Steve Clarke has admitted that he would never have imagined that Roberto Di Matteo would become a manager.
The West Bromwich Albion boss sends his fifth-placed side into action against Chelsea for the first time in his managerial career when his former club arrive at The Hawthorns on Saturday.
The presence of one of his Albion predecessors in the opposition dug-out adds spice and intrigue to a clash that's already brimful of possibilities.
"I didn't see him [Di Matteo] as a future manager," Clarke said. "Some you think might be, although he had a really bad injury which ended his career and he was devastated to stop the game early.
"He was really down and took a couple of years out. I was coaching the youths and he turned up beside me and watched a few youth team games from the bench. That was an introduction.
"I knew then he was interested in being a coach and, no, I'm not surprised he has done well because he's a very deep thinker.
"A lot of players in their early and mid-20s are immersed in their playing career and you don't think about what you are going to do. I didn't think about it until I was the wrong side of 30. Robbie did a lot of things away from football but obviously missed it."
The two men have effectively swapped dug-outs, with the connections furthered by the fact that it was this game last March - won 1-0 by Albion - that cost Andre Villas Boas his job at Stamford Bridge.
And Clarke has expressed some surprise that Di Matteo left the Baggies when he did nearly two years ago.
"I was wrapped up in my own world when Robbie lost his job here," he said. "The fact he took them up to the Premier League...you would expect him to have hung around for a little bit longer but I don't know the ins and outs.
"It's worked out really well for him. He has gone on to manage them to something that a number of previous coaches couldn't do. It was probably beneficial that he had lost his job here."
Asked about the irony of Chelsea last achieving their holy grail by winning the Champions League last season at a time when they seemed to be in turmoil, Clarke said it was a long time coming.
"That's football. The process of building the club has been over a number of years and they knew how to get to a final and win it," he said. "I had a wry smile but I was delighted for a lot of people who won the trophy. I was very pleased for them.
"Robbie and I speak occasionally. You don't get that much time to phone all your mates but you bump into each other and send them texts. He's a good man and a decent person."