Gary Johnson says he learned a huge amount during his time as manager and assistant manager at Cambridge United in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Working as number two to John Beck, Johnson was at the Abbey Stadium as the U’s very nearly climbed from the bottom division to the top in successive seasons.
They were promoted from Division Four in 1989/90, becoming the first club to go up via the play-offs at Wembley, and won the Division Three title a year later before losing out to Leicester City in the Division Two play-offs in 1991/92.
“It was a fantastic time and I learned a lot,” Johnson said. “We were definitely long ball and we were also about energy.
“We used to aim to have 200 balls into the opposition final third in each game and if we did that we felt we couldn’t lose the game.
“We had quality players like Lee Philpott, Dion Dublin, Steve Claridge, Gareth Ainsworth, Liam Daish, Alan Kimble and John Taylor.
“We could have played any kind of football with that group, but we went from the fourth division into the play-offs in what is now the Championship and also reached two FA Cup quarter-finals.
“Me and John decided we wouldn’t cut our hair during the FA Cup runs, so we looked ridiculous!
“We eventually lost to Arsenal and Crystal Palace in the two quarter-finals and they were great times.”
Johnson took over from Beck and worked with several players who had progressed through the youth ranks.
“The club wanted a change of style and we had a good young group,” he said. “We had to sell a lot of players and the young lads did well and kept us in the first division for a couple of years and that was my first management job.”
Johnson once brought the Latvia international side to play a friendly at Cambridge, but he has not faced his old club in a competitive game before.
“There is obviously no room for sentiment and we have to do all we can to win this game,” he said.