The master and his one-time apprentice will come face-to-face at St Andrews this weekend as new Canary chief Bryan Gunn pits his fledgling wits against one of his biggest friends in football – Blues boss Alex McLeish.
The two first met under Sir Alex Ferguson at Aberdeen – where the teenage Gunn would find himself cleaning McLeish's boots.
From such a humble start, a life-long friendship has followed. And now the pair face eachother for the very first time – one in the Blues corner, the other in the travelling Yellow.
“It's a game that I'm really looking forward to,” said Gunn, speaking at Colney this morning.
“And it's a position that I never thought I'd be in – standing beside one of my best mates in football and pitting our wits against eachother.”
Both, of course, learned their trade at the hands of the game's ultimate master – Sir Alex. Both have sought advice from the Knight of Old Trafford.
“We've both come from the same school of learning – so it'll be an interesting day all round,” said Gunn, as he recalled the pair's early days together.
He as Mr McLeish's boot-shine boy.
“I used to clean his boots – I was his boot boy,” laughed the City goalkeeping legend, now fast taking to this whole managerial game with those nine points from the last 12; three clean sheets to boot.
Not that he always remembered everything; the apprentice would, on occasion, let his master down.
“He even scored a goal in the Scottish Cup final with my boots on – I'm not saying that I forgot to pack them..
“His boots weren't there and he had to wear my boots! In a Scottish Cup Final against Rangers; can't remember – think it was '82. It was a 4-1 victory – and it was a hell of a goal. Right into the top corner.”
And then, of course, there was Aberdeen's UEFA Cup triumph over Spanish giants Real Madrid in Gothenburg in 1983 – a victory that set Sir Alex on the road to Old Trafford and gave both McLeish and Gunn much by the way of food for managerial thought.
“We've had a couple of reunions recently; I bump into him at games; we speak on the phone all the time. So we've got a great friendship with eachother, but come three o'clock for 95 minutes we'll obviously be concentrating on our own clubs and trying to achieve the result that each individual wants.”
The two were on the phone post-Barnsley – the game that launched a 1,000 managerial dreams as far as Gunn was concerned.
Of all the old, 'Pittodrie Mafia' it was only Bhoys boss Gordon Strachan that warned against seeking the full-time position on the back of that emotional success in his caretaker game in charge. 'Quit while you're at the top,' was Strachan's typically candid response.
McLeish, however, followed the same line as Sir Alex – a decision he might come to regret come five o'clock tomorrow afternoon if Norwich were to throw a large spanner into Blues' promotion works.
“Big Alex was: 'Go for it, Big Man! It's a great role and you'd regret not going for it anyway..'
“And we've been in contact over the time; he came to our game at Doncaster when I think there was an entourage of Championship managers; he said some nice stuff about the way we played and the way that the team have reacted – so he'll know everything about us.”
He is, it seems, a learned man. In all walks of life. “He would probably be my second pick on a quiz team because his knowledge on football and everything happening in the world is second only to Sir Alex Ferguson. He would be the first pikck.”
Who Gunn picks to replace the suspended Darel Russell is, of course, something for McLeish to guess at ahead of tomorrow's old pals act. It is another of those interesting little managerial challenges that Gunn appears to be relishing; right now, he clearly has no regrets in taking over the hot-seat from the little-lamented Glenn Roeder little more than two, short months ago.
“It does feel a long time – not a life-time,” said the City boss, fast losing the 'new' tag.
“But I feel very comfortable in the role; enjoying it. And I think I've had a bit of everything now – the four wins, the four draws and the four losses. I've had that sort of roller-coaster of emotion that goes a long with being a manager.
“And, obviously, I've had to make some tough, tricky decisions along the way as well,” added Gunn, with the Mark Fotheringham captaincy saga clearly primary among them.
“But, hopefully, I'm making them for the right reasons – and that's for Norwich City and the fact that we can keep this club in the Championship. That's the mission which we started back in January and we're still on course to complete that mission which is heartening.”
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