Having locked horns with a former apprentice last weekend, Birmingham City manager Alex McLeish is preparing to welcome another old understudy to his den on Saturday.
The Blues boss was almost outwitted by one of his former Motherwell players last Saturday but fortunately for McLeish, Owen Coyle and his Burnley side only left St Andrew’s with a draw.
This weekend is the turn of Billy Davies, who was a key member of McLeish’s Motherwell side between 1994 and 1998, and his recently-acquired Nottingham Forest side as the fellow Scotsman aims to upset the man who he used to be desperate to impress.
McLeish, whose promotion-chasing Birmingham side will go in search of only their third win in ten Championship games, has admitted that he knew Davies was destined for a job in football management from the moment he took charge of the then-midfielder at Fir Park
Now having tested his tactical nous against Davies, who went on to manage Motherwell, north of the border with Hibernian and Rangers, McLeish is relishing the opportunity to face his compatriot in English football.
“I know Billy well, he comes from a tough part of Glasgow and he has got a winning attitude and always did have,” said McLeish. “He was a very influential player in the team that I took over at Motherwell in the season that we sandwiched Rangers and Celtic, Rangers won the league, we were second and Celtic were third - Billy was a very important player for me that season.
“He was always taking notes and he ran his own wee amateur team at the time and he coached them mid-week. He was mapping his future at that time and it always looked a very safe bet that he would get into coaching.”
The Blues brought back a 1-1 draw from the City Ground at the start of November but it was a game that the visitors could have easily lost as they were forced to resist a strong finish from Nottingham Forest.
McLeish is now all too aware of the dangers that tomorrow’s opponents pose, with or without a new manager at the helm, as their last meeting is etched in his mind, as is disparaging comments from Forest defender Luke Chambers that questioned Birmingham’s desire.
“The Forest side we played earlier in the season gave us a hard time,” added McLeish. “I don’t expect it to be any different now that Billy is in charge, they seem to have had a shot in the arm since he went in, of course a new manager can often have that impact.
“But they certainly went in our face that day when we played them and they reminded us of that in the Sunday papers the next day. I’d like to think that my players can keep that in their heads going into the game.”
McLeish has no fresh injury worries ahead of Birmingham’s 32nd Championship fixture of the season although he is unlikely to field new loan signing Djimi Traore, as the defender’s fitness levels are not yet up to the standard required.