By Paul Jones
Mick McCarthy will revert back to being the senior pro in the dug-out tonight when Wayne Rooney brings his Derby County side to the Welsh capital.
Having had to concede 500 games to his old pal Neil Warnock at Middlesbrough last weekend, the 62-year-old Cardiff City manager McCarthy will be the one holding all the aces in the experience department against the new kid on the block.
Rooney has 21 games under his belt compared to McCarthy’s 994.
While McCarthy will be looking to extend his unbeaten run since taking over at Cardiff to 10 games – which would return the Bluebirds to the play-off places – Derby are still fighting their way up the table after a horrendous start that saw Phillipe Cocu lose his job as manger and Rooney take over.
But there isn’t much to choose between the two managers over the past nine matches.
Cardiff have picked up 21 out of a possible 27 points in that time, while The Rams have secured 19.
“We’ve showed that we’ve got a good team spirit and a good work ethic, and then of course we went on a six-game winning streak, which was wonderful,” said McCarthy.
“We consolidated that with a really hard-earned point at Middlesbrough. It was perhaps one of the worst games I’ve ever seen, but having played away on the Wednesday night I’d have taken it.
“We came away with a point, and that’s what’s going to be important at the end of it.”
Rooney has suggested that his own long term future at Derby is dependent on how the club recruits over the next 18 months.
The former England striker has told TalkSport, “I have to focus on my job at Derby. I feel I’ve got a big job here, a big responsibility to the football club.
“Whatever happens in the future, you don’t know of course, if you’re asking any manager ‘do you have any ambitions to work at the top, like the Champions League or Premier League?’
“The important thing is how we recruit in the next 12-18 months. I really believe that we are onto something special here at Derby.”
Former Cardiff players David Marshall and Tom Lawrence are hoping to be fit to play at their old stamping ground.
Welsh striker Lawrence has been missing for 14 games with an ankle injury, but is now back in full training, while Scottish international goalkeeper Marshall was replaced during last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Nottingham Forest.
Derby midfielder Jason Knight has told his team to expect physical battle, with the Republic of Ireland international also highlighting the progress the Bluebirds have made under McCarthy.
“Cardiff are in really good form and a new manager has come in for them and done really well,” he said.
“It is going to be a tough, physical game like always at Cardiff, but we know if we perform like we can do then we have got a good chance in the game.”
“We are really hard to beat at the moment and hopefully we can continue to do that, get better results and move forward in the table.”