WHEN Adam Murray and Danny Cowley exchange a friendly greeting ahead of tomorrow’s Yorkshire derby at the John Smith’s Stadium, their minds might just briefly rewind almost five years to November 2014.
Tomorrow, a crowd in excess of 20,000 will greet Huddersfield Town and Barnsley’s players – a far cry from an attendance of just 1,500 when these rival managers last locked horns in an FA Cup first-round replay at Concord Rangers’ Thames Road home.
It had a potential for a sobering ‘welcome to management’ episode for Reds caretaker manager Murray, then in interim charge of Mansfield Town at the age of 33 against the Essex-based hosts – led by current Terriers chief Cowley.
The Stags prevailed 1-0 against Conference South opponents Concord, with the pair having kept in touch ever since.
Delighted at Cowley’s progress to the second-tier of management he may be, but Murray will be doing his level best to check that rise for 90 minutes tomorrow in a local meeting of consequence towards the foot of the Championship.
Murray said: “It has been a fantastic journey and great to watch.
“I came across Danny in my second game in charge at Mansfield when we played them in the FA Cup and even then, he asked for all my reports we did on them to see what we were looking at in terms of the opposition.
“We have kept in touch ever since.
“It is nice to see young coaches doing well. I think you get caught up in this game and as a coach, you are always looking at the top guys – at the Klopps and Guardiolas, who are fantastic coaches.
“When you see someone who has come through the lower leagues and really earned their stripes, it is nice to see.
“As an individual, whether you are a player or coach, you are self-driven anyway and you have to be or you don’t survive.
“I don’t think any young coach or manager needs anything to push their own target. Chris Wilder is the prime example and where we all want to get to.”
After an uplifting week which has given basement club Barnsley a transfusion of hope after impressive performances against West Brom and Swansea which constituted a pleasant surprise, the Reds must deal with a touch of expectation ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Huddersfield.
It is something that Murray is acutely aware of ahead of a game which always assumed the status of being a pivotal one in the week for a Barnsley side who will move over their opponents if they win.
Murray, who insists he is not focusing on his own position and potential for an extended spell in charge of the Reds after an accomplished start to his interim tenure. continued: “That is football. Before these last two games, no-one expected us to get anything.
“But because the boys have put two half-decent performances in, now people expect us to go there and challenge Huddersfield.
“But we cannot allow the focus to be about one game, it is the broader picture.
“I think there is a bigger group of teams who we feel will be in the mix this season in terms of fighting to stay in it.
“I honestly think we have enough to stay in this league, I really do.
“The players have got enough ability and mental strength to go through the challenge.
“The big thing is staying focused. At the minute, we have a mini-league that we are focusing on and want to get to the top of that.”