Friends reunited in battle

PUBLISHED: 12:50 10 November 2006 | UPDATED: 09:48 14 September 2010

DAVID CUFFLEY

They were Celtic team-mates in days of triumph and sadness, they later became East Anglian derby opponents and they started their current jobs on the same day.

They were Celtic team-mates in days of triumph and sadness, they later became East Anglian derby opponents and they started their current jobs on the same day. Now Peter Grant and Tony Mowbray are preparing to pit their managerial wits against each other.

When Norwich City face West Bromwich Albion in the Coca-Cola Championship at The Hawthorns tomorrow (3pm) it will be more than just a typical old boys' reunion on the touchline.

Mowbray and the Canaries' boss played for four years in the same Celtic side - and Albion's new manager was appointed last month on the same day Grant was confirmed as Nigel Worthington's successor at Carrow Road.

Their football connections go back 15 years to the day Mowbray joined Celtic from Middlesbrough. But the Saltburn-born defender's time in Scotland was indelibly marked by tragedy when his 26-year-old wife died from cancer in 1995.

Grant said of Mowbray: “Me and Tony are good friends. It was ironic that we both got our new jobs on the same day.

“He's a top man. He played centre-back behind us at Celtic when I was in central midfield.

“He's a top person. He went through a lot of difficult times at Celtic, when he lost his first wife, Bernadette, who I knew very well.

“I think it showed the strength of character he had to try and balance that. None of us can really understand it until it happens to us and hopefully it never does. He lost a young wife and it happened when he was a young man, so he had a lot to cope with.”

Mowbray returned to England with Ipswich and when Grant headed south with the Canaries, they found themselves on opposite sides in the East Anglian derby.

“I came up against him many times at Ipswich, when I was at West Ham, and then he went to Hibs as manager and did exceptionally well with a young group of players, did fantastically well, went to places like Ibrox and Celtic Park and got Hibs victories for the first time in many, many years. So he's left a good legacy up there.”

Mowbray, now married for a second time to a Suffolk girl, Amber, has fulfilled his wish to return to England and City's new boss expects him to be a big success.

“He's always wanted to come back to England, he's got the opportunity to come to a big club at West Brom and I'm sure he'll do well,” said Grant.

“West Brom ought to be odds-on favourites to win the Championship with the strength of their squad but even hot favourites get beaten.

“Tony is very fortunate to have a great group of players and he will get them organised and leave no stone unturned to try to get them to the Premier League - and that's exactly what I want to do here.”

It was former City boss Bruce Rioch, who managed Mowbray at Middlesbough and Grant at Norwich, who paid Mowbray the greatest tribute of all.

Said Rioch: “If you were on a rocket ship flying to the moon, the man you would want sitting next to you would be Tony Mowbray. He is a magnificent man.”

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