BLACKBURN Rovers boss Gary Bowyer admits he feels like a fan as he prepares to lead his side into the East Lancashire derby tomorrow.
The Ewood chief will get his first taste of the contest from the dug-out when Rovers make the journey to Turf Moor.
But Bowyer is using the occasion to inspire him as he aims for three points which would see Rovers overhaul Burnley in the early season league table.
And the the Rovers boss would also earn the bragging rights with the Clarets management team of Sean Dyche, Tony Loughlan and Ian Woan – a trio he has known for more than 20 years.
A wry smile broke across Bowyer’s face when he was asked if he had been in contact with the Burnley management team ahead of the derby.
He eventually offered an unconvincing ‘no’, as surely it’s not the done thing for a Rovers manager to fraternise with the enemy on the eve of one of the most explosive showdowns in British football?
But given their history together, it is hard to imagine that Bowyer has not shared at least a text with his opposite number this week.
Bowyer and Dyche were team-mates as youngsters at Nottingham Forest trying to break into the first team.
Bowyer is full of admiration for the work that Burnley boss Dyche, his assistant Woan and coach Loughlan have done at Turf Moor.
And ahead of the 100th competitive meeting between the East Lancashire rivals, Bowyer admitted his Clarets counterpart has brought a stability which he is trying to replicate at Rovers.
“I know their staff well and I think they are showing signs of what stability brings to a football club,” he said.
“If you look at their squad they’ve not had a mass turnover of personal.
“Ian Woan and Tony Loughlan were at Forest with me. Dychey had just left for Chesterfield but he lived with Ian Woan so he was always around in the digs and what have you so I’m sure there’s going to be a bit of banter on Saturday.
“Sean’s done a good job since he’s gone there. I think they finished as high last season as they’ve done for a while but we’ve just got to go there and give a good account of ourselves.”
Dyche will be the first manager since Harry Potts to take charge of Burnley for a third East Lancashire derby.
But for Bowyer it will be his first experience of a clash of the Football League founders – and he can’t wait.
“There’s not a bigger game in a season for a Blackburn Rovers manager,” said Bowyer, who was appointed the club’s full-time boss in May.
“It’s the first fixture the supporters and the staff look forward to.
“I can’t wait. I’m really excited. I’m like a fan because you really look forward to these games.
“The players are looking forward to it and we can’t wait.”
Rovers go into the game on the back of 5-2 and 4-1 victories over Barnsley and Bolton before the international break.
Bowyer wants his side to continue in the same attacking vein tomorrow.
“Obviously we’ve got make sure the players are aware of what’s at stake and the passion required,” he said.
“But in terms of playing the game we’re going to play it as we have done the last two games – and that’s get on the front foot and look to stamp our authority on it straight away.”
Whatever happens tomorrow Dyche is promising Bowyer a warm welcome after the match.
Dyche said: “We were both at Forest as kids. He came through from Hereford after me.”
Dyche moved to Chesterfield before Bowyer’s arrival but their paths crossed as the current Burnley boss lived with his now assistant Woan in Nottingham, when Woan and Bowyer were Forest team-mates.
“I saw him (Bowyer) the other week over at the Manchester United-Liverpool Under-21s game so I caught up with him there.
“He’s in his first job and I’ve shared a couple of texts with him about it and stuff like that.
“It’s only rivalry between people like us when the whistle blows. Before and after it, it’s all lovey-dovey!
“But for those 90-odd minutes it’s about getting the result that you want for your club and your team.”
Bowyer will welcome fit-again duo Lee Williamson and Adam Henley back into a squad after they recovered from back and hamstring injuries respectively.
But Rovers will be minus midfielder David Dunn after the derby talisman injured his knee in training on Monday and underwent a minor operation with no timescale set for his return.
The game will come too soon for striker DJ Campbell as he continues his recovery from an ankle injury.