Garry Monk takes on his first game as Birmingham City boss as the host his former side Middlesbrough on Tuesday night.
Monk was appointed as the Blues’ new manager late on Sunday night, signing a three-and-a-half-year deal. He replaced Steve Cotterill who was sacked on Saturday night as Blues lost their fifth game on the bounce.
The former Boro boss will want to get off to a winning start at his new Birmingham venture and will also be looking to get some revenge on the club that sacked him.
Monk has been reunited with Pep Clotet who was his assistant at Leeds United and Swansea City. Clotet became Oxford United boss in the summer but was dismissed from his role in January, just over a month after Monk was relieved of his duties at Middlesbrough.
The North-East side have been playing well recently under Monk’s replacement Tony Pulis, winning three out of their last five matches as they sit two points outside the play-offs.
This game is crucial for the Blues as they sit in the bottom three, two points away from safety. With 11 games to go it is a case of the team having to pick up the points sooner rather than later as the gap from safety could get wider.
Having only had one day to work with the players, tomorrows fixture against Boro may be too soon for Monk’s style to settle in at St Andrews. Nonetheless, the players may be extremely motivated for tomorrow’s game in the event of their new manager, with all individuals out to impress the new boss.
A big performance is needed after the last few weeks and the players need to do all they can to pull the club out of its current predicament.
As for Pulis’ men, this game will be crucial in helping Middlesbrough’s play-off hopes in the final run in of games this season.
Ahead of the clash Monk said in his press conference it was ‘destiny’ that his first game in charge would be against former club Boro as well as it being played on his birthday.
He will be looking for the birthday present of three points from his new side as he aims to pull Blues away from the relegation zone.
Interestingly, Monk’s last ever career game as a player was at St Andrews when Blues played Swansea in the League Cup in September 2013.
Blues are without Isaac Vassell and Jonathan Grounds who remain long term absentees, David Davis may feature if he is fit after suffering a knee injury.
Middlesbrough are without skipper Grant Leadbitter and forward Rudy Gestede who will be absent for the remainder of the season. Fabio is regaining fitness but is not in contention for the Blues clash.