PREVIEW: Birmingham City vs Middlesborough
Former Southampton defender Garry Monk is the man set with the task of saving Birmingham City’s season having been appointed manager of the club on Sunday.
The 39-year-old will celebrate his birthday tonight by taking charge of his first game at home to Middlesborough, who sacked the Englishman in December.
“I learn lessons every day,” said Monk in his first press conference this week. “Throughout your managerial career there are lessons to be learned.”
The visit of Middlesborough is likely to bring back some haunting memories for Monk, with the new Birmingham City boss describing his sacking as “a surprise”.
“I said at the time that (the sacking) was a surprise to me, especially with the internal talks (regarding January transfer targets) we were having.”, Monk told journalists.
“But every owner has a right to make whatever decisions they want to make. That’s the nature of the business.”
Birmingham go into the game two points above the relegation zone, whilst tonight’s visitors are the same margin away from the top six.
Tony Pulis’ may be without Grant Leadbitter tonight due to a ban, however on the back of three unbeaten games they will be in good spirits.
Monk’s first team selection features the club’s record signing Jota, who comes in for his first start since he scored twice at Sheffield Wednesday.
Jota replaces Jason Lowe; one of two changes made to the team that lost to Nottingham Forest on Saturday.
BIRMINGHAM CITY (4-4-2): Stockdale; Jenkinson, Morrison, Dean, Colin; Jota, Gardner, Kieftenbeld, Maghoma; Adams, Jutkiewicz.
Subs: Kuszczak, Roberts, Bramall, Ndoye, Lowe, Boga, Gallagher
MIDDLESBOROUGH (4-3-3): Randolph; Shotton, Ayala, Gibson, Friend; Howson, Clayton, Besic; Traore, Downing, Bamford.
Subs: Konstantopoulos, Assombalonga, Cranie, Fry, Johnson, Harrison, Baker.