STEVE COTTERILL says he has finally learned how to calm down after 20 years in management.
But Birmingham’s new boss cannot guarantee to keep his cool tonight as he prepares to take charge of them for the first time.
This is Cotterill’s ninth spell as a boss as he followed a season with Sligo Rovers by taking on his first English club, Cheltenham, in 1997.
During those two decades he has seen exciting promotion bids and nail-biting survival campaigns.
But Cotterill has also come under fire from some former players for his man-management style.
Now though, ahead of the visit of table-toppers Cardiff, the 53-year-old maintains he has matured over time.
And he argues those players who stick with his approach end up as determined as he is.
Cotterill said: “I’ve probably become calmer over the years than I was when I started — which is funny because in Friday night’s game I probably won’t be!
“That comes with age and maturity.
“Dealing with players now has changed from when I started. You have to protect them a little bit publicly, that means you get that little bit out of them.
“But here, the players will have spoken to others I’ve managed before.
“And they’ll say that I might not have a go at them in public but that doesn’t mean to say that’s what happens behind closed doors.
“That is where I like to keep what happens.
“Maybe I bite my tongue a bit more now.
“If you have good professionals, they generally know what they haven’t done.
“You learn from the mistakes you make.
“I know you cannot always tell the blunt truth. As long as you’re saying something that’s correct, you can get away with saying it.
“If they disagree with you and you’re right, then it causes an issue.
“If they can give you a reason why they’re right, I’ll put my hand up and go with it.
“Their attitude will reflect my leadership and I’m determined to do well whatever I do.”
Now he faces the task of leading Birmingham to safety in the short term after taking over from Harry Redknapp, who was sacked last month.
The Blues are in the bottom three ahead of tonight’s clash.
But Cotterill has his sights set on the one thing he has yet to achieve — managing in the Premier League.
He got a taster during an ill-fated spell as Howard Wilkinson’s No 2 at Sunderland in 2003.
Just 24 hours after being given the St Andrew’s job, Cotterill had to watch them lose 6-1 at Hull.
But with owners Trillion Trophy Asia’s backing, he has the resources to lift Brum once more.
Cotterill insists there have been few failures during his career.
He took Cheltenham, Notts County and Bristol City to promotions and kept Nottingham Forest up and Portsmouth’s head above water under the threat of liquidation.
He was dismissed by Forest in 2012 when new Kuwaiti owners arrived.
Last season, he was Redknapp’s No 2 for the final three games of the season as Birmingham somehow stayed in the Championship.
Cotterill did not return when Redknapp was made boss last summer as he wanted to be a manager in his own right again.
But he insists it is a ‘freak’ his next job happened to be back at Birmingham as Redknapp’s successor — and he is aiming high.
Cotterill added: “Managing in the Premier League is 100 per cent something I want to do. But you have to be patient.
“I never thought I’d be coming back here to Birmingham — there were a few Championship clubs I’d been speaking to.
“It’s a freak situation. I just think somewhere along the line I’ll get that twist of fate, that little bit of luck that might fall right.
“I started early in management, I was 33, after I did both my cruciate knee ligaments.
“But I don’t count myself unlucky. I think going into management was something I would have done anyway. It came a bit earlier than normal.
“There have been a couple of jobs I’ve had over the years where I think I was dismissed very harshly.
“But I never said anything or complained.
“I went home and licked my wounds.
“Now the long-term plan is to get to the Premier League. But you have to have a short- term plan — or there is no long-term plan.”
Cotterill is a great example of the ups and downs of management.
But he added: “There were difficulties at Portsmouth, two administrations and three owners. At Burnley, there were eight players and no money on my first day there.
“All my jobs have been a little bit like that.
“At Forest, the chairman Nigel Doughty died four months after I came in.
“I then had to sell Wes Morgan to Leicester because we couldn’t give him a new contract. There were no funds to pay anyone.
“The Championship jobs I’ve had have all been unbelievably tough at that moment in time.
“I managed Stoke and Burnley and they’re in the Premier League.
“But Stoke wasn’t the Stoke you see now with Peter Coates. They had Icelandic owners who cut the budget by £1million.
“But I wouldn’t swap those experiences for anything.”