INTERVIEW A famous old name adorns Danny Racchi’s family tree, writes Hugh Macdonald
T is not the big players who have the biggest stories. Danny Racchi stands 5ft 8ins tall in boots with a very long stud. He has plied his career at Huddersfield Town, Bury, Wrexham and York City. His present preoccupation is to march out as a Kilmarnock player in the Scottish Communities League Cup final tomorrow.
He is a humble, almost bit-part player on planet football. But he has a story. “My dad is Italian,” says Racchi. “My grandparents are from Milan, the same as Manny Pascali, but my dad came over and there are a few footballing stories there.” So far, so so-so.
Then comes the line that shows that if one is going to drop a name it is best that it is one that would make a dent on reinforced concrete. “The 1982 World Cup manager, Enzo Bearzot, inset, he married into our family and my dad always brings that up and we have pictures at home. So there is a family heritage,” says Racchi. Yes, we have a link to a World Cup-winning manager.
“My dad’s cousin played for Juventus but I can’t remember his name. But I would love to emulate something like that but maybe I am setting my sights a bit high.”
Maybe, Danny, maybe. But a 24-year-old on the eve of his biggest footballing occasion can be forgiven for believing the world is full of possibility.
Racchi, too, has worked to give himself a chance. His family is strongly supportive, though Signor Bearzot, mastermind of the winning side in the 1982 World Cup, was not a factor beyond a photograph in the album. “My parents have been the biggest influences on my career,” says Racchi. “When I was seven, I signed for Huddersfield and was in their academy for 13 years. I trained three times a week and never missed a session. Mum and dad were working full time but they’d take me everywhere for games; from Manchester to Liverpool to Newcastle.”
His father, a research and development engineer, has only missed “about eight games” since his son started at the Huddersfield academy. He has encouraged his son to align himself with Italian football. Any England international shirts bought by his mother when Racchi was a boy mysteriously disappeared to be replaced by Italian jersies.
His closest encounter with the English big-time was in 2008 when he was part of a Huddersfield squad that was defeated at Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup. Racchi watched star-struck as Frank Lampard and John Terry walked down the corridors and Roman Abramovich, the Chelsea owner, visited the Huddersfield dressingroom to congratulate the players on their efforts.
But it is a Scottish trophy that now consumes Racchi. “This is a big chance for us,” he says of tomorrow’s match. “We have played better against the top teams and struggled against the lower ones. Everybody is up for it, the fans are going to be up for it as they were in the semi-final. It starts at 0-0 and anything can happen.” Racchi, who scored an excellent goal in Kilmarnock’s defeat to Celtic at Parkhead in December, points out the club have a double victory in the league over Rangers but says of tomorrow’s opponents: “We have put four past them this season in two games so we know we can open them up. The cup final will be no different, if anything it will be more open, more end to end, which might give us a chance.”
Celtic’s season was revived by the comeback after being three goals down to Kilmarnock at Rugby Park in October but Racchi believes that his team-mates can take inspiration from that afternoon. “We were far, far better than them in the first half and for stages in the second,” he says.
He is aware, though, that Celtic will be a different proposition at Hampden but his focus is on his development at Kilmarnock.
Could he imagine playing in a major final when he was toiling at York? “In all fairness, no,” he says. “There are a few footballers who miss the boat and some come through and this season I have shown I can step it up and play at this level with a couple of goals, especially the one at Parkhead, playing in the semi-final at Hampden and now the cup final.”
It will be, of course, a family occasion. His dad, who took the name Steve after his given monicker of Carlo prompted bullying as a schoolboy, will be there to assess his son. There is a comfort in this but there may also be criticism. “At the St Johnstone game recently, I got man of the match and played really well, but the first thing he said to me was ‘what about that pass you gave away in the second half’? “I was like ‘dad, give me a break’.” It must be the Bearzot influence.