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Old style, new philosophies

They're two of the brightest managerial talents in English football. Both have had to work their way up the managerial ladder, both adopt the old-school values of honesty, commitment and mental strength, and both have the uncanny eye for a bargain.

Yet there is one other common factor ahead of Sunday's Carling Cup final. Neither Bolton boss Sam Allardyce nor Middlesbrough manager Steve McClaren have won a major domestic trophy, either as player or manager in the English game.

And as both bid to become the first English boss to win a domestic honour since Brian Little with Aston Villa in 1996, so Cardiff awaits a meeting of minds - a worthy venue for the showpiece with much talent on display.

Personally, I've not heard any suggestions that these two sides will make it an unfashionable final, but those cynics who do comply to that view should be ignored.

These two cosmopolitan collections deserve their day out and it could yet turn out to be a classic, especially with the likes of Jay Jay Okocha, Gaizka Mendieta, Youri Djorkaeff, Boudewijn Zenden, Ivan Campo and Juninho among the stars on show.

And while some may say Middlesbrough have the added incentive of attempting to claim their first major trophy, they should continue to progress even if they are defeated - bankrolled by chairman's Steve Gibson's millions.

For Bolton though, heavily in debt despite the £14 million investment of Isle of Man based businessman Eddie Davies, the importance of victory on Sunday is obvious.

Allardyce knows not only would success clinch a place in the Uefa Cup next season and help attract new players to the club, it would also go a long way to keeping the ones already there.

Of course, there's also a potential downside.

Because if Allardyce does guide Wanderers to success, he could find himself on the wanted list of some of the game's biggest clubs.

Certainly, Allardyce's intention to leave a legacy at Bolton that will stand as a testament to his tenure as manager, is beginning to show.

He's already won a host of admirers for the work he has done during nearly four and a half years at the club - despite being under well-documented financial constraints.

His ability to attract players on loan and Bosman deals, many household names - as well as reviving the careers of players who failed to make the grade at other clubs - has been simply top class management.

Add his grooming of home-grown talent such as Nicky Hunt and Kevin Nolan - a 21 year-old who is one of the brightest midfield prospects in the Premiership - and his motivational techniques and ability to get the best out of players - it's easy to see why Allardyce is one of the most innovative managers in football.

Allardyce: Referee hater par excellence.
Allardyce: Referee hater par excellence.

And, while Bolton will never be able to compete financially with many fellow top flight rivals, Middlesbrough included, this respected manager continues to strive to establish the club as one which can compete for domestic honours.

Looks can also be deceptive.

Allardyce may display many of the old-fashioned qualities which personify this former rugged centre-half's playing career, but he is also receptive to new ideas and displays an open-minded, forward-thinking approach.

Think back a fortnight ago to the way in which he exploited the new offside regulation to his side's advantage at Leicester, despite admitting FIFA had made a mistake in introducing it.

With a backroom staff full of scientific expertise, Allardyce is one of the most 'switched-on' managers in football. So is McClaren.

A fact shown when the former Manchester United assistant broke new ground to become the first top-flight boss to employ a sports psychologist - a route Allardyce has since followed.

Like Allardyce, McClaren is renowned for his tactical nous and, although he started his coaching career at Oxford after a premature end to his playing career, before moving onto Derby County, it was at Old Trafford when the country started to sit up and take notice of his ability.

In fact, the story goes, that were it not for the former United chairman, Martin Edwards, McClaren could have landed the biggest job in football.

In the summer of 2001, Sir Alex Ferguson had given his then right-hand man a glowing recommendation - reportedly suggesting McClaren should take his place in the hot-seat when he retired.

Edwards was apparently not receptive to the request and Ferguson encouraged his number two to make the grade in management.

Ferguson was proved right, Edwards wrong and, ironically, it was McClaren's Middlesbrough who all but ended United's title bid the following season, as well as knocking the champions out of the FA Cup.

McClaren's coaching talents were also noticed by the national side and, while at United, he assisted both stand-in England boss Peter Taylor and Sven Goran Eriksson on the England's coaching staff before arriving at the Riverside and giving up his role to concentrate on club matters.

Unlike the unfortunate Brian Kidd, his predecessor at Old Trafford, whose leap from coaching to management failed miserably, McClaren adapted well after a disappointing start in which Boro lost their first four matches under his control.

Well regarded within the game, respected by his players, McClaren has turned Boro from a bottom six side into a team with a top six potential.

Steve McClaren: New contract
Steve McClaren: New contract

Although it's fair to say they are still underachieving in the league, the talent is there and Boro are favourites to win their first major honour.

The club has only the FA Amateur Cup and the now defunct Anglo-Scottish Cup to its name and will hope to put that right at the Millennium Stadium. McClaren has already been outvoted by his players over one cup final tradition.

While happy enough with the choice of grey suits and pale blue shirts, he jokingly admitted he isn't too sure about the accompanying pink ties!

One thing's for sure though, when Sunday comes around, both managers will be firmly in charge. Allardyce has hinted he's no selection surprises up his sleeve and does not expect any shocks on McClaren's team sheet either.

And if that is the case, then expect a treat from both sides with players who have starred on the world stage and at the highest level of European football.

Both managers deserve their day in the spotlight.

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  • First taste of glory?| The bosses: Old style, new philosophies
    Sam gets his final at last | McClaren: 'We can make history'

    Boro squad profiled | R2 v Brighton (W 1-0) | R3 at Wigan (W 2-1)
    R4 v Everton (0-0; 5-4 on pens) | QFs at Tottenham (1-1; 5-4 on pens)
    SF 1st leg at Arsenal (W 1-0) | 2nd leg (W 2-1)

    Bolton squad profiled | R2 v Walsall (W 3-1) | R3 v Gillingham (W 2-0)
    R4 at Liverpool (W 3-2) | QFs v Southampton (W 1-0)
    SF 1st leg v Aston Villa (W 5-2) | 2nd leg (L 0-2)