As someone raised within a few goalkicks’ range of Villa Park, the FA Cup has always been extra special to Ben Davies.
Not just for the Brummie, but his family too. Although it did not feel like that in January when Sheffield United’s shock win at Aston Villa provided one of the stories of third-round weekend.
Anyone uttering the well-worn phrase ‘the magic of the cup’ within earshot of Davies’s Villa-supporting relatives, including his brother and father, would probably have been afforded a dark glance that first Saturday of the New Year.
But after having cause to curse the Blades that cold winter’s day, the Davies family have been quickly converted.
The Cup fantasies which Davies and his sibling enacted in their back garden in Aston as children and those viewed first-hand at nearby Villa Park in Cup semi-finals – the famous old ground has staged more last-four matches (55) than any other venue in England – now have a new accompaniment thanks to the Blades.
Davies, who only joined United last month on loan from Derby County and is already eyeing involvement in one of the biggest matches of his career, said: “It is a brilliant competition.
“As a kid growing up and being involved in it, from an English point of view, it’s the best cup competition you can play in.
“I used to play with my brother and we’d do the Cup draw and then go out and try and replicate it in the back garden. I was always the underdog.
“When I was growing up, the semis were always at different grounds like Villa Park and I went to a couple there as well, while you also look forward to the FA Cup final as a family. You have your dinner and then watch it together.”
When the story is penned of the 2013-14 FA Cup, a chapter is likely to be devoted to the Blades.
Its ending remains to be seen with Charlton Athletic standing in the way of what the South Yorkshire club hope will be an appearance in the Cup semi-finals in April, which is potentially just 90 minutes away.
That would represent new territory for Davies and his Blades’ team-mates and while the midfielder is not looking too far ahead, he is unequivocal that no one could begrudge them that reward if it arrives.
A thrilling run has seen Clough’s troops dispose of top-flight sides Villa and Fulham on their own turf, and also Nottingham Forest, and you sense many neutrals will be rooting for them on Sunday as they aim to become the first third-tier side since Wycombe Wanderers in 2000-01 to reach the semi-finals.
Davies said: “It’s a magical Cup and gives League One and Championship players the chance to be involved in massive games.
“The lads have played Villa, Fulham and Forest, who were unbeaten in 16.
“Everyone has sat up and taken notice and we fully deserve to be in the quarter-finals.
“I know the Cup has had a bit of stick over the years, but once you get past the first two or three rounds, it really starts to hot up.
“Once you get to this stage, they are some of the biggest games you will play in.
“Getting this far is brilliant. If you asked every single one in the squad, I don’t think one of them would have been to a quarter-final. The fifth round is the furthest we have all been and it’s new to us all and a massive occasion. As a player, these are the things you work for day-in, day-out. You do all the hard work and the game is the enjoyable part and takes care of itself.”
With Wembley so close that Unitedites can almost smell the burger vans down Wembley Way, it is easy to lose focus, and Davies isat pains to point out the perils of doing just that.
Not that an appearance at the home of football in the twilight of his career at 32 would not represent a huge moment and an opportunity to end his own Wembley story on a high note.
He said: “The Cup semi-finals are some of the biggest games in British football and at the best stadium in the world; you can’t want more than that.
“But we have got a big hurdle in front of us first.
“It would be lovely to be involved in a game like that and they don’t come around in your career more than once or twice.
“But we’ve got to concentrate on Charlton. It will be a tough game from a side in the league above.
“However, with the way we are playing, we can’t go into it in better form.
“It’s a big game, but you have to put that to one side as you then start worrying about the next step and, more often than not, you get beat.
“But winning eight games in a row should give us a lot of confidence.
“It was a bit of a distraction as the league form had been a bit poor, but now the league form has picked up and we are flying; we’ll take on whoever comes really.”
On his own Wembley history, he added: “I have been there a couple of times and got beaten twice in the play-offs (with Shrewsbury) and hopefully it will be a case of third-time lucky.
“I played in one final (2006-07) but I snapped my Achilles in the semi-final just before the other one (2007-08). We lost that one to Bristol Rovers and in the second we got beaten by Gillingham with the last kick of the game after beating them 7-0 in the league.
“We had a good squad with the likes of Grant Holt and thought we were going to win, but it was one of the worst days in my career. I’d love to get back there again.”