ANDY Preece believes that he could owe the Welsh Cup his entire football career.
The 49-year-old Airbus director of football returns to former home The Racecourse on Bank Holiday Monday looking to help mastermind a first-ever Welsh Cup triumph for the Wingmakers against TNS.
And the occasion will evoke plenty of memories for the ex-Wrexham striker, who was handed his chance in professional football due, in part, to some impressive Welsh Cup performances.
"Without the Welsh Cup I might not have had the career that I did," said Preece to The Leader. "I played in a game against Wrexham for Worcester and played really well. Wrexham had me watched a couple of times after that and decided to sign me.
"So I owe the Welsh Cup a lot. I probably owe it everything."
Unlike Airbus, Preece is no stranger to the Welsh Cup final, the striker having tasted a 2-0 defeat to Swansea City in the showpiece event at Cardiff Arms Park in 1991.
Goals from Dave Penney and Paul Raynor handed Swansea City victory over Brian Flynn’s Wrexham, making Preece’s memories of the occasion far from happy ones.
"I have vivid memories of the game," he explained. "It wasn’t great to lose and although I can remember a little bit about the game, there is nothing majorly positive.
"Playing at the National Stadium in Cardiff was exciting and Chris Coleman played for Swansea that day."
On the chance to mark his first ever appearance in the Welsh Cup final as a manager with a win, some 25 years after playing in one with Wrexham, Preece continued: "To win it would be like going full circle.
"It would be a great achievement, but it would also be one of the biggest shocks."
Preece spent a single season at Wrexham under Flynn, scoring seven times in 51 appearances for the Reds before making the switch to Stockport County.
Reflecting on a difficult time at Wrexham, who were scrapping it out at the wrong end of the old Fourth Division, Preece said: "I didn’t have the best of times there.
"It was a tough time in the club’s history and we had a couple of good spells, but we had a few poor spells of form as well.
"I remember scoring at Grimsby when Joey Jones broke his leg.
"It was a massive learning curve for me. I went from Worcester to playing regular full time football.
"I didn’t have a great deal of confidence or that belief because it was tough at times, but I worked hard and reaped the benefits.
"Wrexham made money on me, I’m not sure how, and I went to Stockport where it was like a switch had been flicked."
Despite a tough time at Wrexham, Preece is looking forward to returning to the The Racecourse for the first time in nearly three years.
Preece managed at The Racecourse when Airbus embarked on their maiden Europa League campaign against Latvian outfit Ventspils.
"It will be good to go back there as a manager again after playing there," said Preece.
"I have fond memories of the place because it was the start of something special.
"I remember certain games and certain things from playing there and it will always be a memorable venue for me because of what happened when I was playing for Wrexham.
"When I’ve walked in there in recent times as a manager it is still somewhere that feels, not like home, but somewhere that you’ve been regularly before.
"I’ve been back as manager of Bury and Airbus and it is always good to go back there."