THERE will be no shortage of managerial experience patrolling the touchline at Bramall Lane tomorrow.
A combined total of 1,611 matches, over 2,416 hours of game time and appearances in all four divisions, Danny Wilson and Ronnie Moore have spent so long at the coalface, they could be forgiven for turning up to work carrying hard hats and canary lamps.
“We’ve both been around the block and we’ve both picked up plenty of knowledge along the way,” Moore, whose Rovers side travel east looking to dent the promotion aspirations of Wilson’s Sheffield United, told The Star last night.
“Pitting your wits against someone like Danny is something I enjoy but he can affect the course of the action more because he’s got the better players.
“That doesn’t mean to say there aren’t things we can do to try and come out on top because there definitely are.
“But you’ve also got to be realistic. Nobody is going to give us a chance coming into this one but, you never know, that could actually work to our advantage.”
Twenty-eight points and 14 places might separate their two teams in the League One table but, despite both harbouring very different ideas about what would represent a profitable season, Moore and Wilson will share a common bond come kick-off.
Moore, who returned to Prenton Park dug-out for a third time 11 days ago in an effort to save Rovers from relegation, simply wants to avoid the drop. Wilson, whose players start the contest second in the rankings following Tuesday’s draw at Colchester, has acknowledged that only restoring the South Yorkshire club’s Championship status will guarantee his first campaign at the helm of United is universally judged a success.
Little wonder that Moore, who was appointed when predecessor Les Parry paid the price for a miserable run which saw Rovers plunge towards the relegation zone, argues “anything” the
visitors can snatch “will be a bonus”.
“Danny will be like me,” Moore said. “He’ll be constantly analysing everything that’s going on and studying it.
“We’ve got to be careful because, in our position, even goal difference could be the difference between staying up or going down.
“That’s why, as a manager, you are constantly thinking when the action is going on.
“It’s the side of this business that people don’t often appreciate or see.
“You’re always on the lookout for little things that you can
tweak; can I push someone a little further forward to take advantage of something their opposite number is doing or should we change formation slightly?
“And, when the other manager is doing the same, it’s got to be a really quick process. You’ve got to be able to think on your feet.”
“Even so, we’re not going to come to Bramall Lane and just sit back,” Moore added. “If you do that for 90 minutes against a team like Sheffield United, just soak up pressure, you’re going to get hurt because they’ve got players who are capable of doing that to you.
“So we’ll have a go but we’ll have a go in the right way.”
Moore, one of most gregarious characters in the business, cut his coaching teeth in Birkenhead before taking charge of Rotherham following a brief spell with Southport.
Having led United’s neighbours into the Championship, the 59-year-old joined Oldham Athletic before Rovers and then Rotherham once again came calling.
One of his first tasks after answering chairman Peter Johnson’s distress call was to relax the constraints Parry, a former shipbuilder and airframe fitter, had placed upon his ailing squad.
Moore’s review of Rovers’ gruelling regime has paid instant dividends with Rovers’ last three outings producing two wins and a draw and, crucially, the return of the dogged, ruthless streak which enabled them to become the
first team to take points off United in the competition this term when Wilson’s men were held 1-1 at Prenton Park in August.
“We’ve taken the lads swimming this week,” Moore said. “They’ve not been splashing about in the pool with their rubber rings and armbands.
“They’ve been working without even realising it but you’ve got to change things a bit and give them a day off with their family because this division is gruelling. It’s one real long grind and, while it’s impossible to stay completely fresh because of the schedule, you still have to try and do it if you can.”
Teams and ref
UNITED (possible): Simonsen, Lowton, Maguire, Hill, Williams, Doyle, Quinn, Hoskins, Williamson, Evans, Cresswell (4-4-2).
ROVERS (possible): fon Williams, Goodison, Taylor, Holmes, Buchanan, Welsh, Robinson, Wallace, Showunmi, Akins, Brunt (4-4-2).
Mark Heywood: Based in Cheshire, Heywood averages 2.67 cautions per game this season and has sent off only one player - Scott Flinders of Hartlepool. His average drops to 1.44 yellow cards per game in League One competition.
One to watch
Andy Robinson has scored in his last two games and the midfielder’s experience and abrasive approach means he will once again be a key weapon in Tranmere Rovers’ armoury. Started his career with Cammell Laird before spells with Swansea City and Leeds United.