IT will be a trip down memory lane for Gary Bowyer’s right-hand man when Blackburn Rovers kick-off their pre-season preparations at AFC Telford United tomorrow (3pm).
Rovers assistant manager Terry McPhillips will be coming face to face with his friend and former team-mate Liam Watson.
The pair go back a long way.
They knew each other growing up in the small Merseyside town of Maghull and played alongside each other for Marine.
But never before have they gone head to head in the dugouts.
That will change tomorrow afternoon when Watson, the manager of Conference Premier new boys Telford, welcomes Rovers to the New Bucks Head for what will be the first friendly of the summer for both clubs.
Watson, one of non-league’s most respected bosses, is promising a warm welcome to McPhillips and the rest of the visiting party.
He said: “It’s great that Terry and Gary have agreed to bring a team, we really appreciate it.
“They will be coming to a nice facility, a lovely pitch, and they certainly won’t be getting anything silly from us.
“They’ll be getting a good game and hopefully it will be a good fixture for both clubs.
“It will be good to see Terry again.
“I know him really well as we grew up in the same part of town and we played together in non-league for a little spell.
“He’s just over a year older than me even though he looks 10 years older! But joking aside if anyone has worked hard enough to get to where he has, then it is Terry.
“He’s a good coach, a good lad, and a good, honest football person.
“I’m not surprised to see where he has got to.”
In their playing days McPhillips, 45, and Watson, 43, were forwards whose professional careers were ended by injury.
That allowed both to go into coaching early.
Former Liverpool youngster McPhillips forged his reputation with Crewe Alexandra and Everton before arriving at Rovers while Watson, a £60,000 signing for Preston North End in 1992, managed Runcorn, Southport and Burscough before guiding Telford back into the top-flight of non-league football at the first attempt by winning the Conference North last season.
Watson admits tomorrow’s clash with Championship promotion hopefuls Rovers will be a big test of his part-time players.
He said: “It’s a very fine line at what level you do end up playing and this season we’ll be asking them to step up a level from last season and, on Saturday, test themselves against a team from another three levels up.
“It’s good and hopefully one or two of them do really well and they get that extra bit of confidence from pitting their wits against the likes of Jordan Rhodes.
“It’s great for Telford to be bringing Blackburn to our ground and it should be a good game.”
Rovers supporters, who will be housed in the Budget Gas Frank Nagington Stand, will be able to pay on the gate tomorrow.
Entry costs £10 for adults, £8 for over 65s and £2 for U16s with turnstiles opening at 1.30pm.
Meanwhile, tickets for Rovers’ Championship opener at home to Cardiff City on Friday, August 8 (7.45pm) will go on sale on Monday.
They cost £17 to £26 for adults, £11 to £23 for seniors and students, and £6-£11 for under 16s.
The game is being shown live on Sky Sports.