old" Wembley at the last-four stage in 2000. But the 69-year-old's "great memories" of the venue are nothing to do with that visit, or even when they last won the FA Cup, the 1958 defeat of Manchester United led by Davies' predecessor as captain and centre-forward, Nat Lofthouse.
"I'm an executive director of Wembley and I've gone down to the board meetings once a month for six years," said Gartside. "Every time I've travelled, I've dreamt of going with Bolton. I think it makes sense to have the semis there because it gives more people a chance to enjoy the place, more players the opportunity to play there."
Few deserve it more than the 33-year-old Davies. In 1997 he was playing for Chesterfield, from the third tier, when referee David Elleray failed to spot a shot had crossed Middlesbrough's line in an Old Trafford semi-final. "To be 2-0 up, and it should have been 3-1, and then to score in the last minute to force a replay ... It still hurts because we deserved to reach the final but it didn't happen. How long do you dwell on it?"
In Davies' case, you just start all over again each January. "As an Englishman, you pretend you're lifting that trophy, and it's no different now, even at my age. Every year those memories come back and I have Chesterfield fans getting in touch on Twitter, saying 'Good luck'." He might have made it in 2003, but after playing in the first four rounds for Southampton, he was dropped by Gordon Strachan. "I scored a late goal to keep them in the Cup against Millwall and they went on from there. I played my part in that run yet missed out on the final. As a manager, you have to make those decisions."
If Davies is looking for a talisman, Owen Coyle may just be the man. By contrast with Gartside the Bolton manager has never seen his team lose at Wembley, having scored when the club won an epic play-off against Reading and prevailed as Burnley manager. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Coyle resisted the idea that the Cup requires a make-over. "Does it need rethinking? Not for me," he said. "As a player I loved the FA Cup and you've seen what Crawley Town and Leyton Orient have done this year. I'm not just saying it because we're in the semi-final. I've said consistently that this is the best national cup competition in world football."
The end-to-end fare served up by his own players and an injury-ravaged but ever-positive Birmingham was proof, argued Coyle, of the Cup's enduring excellence. "When you get that kind of game, and the atmosphere the fans created, that's why English football is the best. On a difficult pitch we've seen heart, commitment and some great goals. Kevin Phillips' was exquisite."
Phillips struck, untypically, from long range, hauling Alex McLeish's side level a second time after Johan Elmander and Davies, from a penalty he earned himself, scored either side of Cameron Jerome's first equaliser. But Davies, rising Lofthouse-like to power the ball into the six-yard area for the live-wire substitute Lee Chung-yong to head home, made sure Bolton had the final, or at least semi-final, word.
Scorers: Birmingham Jerome 38, Phillips 80. Bolton Elmander 21, K Davies (pen) 66, Lee 90.
Subs: Birmingham Ridgewell 6 (Jiranek, 28), Redmond 6 (Ferguson, 29), Derbyshire (Murphy, 83). Bolton Lee 7 (Klasnic, 61), M Davies 6 (Muamba, 61), Taylor (M Petrov, 90).
Booked: Bolton Steinsson, K Davies.
Man of the match K Davies. Match rating 8/10.
Possession Birmingham 55% Bolton 45%.
Attempts on target Birmingham 6 Bolton 6.
Referee P Dowd (Staffordshire). Att 23,699.
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