Rob Edwards was in my living room and told me he’d be next Pep Guardiola or Jose Mourinho
When Luton and Coventry face off on Saturday for a spot in the Premier League they will be playing for the richest prize in football.
The Championship play-off final is often noted as one of the most dramatic days in the football calendar and can earn the clubs as much as £290million if they manage to retain top-flight status.
The coaches in each dugout have had wildly different careers – one has become a beacon of hope in a time of despair and the other has had aspirations to emulate Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola ever since his own playing career.
Whatever happens on Saturday, Coventry or Luton in the Premier League is remarkable given they were both were in League Two as recently as 2018.
Mark Robins has led Coventry to the top six in the Championship in brilliant fashion, especially considering their financial status over the past few years.
The 53-year-old’s first days in football were spent at Manchester United, where he came up through the academy and made 48 appearances before further spells at Norwich, Leicester, Rotherham and even a short spell on loan at Manchester City.
Since turning to management, Robins has coached Barnsley, Huddersfield and Scunthorpe before joining Coventry in 2017 with the club in serious danger of going bust
Against all the odds, he led them to a 2-1 win over Oxford to land the EFL Trophy while they were in League Two that year before getting promoted the following season.
After winning the League One title in 2020, their meteoric rise showed no signs of slowing down and they have been making progress every year, now with the Premier League in sight.
Rob Edwards, meanwhile, was sacked by Watford earlier this season only to join Luton, their biggest rivals and lead them to Wembley.
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He was handpicked by Watford chiefs because of his attractive brand of football at Forest Green that led to a host of suitors only for the Hornets to win the race.
But just three months into the season, Watford did what they do best and sacked someone with the 40-year-old and his dream of emulating Mourinho and Guardiola appearing to hit an early bump.
Robins actually coached Edwards when he was a player at Barnsley in 2011, while Luke Steele was also at the club as first-choice goalkeeper.
Speaking to talkSPORT, Steele said he adored working under him in what proved to be the best stint in his career.
Like Robins, some of his first steps in football came at United, where he was a young goalkeeper trying to impress in the reserves.
When that did not work out, Steele had something of a journeyman career playing at Coventry on loan, West Brom, Millwall, Nottingham Forest, Bristol City and even Panathinaikos in Greece.
He told Hawksbee & Jacobs on talkSPORT: “He has done a fantastic job.
“I was on loan at Coventry in 2004 and played in the last season at Highfield Road.
“Since then, the club has been on a downward spiral and we all know what has gone on.
“But Mark Robins is probably in my top two managers, and I’ve had a lot!
“I always liked him, I remember spitting my dummy out a little bit when he left Barnsley years ago, thinking this was the one guy to change it all and the rest of it.
“I knew he was a really top manager and I love the fact he has been at one club for a long time.
“I mean, I am still a bit of a romantic when it comes to that side of things.
“I think it is brilliant when a manager sticks with a club and takes them all the way.”
Steele was also close pals with Edwards at Oakwell and admitted the former centre-back told him how he would emulate some of the Premier League’s best managers.
He added: “On the flipside Rob Edwards sat in my living room at the age of 32… we played together under Mark Robins at Barnsley.
“And I remember him saying ‘I am going to retire at the end of the season and become a top manager like Pep or Jose’.
“I texted him this week and said ‘look, you sat in my living room in Leeds in 2013 and said I’m going to quit and become a Premier League manager’ and now he’s on the verge. So fair play to him as well.
“So I can’t really lose, watching two teams that I have a little bit of history with both managers so I can’t really lose on the day so it will be nice to watch.”
Coventry vs Luton in the Championship play-off final is live on talkSPORT on 27 May at 16:45