Alex McLeish refuses to believe that his Birmingham City team are now part of the Premier League furniture.
After confounding the critics and doubters last season, a promising start to the new campaign suggests the good times can roll at St Andrew’s.
Even Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson reckons Blues are ‘easily’ a top 10 side.
But Big Eck is having none of it.
Despite the addition of a talented star like Aleksandr Hleb, which also points to Blues increased standing, McLeish’s concern is maintaining the status quo.
Before the derby at West Bromwich Albion last weekend, he insisted that it was a ‘bread and butter’ game for both sides, in so much that both would be scrapping away among the 12 or so teams below seven or eight who were ‘guaranteed’ Premier League participation year on year.
So Blues – ninth place finishers last season – are not yet among the established?
“No,” says McLeish. “I’m still cautious about that. I’m not pessimistic, but we have to be cautious.
“A couple of results go the wrong way, a couple of decisions go against you, it can make the difference.
“At the end, we were ahead of Blackburn Rovers last season on goal difference.
“There’s not much in it between the other 12 clubs.”
Bringing European football to St Andrew’s for the first time since 1961 nevertheless has to be a goal, should Blues continue their upward curve.
“Listen, I’d love to go to Europe. It would be great if we could do that,” says McLeish.
“It’s possible. Possible. But I still think it’s early days yet for us to be talking about that. The most important thing for us is to establish a foothold in the Premier League over the next couple of years.”
McLeish’s new contract has been a long time in coming, but something that was always on his agenda – and the board’s.
It has helped bring the club closer together.
There is a definite air of everyone pulling in the same direction around St Andrew’s and Wast Hills.
“Yes,” nods McLeish. “Even with the last board, we were trying to sow seeds back then. A project is never going to be overnight.
“I suppose you’ve got short-term aims and long-term aims.
“One when I first came in was to stay in the Premier League, and we failed in that department.
“There were other things we had to do and we’ve now moved forward a little bit. Slowly.
“You’d like to do it a little bit quicker, but when the new owners came in, of course, they brought a breath of fresh air.
“That’s not getting at the last board. David Sullivan, David Gold realised that it was time to go, the fans and the board had kind of grown tired of each other.
“So it’s always refreshing to get a new start. Carson Yeung has come in and he’s a very ambitious and enthusiastic guy. And his ambitions match mine.
“So we hope we can go further forward and make progress. We made progress last season, but further progress.”
Two players have had certainly made progress are central defenders Roger Johnson and Scott Dann.
Plucked from the Championship, they were shrewd signings by McLeish. However, they cannot afford to get the cigars out just yet, McLeish stresses.
“I’m pleased with them, but I’m not going to start singing their praises, because the game can kick you where it hurts. Just when you think you are going along nicely.
“Complacency’s the thing we have to guard against.
“Roger and Scott just have to keep giving us these performances week in, week out. They’re always going to be the part of the rock that the team is built upon. The goalkeeper as well, that kind of triangle.
“When we have indifferent games or poor performances, they’ve always got to be consistent.
“Defenders, for much of the season, are the guys who have to be the most consistent and there when the team is not maybe doing so well.”
Competition for places has intensified at Blues after the transfer window dealings and McLeish admits that he knows he will upset a few members of his squad along the way this season.
Lee Bowyer fell victim early on as McLeish opted to promote Craig Gardner in central midfield.
Bowyer was asked to do a job wide on the left in Blues last two league matches.
“They’re strong characters,” says McLeish. “They’re not shrinking violets we’ve got in the dressing room.
“They will let their feelings be heard. They will knock on the door as soon as I leave them out of the team or put them on the subs bench. I am delighted with that kind of attitude. I don’t want them to be happy if they’re left out.
“It was a tough one leaving Lee out after the Sunderland game. But I felt it was the right time to bring Gardner in. He has proved to be a success.
“All is fair in love and war. It’s a big battle now for places. May the best man win.
“Lee showed that he’s versatile enough to do a fantastic job for us on the flank.
“Obviously Keith Fahey has been playing there as well, but I just went with experienced Premier League guys for that game.”
Defeat by Albion left McLeish fuming, and gave him further food for thought in regard to his side.
“I have to find the right blend,” he muses. “We haven’t really clicked up front yet.”