SOUTHEND United boss Phil Brown will lock horns with Torquay boss Gary Johnson on Saturday for the first time since the pair fought for a place in the Premier League.

Brown bossed Hull City to a 1-0 win against Johnson’s Bristol City side in the Championship play-off final at Wembley back in 2008.

But the pair will now be doing battle in the National League at Plainmoor this weekend.

“You wouldn’t have thought that the 2008 finalists from the biggest prize in football would be locking horns 13 years later in the fifth tier of English football,” said Brown.

“There are a lot of reasons for it happening but I’ve always really respected Gary and the bottom line is he’s a blooming good manager.”

Despite that, Torquay - who reached the play-off final last season - are currently 20th in the table.

But Brown is keen to make sure it is the Shrimpers getting back on track after their own slow start.

"We've both started off in a poor way but we need a reaction," said Brown.

"We've got to make sure we're more motivated than the opposition."

Blues have taken just five points from their opening six games but Brown is enjoying getting to grips with the non-league game.

"I like the way a lot of experienced managers come to this level but they will soon realise it’s not that easy," said Brown.

"I’m certainly one of them and Gary will be the same.

"He will be prepared for us but he will know we will be prepared for them too.

"We’ll both be organised and motivating our teams to the best of out of them.”

But Brown knows Johnson will also be desperate to get the Gulls back on track and does feel they will soon work their way up the table.

“We watched Torquay in the play-off final last season and I felt for Gary that day too against Hartlepool,” said Brown.

“I thought they were the better team but sometimes it’s difficult to get over that heartache.

“I don’t think they have just yet but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they were there or there abouts at the end of the season.”

And Brown believes it will be Johnson who helps make that happen.

“Gary likes his teams to play the right way and he’s entrenched in a football mentality,” said the Blues boss.

“Every pore in his skin is about football.

“I’d like to think he would say the same about me but I have huge respect for him.

“He won’t have any qualms with being in the National League and I certainly don’t either.

“Football is just that way.

“He’s a lot more experienced than me I think because he started a bit earlier than me but we’ll both be looking to win the game on Saturday, there’s no doubt about that.”