Alan Pardew was 26 when he first started teaching children how to play football. It was a small gem he dropped in when the conversation turned to the job Steve Clarke is doing at West Bromwich Albion after years – to use an analogy that the Newcastle manager himself turned to – of life in the wings.
"It's like anything, you don't get the starring role in a production unless you've been in the back for a little while, be it the chorus line or whatever," said Pardew.
"That's how I got into the game. I was reserve-team manager at Reading for two or three years. Steve had a longer period when he was first-team assistant. He did a brilliant job at all the places he was at. So when the time came and there was an opportunity to become a manager, he had all the experience. That Steve was going to be a success was no mystery to anyone in the management trade. It didn't surprise anyone.
"My advice to any young coach or manager would be to work in the background first. You've got to understand how to teach, how you convey your message. How do you learn this? You coach kids in the evening. I was coaching schoolboys when I was 26.
"You've got to understand how to come into this world. You don't stop playing one minute and then think, 'I'll go and do a bit of that management stuff. That seems a good idea'. It's not as simple as that. Until you have done other jobs, working close to a manager, you won't understand all the roles he has to take.
"I have no problems as such with big names getting a job. I worried for Gareth Southgate, who went straight in at Middlesbrough and ended up doing a super job. I think he did take a couple of courses, but he had gone down the line of educating himself."
Clarke's progression into management has been seamless, this season at least. He did fill in for one game as the manager of Newcastle, after Ruud Gullit had resigned. It did not end well – Newcastle lost 5-1 at Manchester United.
"I didn't know he was in charge for one game," added Pardew. "I'm sure Newcastle will hold a special place for him."
It has for West Brom in recent seasons, where they have scored six goals in their last two visits. Pardew now hopes the springboard of a Europa League campaign that is gathering momentum will transfer across into his side's league form.
Newcastle United (4-4-2): Krul; Simpson, Coloccini, Williamson, Santon; Ben Arfa, Anita, Cabaye, Gutierrez; Ba, Shola Ameobi.
West Bromwich Albion (4-4-1-1): Foster; Tamas, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell; Dorrans, Yacob, Mulumbu, Odemwingie; Morrison; Long.
Newcastle v West Bromwich Albion, kick-off 3pm