Hibs' Nick Montgomery gets ready to meet Neil Warnock in Aberdeen and recalls crazy bowling story

The Dons boss will come up against his old captain from their Sheffield United days

There are many subplots to this weekend’s meeting between Aberdeen and Hibs at Pittodrie.

Two under-achieving teams, on exactly the same number of points and goal difference, who are looking to claw their way back into the top six and reignite hopes of finishing in the European places. And then there is the meeting of master and apprentice, as 75-year-old Dons boss Neil Warnock takes on his former Sheffield United captain Nick Montgomery, 33 years his junior and now in charge of Hibs.

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Warnock gave Montgomery his first senior appearance at the Blades back in 2000. Montgomery could be forgiven for not ever considering he would come up against his old gaffer during his own management career given the number of times Warnock has retired but back in the game with Aberdeen, no quarter will be given when ninth hosts eighth in the north-east.

Nick Montgomery, far right, was given his senior football debut at Sheffield United by Neil Warnock.Nick Montgomery, far right, was given his senior football debut at Sheffield United by Neil Warnock.
Nick Montgomery, far right, was given his senior football debut at Sheffield United by Neil Warnock.

“It will be a little strange,” admitted Montgomery. “Neil gave me my debut as a 17-year-old at Sheffield United. You can do the maths but it’s been a long time and I’m sure it will be an experience being on the sidelines with him, but in the opposing dugout. It will probably be the first time I have seen him face to face in over ten years.”

Most people in football have a favourite Neil Warnock story. Montgomery was asked for his and he picked out a belter from the back catalogue.

“Most of them have been documented but the bowling one is the one that stands out,” regaled Montgomery. “I remember that first hand. It was a day where there was heavy snow or a waterlogged pitch, so we cancelled training and decided to go bowling instead. No-one had any idea the gaffer had been a professional bowler in a past life. Everyone chucked £20 and he was more than happy to clean up at the end.

“It was funny being there. That’s the sort of stuff Neil did. There are so many stories like that. It just shows you underestimate him at anything at your peril. He has definitely mellowed compared to how he used to be. He’s retired six times and I’ve sent him six ‘enjoy your retirement’ messages – then six more ‘welcome back’ messages. I’ll probably avoid that in the future.”

Montgomery is a far more placid character than Warnock on the touchline but did take traits from his ex-boss. “People go on about his man management and he’s the sort of manager that, when you play for him, if he likes you you get on with him and if he doesn’t you don’t last long at the club,” added Montgomery. “That’s a pattern throughout his career. But he was always honest and I have definitely taken parts of working with him into my own career. He has definitely changed, he’s not as colourful with referees as he used to be and maybe he doesn’t shout as much anymore. But he’s done really well and had a fantastic career as a manager.”

“He’s passionate, he loves winning and having a team that will fight for him. I’m not sure what will happen on Saturday but I’m passionate, he’s passionate and it’s two teams wanting to win a game of football. No matter what we will definitely be shaking hands before and after the game.”