Chief Sports Writer Hyder Jawad on two friends whose careers collide again on Saturday.
Tony Mowbray and George Burley go back a long way; to the days when Ipswich Town were good; to the days when the Edinburgh football scene was more intriguing than that of Glasgow; to the days when managers shook hands before the match as well as afterwards.
They meet again on Saturday, at The Hawthorns, when Mowbray leads out his splendid West Bromwich Albion team to face Burley's talented collection of Southampton players.
They are friends and the mutual respect is such that the match can easily be seen as an exercise in fostering peace and friendship. "As a manager, I have still never defeated George," Mowbray says, twisting his face into a half-smile, as if there is some special significance attached to the statistic.
As distinguished defenders (Burley with Ipswich, Mowbray with Middlesbrough), they had played against each other in the early 1980s but it was as colleagues, with Ipswich from 1995, that a rapport developed.
Just as Mowbray revealed all the attributes that once impressed Bruce Rioch, the Middlesbrough manager, so Mowbray worked in a unique way that stirred Burley.
When Mowbray comes to write his autobiography, there is sure to be a chapter devoted to George Burley, such is the importance of their relationship.
When Mowbray was coming towards the end of his playing career, it was Burnley who turned him into a coach. Mowbray has never forgotten the gesture and now, as the Albion manager, is reaping the harvest of that hard work at Portman Road.
"George Burley signed me from Celtic for Ipswich Town and I spent nine years there," Mowbray says. "So, yes, I know him well and have the utmost respect for him.
"We had plenty of success at Ipswich, really, with qualifying for Europe and finishing fifth in the Premier League, and earlier winning the play-offs. I was also a coach under George. It will be good to see him at the weekend. I always look forward to seeing George."
It will not feel strange to Mowbray that they will be rivals — equals, even — on Saturday, partly because of his inherent professionalism but also because he has been there before.
Rewind to August 7, 2005, and the Edinburgh derby at Tynecastle between Heart of Midlothian and Hibernian. Burnley was the manager of Hearts, Mowbray of Hibs, but the difference between the teams was stark.
Burley was able to quickly rebuild Hearts and turn them into credible rivals to Celtic and Rangers. Mowbray was reviving Hibs on less money, making use of younger players. In their own way, both men were successful.
"It was early in the season and George's Hearts team beat us [4-0] at Tynecastle," Mowbray says. "They were on this winning streak at the time and playing well."
It stayed like that until the middle of October when Burley, despite producing the finest Hearts team for a decade, fell out with his capricious employers and vacated his position, on the 21st of the month, because of "irreconcilable differences". Even Mowbray was surprised.
"George left Tynecastle just before the two teams were due to meet again, at Easter Road, so he wasn't manager when we beat Hearts 2-0 to spoil their winning streak.
"So, as I said, I still haven't beaten George as a manager, although I'd like to think that we still would have won had he stayed on as manager."
It would be wrong to suggest that Burnley is Mowbray's mentor but it is easy to see the evidence that they have worked together and share the same philosophy on the game.
Albion and Southampton play the same expansive game, with the emphasis on attacking and individual expression.
The two men are equally mild-mannered and respectful of other people. Best of all, they both lack the arrogance that can mark some managers out as odious and self-absorbed. They are the opposite of, say, David O'Leary.
"I have got every respect for George because the teams he manages always play good football," Mowbray says. "They are always successful. I am sure it will be an entertaining affair, because of the way both teams play the game."
There is clearly something in the Ipswich water. No matter what the era, they play sweet football and produce good managers. It started with Alf Ramsay in the early 1960s, then came Bobby Robson in the 1970s and Burley in the 1990s. Briefly, after Burley went to manage Derby County, Mowbray assumed the position of caretaker manager with Ipswich.
"Ipswich has always produced good managers," Mowbray says. "The club expects its teams to play well. It was developed by Sir Bobby Robson but it might even go back to when Sir Alf Ramsey won the First Division Championship for Ipswich in 1962.
"Ipswich still play nice football now, under Jim Magilton, and it is something that has always happened.
"George Burley picked up the the mantle when he went there. I think it is the right way to play.
"There are other ways to play and some teams have bludgeoned their way into the Premiership, but I think success over a long period comes with playing a certain way, with passing the ball and allowing players to express themselves."
Mowbray had the chance to return to Ipswich, as manager, last October but opted instead to take over at The Hawthorns. In his own words, he felt that there were too many familiar faces at Portman Road.
It is possible, however, that he would have been on a hiding to nothing had he taken over as manager of Ipswich. He is popular there and the exaggerated expectations, had he taken over, would have been difficult to manage.
Mowbray has instead taken his brand of pleasing football to The Hawthorns, just as Burley has taken a similar style to Southampton, and it is hard to see anything other than a match of beauty on Saturday.
The two managers would not want it any other way.