DERYN BRACE may not have been the best defender to pull on a Wrexham shirt but few contemporary supporters would argue with his 100% commitment to the cause.
A dynamic and tenacious approach to the game - which brought him more than his fair share of injuries in a six-year stint at the Racecourse - is now producing results in rural Pembrokeshire, where Brace has guided Welsh Premier side Haverfordwest to the most successful spell of their 105-year existence.
And the reward for a first-ever qualification for the knockout stages of the FAW Premier Cup is a televised home quarter-final against his former club next month.
Brace, now 29 and earning his living as a postman, is relishing the prospect of locking horns with Dragons boss Denis Smith, describing the January 18 date as the biggest sporting occasion staged in his part of the world.
"Whichever way you look at it, we could not have had a better draw for our first appearance in this stage of the competition," he said.
"Of all the big teams to come in at the knockout phase, Wrexham are the ones who always take the competition seriously. They always field their strongest lineups, which helps explain why they have won the trophy so many times.
"From my point of view I had some great years with Wrexham and still keep in touch with people like Steve Weaver and Joey Jones.
"I know about the club's financial problems, which makes this year's Premier Cup even more important for them, and I hope they eventually get things sorted out.
"This is probably going to be the biggest game seen in Pembrokeshire because Wrexham are reigning champions and it's a match that counts, which can't always be said of the pre-season friendlies we have against the likes of Swansea and Cardiff."
And Brace believes anticipation levels are greater than last summer, when Haverfordwest dipped their toe into the Uefa Cup for the first time after finishing third in the Welsh Premier.
"Unfortunately we were unable to stage our home leg here at Bridge Meadow and had to move the game to Ninian Park," he added. "So, although it was a significant moment in the club's history, we felt we missed out on something.
"For the game against Wrexham I'll be disappointed if we don't get at least 2,000, which is roughly three times our average gate."
Despite the fact he took over as playermanager only at the beginning of last season, Brace is modest about his contribution to the progress made by the Bluebirds, culminating in their Uefa Cup debut when his players gave a good account of themselves against Icelandic opponents FC Hafnarfjordur before bowing out 4-1 on aggregate.
"Before last season our best finish in the league was 10th. The club has never won a major trophy but since we finished third last May, people have begun to take us seriously," he said..
"Last season we lost only once against the top-eight sides and after a slow start, we've won seven of our last eight - the exception being TNS.
"It's obvious I get some credit, but most of it must go to everyone who is part of what we are trying to achieve. I've got a great squad, the backroom people work as a team and we've built up confidence."
In years gone by former internationals Ivor Allchurch, Mel Charles, Ronnie Rees and Alan Curtis have played for the Bluebirds but nowadays, apart from Brace, who won a dozen Wales under-21 caps, and former Cardiff goalkeeper Lee Kendall, most of the squad have spent their careers in part-time football.
But the player-boss has a novel approach to training, which could hardly be described as arduous.
"Generally we meet once a week," he added. "But I haven't seen the lads for over a month, except on match-days, because if they get three points they have the week off. It seems to be working well so I don't see any reason to change things."
But Brace admits he'll be working with his players in the run-up to the Wrexham clash.
"I'd love to say Wrexham will face the most torrid 90 minutes of their history on January 18, whereas in reality it will probably be the other way round," he said. "But we've got nothing to lose and everything to gain so, whatever the out-come, it will be a great night."