He said it often enough in his time as manager of Wolverhampton Wanderers, regardless of whether he was up against big clubs, local clubs or his small army of former clubs.

But Dave Jones claims it really will be "just another game" when he returns to Molineux for the first time with Cardiff City tomorrow afternoon.

Even more predictably, it's the same mantra spouted for this battle of two play-off contenders by his opposite number, now twice his managerial successor, Glenn Hoddle.

"It is just another game for us, too," echoes the Wolves boss. "It's only Cardiff being where they are, just behind, that makes it a key match for us.

"We'll put daylight between ourselves and Cardiff if we win and put pressure on the teams above us.

"But Dave and I will still have a beer and a chat, like we did after the game down at Cardiff. The three points up for grabs are what we're focusing on, not Dave coming back."

For the vast majority of the audience at Molineux tomorrow, though, Jones' return to the Black Country overshadows the occasion.

The former Wolves boss does grudgingly confess that being back in familiar haunts - even having to watch from the visitors' dug-out - will mean something.

"Going back to any club you've been at, whether as player or manager, is always nice," he said. "But within the scheme of things of what we're trying to achieve, it's just another game to me.

"The media are making it out to be a big game because of me going back and everything else and one and two of our play-ers, given that we've got three ex-Baggies [Darren Purse, Riccardo Scimeca and the on-loan Jason Koumas], but it wouldn't matter if we were going to Molineux or anywhere; what's at stake would still make it a big game.

"I still speak to a few people up there and hope I get a good reception, but if I don't, it's not going to influence me in any way whatsoever."

In any case, it's hard for Jones to feel too emotional, given the changes wrought by Hoddle since his dawn departure that fateful Monday morning in November 2004.

Of the 16 on duty for Tuesday night's desperate 0-0 draw with Stoke City, half were Hoddle's own signings. Of the likely team tomorrow, assuming Mark Kennedy's foot injury keeps him out, there are only four survivors - Paul Ince, Lee Naylor, Kenny Miller and Joleon Lescott - from the team which won promotion under Jones at Cardiff just three years ago.

"We should have done it the year before," recalls Jones, "The following year, we had to make sure we got there and we did and it was a very special occasion.

"Because we were a new club going in to the Premiership, we probably didn't get the players we wanted and it became a hard fight, as Sunderland and Norwich found out last year. We then didn't start off well enough and played catch-up."