The Derby County manager Paul Jewell yesterday described Tony Pulis as loud and argumentative – although he still has the utmost respect for the Stoke City coach.
Jewell and Pulis meet in tonight's Carling Cup quarter-final at the Britannia Stadium, with the Rams aiming for a place in the last four for the first time in 40 years. But after three successive away defeats in the Championship without scoring a goal, the odds are against Jewell's side from progressing any further.
It will be particularly tough against a Stoke team who have already beaten Aston Villa, Arsenal and Tottenham on home soil in this their first season back in the top flight. For that, Jewell credits Pulis, a man he encountered in more ways than one when they were on the same Pro-Licence course.
"I know Tony well," said Jewell. "He never stops talking, has the loudest voice in the world and is the most argumentative person I've ever come across, and I thought I was argumentative until I met him. But he is a character, full of enthusiasm and he's done a terrific job at Stoke after serving his apprenticeship at places like Gillingham and Bournemouth.
"As he is now in his second spell at Stoke, he has put to bed the theory you should never go back. I think many people have underestimated the job he has done at Stoke, but I haven't, and I don't think other people in the game have either."
Ahead of the game Jewell has warned his players not to fall into the trap that has snared some big names so far this season. Although the long-throw specialist Rory Delap has attracted headlines, Jewell believes they have another "secret weapon".
"They can play," insisted Jewell. "There's a misconception in football that Stoke are only physical, and when you get tagged with something in the media it stays with you. Tony will be saying to his players that people think they are a bunch of hammer-throwers, when they know they're not. But then it will suit him for people to say how horrible his side are to play against.
"A lot of people are frightened and beaten before they get there, with a lot of his players underestimated as individuals. They are far from one-dimensional. So you underestimate Stoke as a footballing team at your peril. They have far more about them than people give them credit for.
He added that his players would not be overawed by playing Premier League opposition. "Last year we were in the Premier League and they were in the Championship, so it's not as if there's a chasm of difference between the two," he said. Jewell remains without three key central defenders in Dean Leacock (groin), Martin Albrechtsen (calf) and Claude Davis (hamstring). Two on-loan players, Charlton striker Luke Varney and Arsenal midfielder Nacer Barazite, are Cup-tied and unavailable. But a third in the West Ham defender James Tompkins, who joined last week, is in the squad.
Pulis is expected to all but abandon his squad rotation policy for the match as a Wembley date comes closer. He made wholesale changes for the two previous rounds against Reading and Rotherham, but the reality of being just three games from Wembley is persuading Pulis to use his top players.
Stoke will be without the striker Dave Kitson, who is still recovering from a knee injury, while the midfielder Michael Tonge is Cup-tied.