Rob Kelly prepared for drama as Nottingham Forest face up to Sean O'Driscoll's Robins
THERE can be few occasions in football where one of the chief protagonists in a football match, offering the instructions from the dug-out, is overshadowed by a man sat in the stands.
But, for Rob Kelly, it is a role he is becoming accustomed to.
While much of the attention at Ashton Gate on Saturday will be focused on the return of the fans' messiah, Billy Davies, it will be Kelly's job to secure three points on an afternoon when the plot could hardly have had more twists.
Just days after the departure of Alex McLeish, Forest come up against the man he had replaced, in the form of new Robins boss Sean O'Driscoll.
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So Kelly finds himself trying to get one over on his former boss, while his new boss watches on from the stands.
Confused? Thankfully, Kelly has a clearly defined view of the situation.
And he says that, regardless of what is going off in the periphery, his only focus is on helping Forest to produce a performance on the pitch.
Equally, he believes O'Driscoll will be maintaining the same mentality in the home dug-out.
"I do get on well with Sean, he was really great to work with," said Kelly. "He is a good guy, really straight and I enjoyed working with him.
"Not because it is Nottingham Forest, he will be desperate to win.
"But so will we, because there are 16 games left for us to try to get into the play-offs.
"He knows our players, but it is not a battle between me and Sean O'Driscoll.
"I am sure Sean won't see it that way either, because he is not like that. He does not work that way, he is a balanced human being.
"Of course he will want to win, because he has worked here.
"He will want to do well against his former club. But he will also see the bigger picture.
"The background to this will not be at the front of his mind.
"Perhaps, afterwards, if they have played well and got the right result for them, he might think that way while he has a glass of wine.
"It is not about individuals, it is about Nottingham Forest against Bristol City and two sides who need points for very different reasons."
Kelly will have an idea of the kind of opposition Forest will face, having worked under O'Driscoll throughout his tenure at the City Ground.
"Sean will be organised. He knows the division, he understands the division and he has had a couple of good wins since going there.
"It is a tough place to go anyway, but it will be even tougher on Saturday. Sean is also flexible, he has more than one way of doing things, tactically.
"There are a few familiar faces in their side who will be keen to do well. That will add something, of course.
"But I would be devastated if we were not as motivated as them.
"We want to get into the top six, into the play-offs. There will be no lack of motivation."
Kelly says the goal for Forest is simple. Regardless of the unrest off the pitch, there is still the possibility they could make the play-offs, even if a significant turnaround in form is required.
"There are 16 games left. This is a momentum division," he said.
"If you can get momentum, if you can get in the play-offs, then it is the team who is on a roll that tends to do well.
"Look at Blackpool, who sneaked into the top six at the last minute, then won here.
"They came with a real good run towards the end and got up there.
"There will be a team in the division who do that this season. We have to try to be that team."
It is a tough position for Kelly, who finds himself in the top job tomorrow – but uncertain of whether he will still have one in the longer term. It is the nature of football that, when a new manager comes in, changes are normally made to the backroom staff.
But Kelly says change is merely part of the transient nature of the game.
"It is a cruel business, football. But it is what you come into," he said. "So don't bleat and moan about it, because that is the game.
"In football, the one thing you know, is that there will be change, both with players going in and out and with managers as well.
"You don't expect managers to be in situ for years and years any more. It is unusual for that to happen. Players and staff know that there will be change and they get used to it.
"I was surprised how things panned out with him (McLeish). But we have to move on and get ready for a game on Saturday.
"I have not seen a season like this before. It has been different, put it that way.
"But players are resilient. They will get through situations like this.
"Most of them will just be happy to get another game. That is the important thing for them, to get back out on the pitch."
But will Kelly enjoy his time as the top man in the dug-out?
His answer is also straight forward. No.
"You don't enjoy it, because it means somebody has lost their job," he said. "I come from a working background, so that is not a good thing.
"It is something you do; that you get on with. But do you enjoy it? No, you probably don't.
"But it is not about me, it is about the players and putting on a performance for the supporters to enjoy; hopefully a performance that will secure us three points.
"As long as we can do that, I will be happy."
And there will be one man looking on from the stands who will be equally pleased.