Football friendship remains strong between Knill and Wilder
The first commiserating message to pop up on Chris Wilder's mobile on Wednesday morning came from Alan Knill.
Oxford United had lost 4-0 at home to Rotherham United the previous evening, and Knill was at the Kassam Stadium to see it.
Torquay United's new manager was there, of course, to try to gain a few pointers that might help the Gulls to beat Wilder's men at Plainmoor this afternoon, but he knew how Wilder must have been feeling the morning after the night before.
The two men are friends, real friends, in a game in which friendships can be dangerous things.
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Just four days after the U's midweek defeat, Knill and Wilder now face each other in a match which could have huge ramifications for both of them.
Both are desperate for victory – Knill's Torquay to end a winless run which threatens their place in the Football League, Oxford to convince their demanding fans and Wilder's bosses that their play-off hopes aren't pie-in-the-sky.
The two men first met nearly 30 years ago, when they were young players at Southampton. Both were trainees at Saints. Both failed to make it as first-team players there. Both had to leave to pursue what became fine careers in the north of England.
Knill is the older of the two by three years, and they were never actually team-mates, even though they spent eight years at Rotherham United between them.
Midfielder Wilder left the Millers after 150 games in 1996, the year before centre-half Knill arrived.
It was not until both became managers that their friendship really developed.
They both lived in Sheffield – Knill still does – and they bumped into each other regularly as Wilder did a marvellous job against the financial odds at non-League Halifax Town for six years and Knill managed Rotherham and Bury, split by a year's coaching at Chesterfield.
It was in 2008 that Halifax's administration finally prompted Wilder's departure, and it was Knill who immediately offered him a job as his assistant at Bury.
He knew that, when you come out of a managerial job, you need a chance to pick yourself up and dust yourself down, without the daily decision-making pressure that goes with the number one job.
For Wilder, it turned out to a blessing. Six months later Oxford came calling for him, and Knill did not hesitate to aid his departure, even though it meant he was losing a valued lieutenant.
They often say you should beware friendships in football. For when the proverbial chips are down, even the warmest relationships go out of the window.
If either Knill or Wilder is down this afternoon, the other will have to try and put the boot in.
And then call to say "sorry" the next morning.