Leon Wobschall: Ex-factor time as Steve Evans, Neil Warnock, Steve Bruce and Lee Johnson come calling

Steve Evans: Back at Rotherham.
Steve Evans: Back at Rotherham.
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BOB PAISLEY famously used to call it ‘giving a bit of toffee’.

In footballing terms, it refers to the managerial art of flattering an opponent in the build-up to a key game, so as to induce a sense of complacency.

Hence the phrase ‘giving a bit of toffee’, as the sagacious Paisley chose to do to rivals on choice occasions when he dished out the confectionery during his feted time at Liverpool.

For two contemporary managers who do not miss a trick too often either in Neil Warnock and Steve Evans, providing a bit of Easter chocolate is also likely to be on the menu ahead of mouth-watering trips to two of their former clubs over the long Easter weekend.

Building up former sides Sheffield United and Rotherham United, in the hope of ultimately knocking them down will be the aim.

It may not have been a vintage season in Yorkshire footballing circles but there is devilment and much-needed intrigue over the holiday season to spice up the scene.

Neil Warnock: Back down the Lane.

Neil Warnock: Back down the Lane.

It starts with former Millers chief Evans back in town at the ASSEAL New York Stadium with Peterborough United on Good Friday. It is a fixture of significance in the top six of League One, more especially for Posh.

Only goal difference keeps sixth-placed Peterborough - who host Northampton in a derby on Bank Holiday Monday - in the top six.

The tantalising prospect remains that Posh and the Millers could collide in the play-offs later on this Spring. Now that would be quite something.

But that is for another day; first things first. The pain of his first return to Rotherham almost two years to the day when his Leeds United side dramatically went down to a last-gasp 2-1 reverse was felt acutely by Evans, a streetwise managerial fighter raised on a council estate near Glasgow.

The symbolism of taking a giant stride towards the Premier League with victory at Sheffield United is something that will not have been lost upon Neil Warnock

Leon Wobschall

He will not fancy a second taste and will be seeking any edge he can ahead of Friday’s game.

Across the Dearne Valley, another compelling episode of the ex-factor will be staged as former Barnsley head coach Lee Johnson seeks to bite the hand that used to feed him as his play-off chasing Bristol City side aim to deepen the Oakwell gloom for the relegation-haunted Reds.

Johnson’s previous visit to Barnsley was tetchy, with a stoppage-time home leveller compounding matters. With the stakes being high for both sides, another fractious, highly-charged occasion would not be the biggest surprise.

The suspense continues on Saturday when Aston Villa chief Steve Bruce makes his first return to a Hull City side who are not out of the relegation woods, with the fact that the televised game is staged 24 hours after the main Championship programme adding to the sense of theatre and pressure for both.

Steve Bruce: KCom return.

Steve Bruce: KCom return.

More especially for Villa, who may start the game with a 10-point gap to make up on second-placed Cardiff, whose Easter programme concludes at a place that their manager knows like the back of his hand, BramallLane.

The symbolism of taking a giant stride towards the Premier League with victory at Sheffield United is something that will not have been lost upon Neil Warnock, in what could be his final competitive appointment at the Lane.

Warnock’s affection for the Blades may be self-evident, but his desire for a record eighth promotion is an all-consumming mission to guild a life’s work in management. Business comes before pleasure, after all.

Sore last Easter after a narrow defeat across the city at Hillsborough, Warnock also plainly will not fancy more hurt back in his native Sheffield in front of ‘his people’ at such a critical part of the season once more.

So he might just cannily butter up the Blades in his pre-match preliminaries.

It will be plainly done with his head and not his heart as the wily old managerial fox tries to claim a psychological edge.

Lee Johnson: Facing Reds again.

Lee Johnson: Facing Reds again.

All is fair in love and war and Warnock has surely earned that right.