STEVE McClaren and Harry Redknapp will again go head-to-head for a place in the Premier League later this month.
McClaren’s Derby County will face Redknapp’s Queens Park Rangers in the Championship play-off final at Wembley on May 24.
It will be the third time the managers have pitted their wits against each other this season - having started the campaign in the same dugout.
McClaren was a part of Redknapp’s coaching staff at QPR before he left to become the Rams’ head coach at the beginning of October.
Derby defeated Brighton 6-2 on aggregate to reach the play-off final while QPR saw off Wigan Athletic last night, winning 2-1 in extra time and by the same score on aggregate.
James Perch gave Wigan a ninth-minute lead but QPR levelled in the 73rd minute when Charlie Austin converted a penalty after Gary Caldwell fouled Junior Hoilett.
And Austin got the extra time winner in the 96th minute.
The two managers have great respect for each other.
“We had been rivals throughout the years but we developed a good relationship at QPR and I found out exactly why Harry is so popular and such a good manager,” said McClaren.
“People ask me how Harry has lasted so long in the game at the top, like Sir Alex Ferguson. How do they do that? They adapt, and that is what Harry has done.”
Redknapp said he was delighted he took on McClaren as a coach.
“I think coming here (to QPR) was good for him,” said Redknapp.
“He was always going to go back into management but I just felt that he needed that break without the pressure of managing, to just get on with some coaching and that’s what he did here.”
Derby lost 2-1 at QPR in November but beat the London club 1-0 at the iPro Stadium in February, courtesy of a John Eustace header.
McClaren felt the victory was a key moment in Derby’s season because they had not beaten a top six side at that time.
“It was a hurdle we had to get over,” he said.
Redknapp felt his side showed the Rams too much respect on the night.
“We stood off them far too much and let them play too much,” he said.
“We were better in the second half and were on top for the 45 minutes. It was pretty much all one-way traffic but we didn’t create enough chances with the possession we had.”
Wigan boss Uwe Rosler believes Derby are the epitome of a ’modern-day football team’.
He said: “They have everything you need in modern-day football – the engine-room is massively strong, they have a team full of technique and they have a goal-getter up front.”