Birmingham City v Cardiff City: Steve Cotterill faces Neil Warnock in first game in charge

Steve Cotterill (right) and Neil Warnock both started their managerial career in non-league football
Steve Cotterill (right) and Neil Warnock both started their managerial career in non-league football

Birmingham City boss Steve Cotterill will be full of respect for opposing manager Neil Warnock in his first game in charge at St Andrew's on Friday.

But he admits that will not necessarily stop the pair of them having a row in this meeting of Championship strugglers Blues and Warnock's table toppers.

"I get on all right with Neil," Cotterill told BBC WM.

"That's not to say we won't have a row on Friday night because there's a great chance that will happen."

Cotterill added: "But that won't mean I won't have respect for him, or that I don't like him.

"He's done a fantastic job at Cardiff. I saw them last season. He, for me, made them solid when he went in, but unspectacular.

"But this season they have been spectacular. He's added to the team, his recruitment has been excellent and it looks like they've got a real team there now."

Blues can at least feel encouragement that they are unbeaten in their past four games against Cardiff, with two 1-1 draws, one goalless draw and a Paul Caddis penalty winner in a 1-0 victory at St Andrew's in December 2015.

Blues need 'healthy competitiveness'

League leaders Cardiff go into this game having gone unbeaten in four matches since suffering their only Championship defeat of the season at Preston in mid-September, the most recent of them a 0-0 draw with former Blues boss Gary Rowett's Derby.

Cotterill, by contrast, will start, like Rowett did at St Andrew's before him three seasons ago, on the back of a humiliating defeat.

After a club record 8-0 home defeat by Bournemouth under caretaker management, Blues' response in Rowett's first game in charge was to keep a clean sheet at Wolves a week later.

Thanks to the international break, Cotterill has had two weeks to work with the Blues players since the news of his appointment was greeted with a 6-1 hammering at Hull.

That reverse was even more of a surprise given that Blues had taken four points from their previous two games under caretaker boss Lee Carsley - and had only conceded one goal in the process.

Now, with Carsley alongside him as his number two, Cotterill says that they could not have asked any more from the squad on the training ground.

And he is looking to recreate the same sort of strong team mentality in the dressing room that Blues had under Rowett just a year ago and which the highly successful Warnock, in his 14th managerial job in football, has clearly developed in his year at Cardiff.

"We've got to create competitiveness within the squad but healthily," said Cotterill.

"We have potential rather than quality. But we've got some very good characters in the squad. Now it's part of their job to get the fans out of their seats."

Birmingham start the day in 22nd place, a place higher than Cardiff were going into the corresponding weekend a year ago, Warnock's first game in charge.

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