ALAN Irvine faced Newcastle United many times as player and coach.
But never as a manager. Until now.
And the Magpies’ former first-team coach and Academy director, now West Bromwich Albion manager, is looking forward to pitting his wits against Alan Pardew at The Hawthorns this afternoon (1.30pm kick-off).
Irvine spent more than five years at St James’s Park.
During his time working with the senior side, he experienced an FA Cup final and Champions League football. He went on to work at the Academy, where he helped bring through the likes of Steven Taylor, Michael Chopra and Shola Ameobi into the first-team squad.
It’s a time Irvine – who left in 2005 to join Everton as David Moyes’s assistant boss – fondly remembers.
“I had a great time at the club, and I think it’s well known how much I think about the club,” Irvine said. “Obviously, there are still a number of people there who I know from my time there.
“It’s a place where I spent five and a half really happy years in two different roles.
“One was first-team coach, which was really exciting, finishing second in the league, FA Cup final, Champions League. That was a period of real excitement.
“Then I had the pleasure of working with a lot of very talented young players, a number of whom have gone on to have great careers.
“They were great times. I loved living in the area. It’s a great city.”
Irvine returned to Goodison Park to work at the club’s Academy after managerial spells at Sheffield Wednesday and Preston North End, where he took a young Andy Carroll on loan from Newcastle.
And the 56-year-old is enjoying the challenge.
“I had a fantastic job at Everton – another club that’s special to me – but I missed first-team football, I have to say,” he said. “I’m really enjoying being involved at this level again.
“It’s exciting, and the job is great. The fans have been great, and it’s a great club to work for.”
Newcastle have won their last four games, and Irvine – whose side are above the 12th-placed Tynesiders in the Premier League on goal difference – is wary of Pardew’s reinvigorated side.
“They’ve got lots of pace in the team,” he said. “They’ve certainly got a very strong defensive unit.
“The midfield players do a good job in front of him, and they’ve got pace to break quickly.
“Those are things that give you a chance of having a very good team.”
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