Steve Bruce: Aston Villa boss to be 'enemy number one' on Birmingham City return
Steve Bruce knows the walk. For the best part of a decade, the route out onto the pitch at St Andrew's had the comfort of a warm bath. On Sunday, he knows it will feel more like he has been dropped through ice.
The former Birmingham City manager has been back to his old stomping ground as a visiting boss with Sunderland and Hull City but he knows that this time, in charge of rivals Aston Villa, the walk will feel longer. Much longer.
"I've got nothing but respect for the club and the people who support it," Bruce told BBC WM 95.6. "But I'm now enemy number one.
"For many years, I've been called many things, usually at Villa Park. Normally it's decent banter and I give a bit back.
"I want to stay here a long time," said Bruce, who spent two years with Blues as a player, then six as manager, twice winning promotion to the Premier League. "And, if I can repeat the stability and success we had down the road, I'd be very happy."
The second-city rivals last met in September 2015, in the League Cup third round, when Villa won 1-0.
Sunday's game will the 111th league meeting between the two clubs and the first outside the top flight since December 1987.
Villa's form - unbeaten in three games, with two successive wins - means they start as favourites but Bruce has heard all about form books and their relationship with windows. He knows the result hinges on more primal things.
"You don't win matches on paper," he said. "The players have been warned about what's in store.
"It's a fantastic fixture. The most important thing is who makes most mistakes and who lacks discipline. Everyone will be showing how much they want to win."
Blues have advantage of 'togetherness' - Rowett
Birmingham City boss Gary Rowett never faced Villa in his two years playing for Blues but he did experience West Midlands derbies against West Bromwich Albion and Wolves.
However, his first taste of this one last September was enough to confirm it is a fixture taught with tension.
"It was enough to know it's different - you can feel it," Rowett told BBC Sport. "You have to have control - too much emotion and that can go out the window.
"I'm looking forward to one at St Andrew's. You always get more stick as an away manager and I'm sure Steve's ready!"
Rowett agrees that Villa will start as slight favourites but he says his side's spirit can more than match Villa's more expensively-assembled squad.
"I'd love to go and spend £10m on a striker who might get us promotion, but what I'm not envious of is our togetherness," he said.
"That's been Villa's downfall over the last few years, but Steve will help give them that."