Today, they will be in the dug-out at Turf Moor inspiring Lincoln City to believe they can succeed where Premier League leaders Chelsea failed – by beating Premier League side Burnley.
A clash with a Premier League side is the latest chapter in the brothers’ remarkable story, which has brought national attention in the last year with their decision to leave full-time jobs in education and try their luck in full-time football after making their names in the semi-professional game.
But Nicky, who teamed up with his big brother at Concorde Rangers and Braintree, revealed they have been teaming up since they were football-mad kids.
“When we were younger we often spent school holidays either playing sport or indoors playing Championship Manager on the computer,” says Nicky. “Our mum used to tell me off for spending too much time on it and tell me to get on with my homework – and I recently reminded her that I was doing my homework!
“Dan would drive me mad. He would sit with a notepad wanting to make notes and I would want to get on and play the next game. We even used to argue about what name we’d use. We’d sometimes be ‘Dannick Cowley’.
Danny and Nicky Cowley revealed how they used to play Championship manager together as kids
Lincoln continue their remarkable FA Cup journey in the fifth round against Burnley
“I would take it quite seriously and I remember once using a Z-bed that we had and turning it into a dugout!”
The pair, who were PE teachers at the same Essex school until May, have refused to leave education behind completely, with Lincoln’s Bishop Grosseteste University providing them with training facilities and computers which they use to analyse player performance and future opponents.
And they have combined their FA Cup adventure with a return to the classroom by inspiring students with a series of lectures.
“We were very keen to give something back to the university because when you’re working with someone it should always be a fair relationship,” says Nicky. “Danny has done quite a few lectures and they’ve been successful. It’s a nice opportunity to go back into teaching and the classroom setting.”
But such has been the brothers’ success in their first jobs in full-time football, they have no intention of making their return to education permanent.
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Non-league Sutton United had reason to celebrate in 1989 when they eliminated top flight Coventry in the third round thanks to goals from Tony Hains and Matthew Hanlan
Their progress to the last 16 has already included two Championship scalps in Ipswich and Brighton and a League One victim in Oldham.
So while a scouting mission to the Clarets’ 1-1 draw with Chelsea last Sunday reminded Danny of the scale of their task, it did nothing to dampen the positivity that has got players in the dressing room and youngsters in the lecture theatre walking tall.
“Football is about winning,” says Danny. “I don’t go to Burnley to think, ‘I’m enjoying this’. I go to Burnley to win. We know it’s a one in 100 chance but we have to believe it will be that one time.
“A lot of people have told me it’s impossible but impossible is just an opinion, it’s not a fact. For us to come through Oldham, Ipswich away, Ipswich at home and then Brighton was probably a one in 10,000 chance, so after what we’ve seen in the FA Cup this year anything is possible.
“We watched Eden Hazard, Pedro, Diego Costa and Victor Moses all try to break them down and not be able to. Then they brought Cesc Fabregas on and he wasn’t able to unpick them. So it won’t be easy but we will go there with a belief that we can do it.
“It’s not every morning you wake up with the opportunity to do something you’re going to remember for the rest of your life.”
Their attention to detail will take on epic proportions today.
Whatever the result of their lunchtime game against Sean Dyche’s side, they are planning an 85-mile dash across the Pennines at the final whistle to watch North Ferriby – their opponents on Tuesday as they look to retain top spot in the National League in their quest for promotion to League Two.
“Nicky is going to drive and straight after the game we are intending to go to North Ferriby v Dover,” says Danny, who hopes to reach Humberside in time for the second half.
“The FA Cup journey we’ve been on has been amazing so we’re going to give that our very best and our full focus, but when the final whistle blows at Turf Moor we can’t affect that game anymore so our attention will turn very quickly.”