Dave Challinor will welcome former Tranmere team-mate Paul Cook and his Wigan side to Mill Farm with open arms tonight, but the AFC Fylde boss says that as soon as the whistle blows the gloves will be off.
Challinor’s National League side are hoping to cause a second-round upset by knocking the League One leaders – the highest-placed team currently in the competition – out of the FA Cup.
It is the first time Fylde have ever reached this stage of the competition and the 7.55pm kick-off will be broadcast live on BBC Two.
Before kick-off there will be a firm handshake in the Mill Farm dugout and perhaps friendly pats on the back from the duo, who played together at Prenton Park in 1996-97.
That was Cook’s only season at Tranmere, while Challinor enjoyed a lengthy spell from 1994-2002.
Now Challinor is relishing testing his mettle against the former Chesterfield and Portsmouth boss.
He said: “I was team-mates with Cooky at Tranmere and there are quite a few links between Wigan and ourselves.
“We have got Luke Burke on loan, I spent time with their goalkeeping coach Nick Coleman at Stockport and I did my degree with their physio Andy Proctor.
“I know what Cooky is like. He will want to win more than anything else and he is massively passionate about what he does, like I am, so I expect a really tough test.
“I’ve spoken to him quite often this season and I am looking forward to it.
“As a young manager, being able to test myself against an established Football League manager will be great and hopefully we will be on the right side of the result.”
Burke is unable to play against his parent club, while Fylde are also without the cup-tied Andy Mangan and suspended Jack Muldoon.
Muldoon was part of the Lincoln side that reached the quarter-finals before falling to Arsenal.
And like that Lincoln side, Fylde aim to use this competition as a springboard in the league – they are just seven points off a play-off spot after Saturday’s win at Dover.
Challinor added: “Lincoln used it as a real springboard that kept them going the right way through. With all the games they had you’d have thought the cup would be a bit of a hindrance, but to do what they did and get promoted was amazing.
“Unfortunately Jack is suspended but his experiences will hopefully be good within the dressing room. To go to his boyhood team Arsenal is what you dream of. He will speak to the players before the game.
“We were not in the best of form going into our first cup match, but we beat Wrexham here and we have won six out of seven, so now we are in good form and can hopefully continue that.”
That run of form has coincided with Danny Rowe blasting in the goals again. Last season’s 50-goal record-breaker made a slow start after promotion but is now the National League’s top scorer with 11.
And Challinor wants the 27-year-old to answer the question often posed: can he do it against a Football League side? He said: “If people have critics when they have scored 130 goals in three seasons there is something wrong.
“I think there are always question marks and there will be with players coming through the leagues.
“Last year everything he touched flew in. This year he is probably finding it a little bit more difficult but he is still scoring goals.
“He hasn’t scored a thunderbolt yet – hopefully he has saved that for Friday.”