By Ian Appleyard
Liverpool v Barnsley
DO NOT tell Rafael Benitez, but Everton manager David Moyes has been helping Barnsley prepare for today's fifth-round FA Cup tie against Liverpool at Anfield.
Moyes, who is no great friend of the Liverpool manager, allowed Barnsley to use Everton's training ground yesterday and has briefed manager Simon Davey on the best way to tackle the Reds.
He also allowed Everton midfielder Anderson Da Silva to join Barnsley last month and was responsible for putting Davey on the road to management.
Although only 37, Davey has been learning the management trade for 10 years after a back injury brought a premature end to his playing days at Preston.
Moyes had graduated from Preston's first team to become manager and offered Davey a coaching lifeline with the club's youngsters.
The Welshman had always been one of the 'youngest in the class' and even turned up for his first game as a Swansea City teenager in a school uniform.
Later on in his career, Davey showed a willingness to give youth a chance by stepping aside at a free-kick to allow David Beckham to score his first goal in professional football. The rest, as they say, is history.
If Barnsley should pull off an FA Cup shock against Liverpool today, it will go down as one of the highlights of Davey's career.
But regardless of whether his side win or lose, Davey – a lifelong Liverpool supporter – will achieve a boyhood dream by leading a side out at Anfield.
Most importantly of all, Davey hopes the experience will provide another important lesson in his footballing education – which could eventually help Barnsley win promotion back to the Premier League.
"Playing against Liverpool is probably the pinnacle of a lot of our careers," said Davey. "I never played at Anfield and to pit my wits as a manager against Rafael Benitez is a fantastic opportunity. Any experiences from this weekend will stand me and the club in good stead for the future and if Rafa has any words of wisdom I will take them."
Davey was appointed Barnsley manager just over a year ago after stepping up from the post of Academy manager.
In his first season, he saved the club from relegation, and this season, with improved investment by the board, Barnsley have been flirting with the play-off race.
"I could be in this job for 20 years – or it could be 20 months," said Davey. "A lot of managers have long careers but the most successful ones tend to be the ones who had short playing careers and had the opportunity to go through the junior ranks and youth programmes learning the pitfalls."
Davey's career was ended by an accident in a gym with a medicine ball. He had never played top-flight football.
"It was a massive blow to finish my career so early, but it gave me a head start on a lot of people of my age who are now coming to the end of their playing careers and picking up coaching.
"I am 10 years into it, I have got every badge, and now I have a fantastic opportunity at a fantastic club. I hope it is the start of big things."
Reflecting on his relationship with Moyes, Davey said: "When you finish your career you don't know where the next pay cheque is coming from. I was 27, I had three young children and a mortgage to pay.
"When you have played in League One and Two all your career there is not a lot of money in the bank. It was a difficult time, but David gave me the opportunity to coach and I learned a lot from him. He has done a fantastic job at Everton so I take a lot of his standards and intensity into my coaching. I am trying to emulate what he is doing.
"We spoke this week about Liverpool. To be honest, there is not that much that anyone can tell you about Liverpool when you watch them every week on the television – but he has allowed us to use their training ground and letting us have Anderson was a big help, too.
"I am looking forward to it. Just to walk into the stadium will be special. I supported Liverpool as a kid in the Kenny Dalglish days. To lead a team out there will be a proud moment for my family.
I want the players to enjoy it. The last thing you want is players to freeze on the occasion and get home at six o'clock thinking everything has passed them by."
Until now, Davey's highlights have been winning titles with Carlisle United and Preston and playing in the European
Cup-winners' Cup for Swansea against Monaco and Panathanaikos.
Oh, and of course, the David Beckham story.
"When I was transferred to Preston it was on the same day that a young Beckham arrived on loan from Manchester United," recalled Davey.
"I took free-kicks at Carlisle and so I expected to take them again, but Beckham wanted to instead. We had a bit of dialogue and I stood aside and he put it in the top corner. He never looked back."
Nice to see Moyes gets one over on rafa!