Mowbray's reunion with his old mentor

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The Independent Football

Tynecastle will not be on any artistic itinerary. Yet it will be filled today with 17,000 people, attracted to this football threatre to witness a fascinating drama about a principal character and understudy who have been drawn into each other's orbit once more.

Heart of Midlothian versus Hibernian does not need any extra selling point. The rivalry between the two clubs who inhabit Scotland's capital city is intense enough to guarantee a full house but the reunion of George Burley and Tony Mowbray offers an intriguing sub-plot. Mowbray might not have made the leap into management had it not been for Burley. Now the mentor could be outdone. Burley's departure from Derby County after the Coca- Cola Championship play-offs was a surprise but so too - after a playing and managerial career spent mostly in England - was his arrival at Hearts.

It added a nice twist to the script of the Edinburgh derby. Mowbray took over at Hibernian a year ago with no experience other than the coaching role at Ipswich that Burley had given him. In that short space of time, the "rookie" moulded Hibernian into a free-flowing side who ousted Hearts from the cherished third place behind Rangers and Celtic that every Scottish Premier League side covet.

"We are just two football people getting on with our jobs," said Mowbray on Friday when asked about confronting the man who spent £300,000 10 years ago to bring the former defender to Portman Road from Celtic.

"George has been a manager for many years, he is very experienced. The great thing about him is that he has a massive enthusiasm for the game that still burns strong. I am a manager in his second season so there is a big, big difference between us. But, ultimately, it is about the players."

Word of Mowbray's fine work at Easter Road on a strict budget filtered all the way to Pride Park last season. That pride in his protégé will be banished today. "You don't notice who is in the other dugout," said Burley. "You only think about your own team. Tony has done magnificently in his first season. To finish third with such a young side like Hibernian was a great achievement. Mark Venus [the assistant], who was also with me at Ipswich, was a great help to Tony and I am pleased for both of them."

Burley is coy when asked whether Mowbray borrowed the principles of stylish football that Hibernian used so well last term from himself. "Tony has learned under a lot of great managers," he laughed. "You would have to ask Tony about that. He created a very good side that passed the ball well and that is what we did at Ipswich - where the philosophy had been laid down by Sir Bobby Robson, my old boss - and I also ensured my team at Derby played that way too. That's been the style I have kept throughout my 16 years."

"I remember Tony at Middlesbrough when I was at Sunderland and he was a bright young captain in Bruce Rioch's side," recalls Burley. "When he was at Parkhead, I knew he was out of the first-team, so I persuaded him to come to Ipswich in 1995.

"Tony was always a leader on the pitch but he was a deep thinker off it. I knew when he moved into coaching that he would do well. I cannot remember ever falling out with him - though I am sure I had words with Mark Venus. We can be rivals but still friends."

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