THERE will be a reunion on the touchlines for the managers of Blackburn Rovers and Derby County tomorrow.
Rovers boss Gary Bowyer was coaching one of Derby’s junior teams when he first came across Steve McClaren.
McClaren was the Rams’ assistant manager at the time and, after 15 years in which he helped Manchester United win the treble, managed England and enjoyed success abroad, he now finds himself back at the club where his coaching career began.
And since returning to Pride Park in September as head coach McClaren has led Derby into the Championship play-off places with a run of 11 wins from 16 games.
Bowyer said: “I was the under 12s coach at Derby when Steve was their assistant manager.
“His lad used to play in the under 11s so he used to come on a Sunday morning and we used to see him on the touchlines.
“Even then, when he was assistant manager to Jim Smith, he was very highly thought of.
“Now he’s back at Derby and he’s done fantastically well there.
“You only have to look at what he has achieved in his career. He was Manchester United’s assistant manager when they won the treble, he then went on to win a trophy on his own at Middlesbrough, managed England, and then coached teams and have success abroad – and there are not many English managers who’ve achieved that.
“His record speaks for itself – he’s a great coach.
“So given the staff that they’ve got, given they are flying high, we know it’s going to be a tough challenge on Saturday.
“But it’s a challenge we’re more than capable of meeting.”
Rovers and the Rams are level in the form table after each taking 10 points from the last 18 on offer.
But McClaren’s fourth-placed men are 10 points better off than Bowyer’s eighth-placed boys after a sequence of seven straight wins in November and December.
It is the kind of run that Rovers have yet to replicate.
Bowyer said: “They’ve been on a fantastic run, a run we’d love to go on ourselves, so Saturday provides the opportunity to start one.
“Their consistency has been fantastic and that’s something we’re striving for.
“Now we’ve got to regroup after last week and go strong again.”
Bowyer is hopeful goalkeeper Paul Robinson will be fit to face Derby after he missed the Forest setback with a hamstring strain.
Top scorer Jordan Rhodes will return to the first XI after a niggling foot injury meant he started the City Ground clash from the bench.
Skipper Scott Dann is expected to be fit despite coming off against Forest with an army injury while defender Todd Kane will return to the squad after recovering from a thigh injury.
The match, however, will come too soon for Corry Evans.
The midfielder, who has been out for three months with ankle-ligament damage, will return to full training on Monday.