WHEN Gary Bowyer emerges from the tunnel and heads toward the dugout at the City Ground today, the Blackburn Rovers boss would be forgiven for taking a moment to reflect.
That’s because this afternoon’s match at Nottingham Forest marks the first time since Bowyer became a senior manager that he has been back to the club that played such a big part in his life.
It is a club at which his father Ian is still regarded as a legend after helping Forest to an incredible trophy haul which included two European Cups and a Football League First Division title.
It is a club at which Bowyer went on to sign for himself as a teenager.
And it is a club at which Bowyer formed the values, ideals and beliefs he is now trying to pass on to his young players at Rovers.
Despite all that, he does not expect the feeling of nostalgia to last too long.
“I’m sure I’ll get a bit of stick off the A-block,” said Bowyer who, after steering Rovers to safety in the second of two caretaker spells in charge last season, took over the Ewood Park hotseat full-time in May.
“They were happy times. I used to sit in A-block with my mum and then go and sneak off into the Trent End where, shall we say, some of the tougher fans went.
“It will be a special and proud moment for me to walk out with a team there.
“But it’s not about me – the main priority is trying to take the points from the game and that’s going to be difficult enough.
“But I can’t deny that there is still an attachment there and that the club has played a massive part in my life.
“After ourselves they are the next club I want promoted to the Premiership and, with the resources they’ve got now available to them, I think there’s a chance.”
It is to Bowyer’s credit, then, that victory for his side today would move them within a point of fifth-placed Forest.
Bowyer believes the club he has supported since a boy, like Rovers, deserve to be back playing in the Premier League.
But even if Forest do manage to get back up to the top flight after a 15-year absence, it is almost impossible to imagine that they will ever enjoy the success they achieved in the late 70s and early 80s under legendary boss Brian Clough.
Bowyer’s dad Ian was part of the Clough teams which lay waste to sides across the continent.
“They were magnificent days, going and watching your dad play in a very successful side under a fantastic manager in Brian Clough,” remembers the Rovers chief.
“I was fortunate enough to go to one of the European Cup finals, in Madrid, when Forest beat Kevin Keegan’s Hamburg.
“They are memories that will stay with me forever.”
Bowyer went on to follow in the footsteps of his father when Clough signed him from Hereford United in 1990.
Injury robbed Bowyer, now 42, of the chance of making a senior first-team appearance for Forest.
But the lessons he learned were invaluable.
“The values, the standards that we were taught, first through my dad and then through Brian Clough, they rub off on you, said Bowyer, who during his formative years as a Forest player lived with former Manchester United captain and current Republic of Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane.
“They are the standards we’re getting our lads to adhere to now.
“You look at our players, they’re not playing for the money, they are playing for the love of the game.
“Obviously the money part is an added bonus but you can see that the lads we’ve got here now care – and they are trying to play in what we believe is the right way.
“And from what I learned at Forest you have to have good people too.
“When we’re recruiting players, first and foremost, they’ve got to be good lads who behave in the right way, both on and off the pitch.
“You only have to look at the lads we’ve brought in this season to show that we’re going by that.
“It’s important to me and the staff that they want to play for the Blackburn Rovers badge first and foremost.
“That’s what I had at Forest and that’s what we want here.”