GARRY MONK admits it is “not ideal” for him to begin life as Birmingham City manager with a meeting with former club Middlesbrough on Tuesday night, just 73 days after he was sacked by the Teesside club.

It will be a strange 39th birthday for Monk when he will go head-to-head with his successor Tony Pulis at St Andrew’s, when both teams are desperate for a victory for contrasting reasons.

Middlesbrough are looking to climb back into the play-off places by claiming the victory at Birmingham, knowing the home side are two points adrift of safety and sit deep in relegation trouble in the Championship.

Monk has been tasked with keeping the Blues up after a dreadful season which has seen Harry Redknapp and Steve Cotterill have spells in charge, and a summer of spending fail to improve the club’s form after narrowly escaping the drop into League One last season.

And Monk’s reign will start with the visit of Pulis and the Middlesbrough team he left sitting three points outside a play-off place after winning at Sheffield Wednesday on December 23.

"Football has a funny way of doing these types of things,” said Monk, who felt the timing of his sacking was harsh before Christmas.

“It's not ideal but I have enjoyed working with the (Birmingham) players, they're a very good group who are determined to get themselves out of this situation.

"We haven't been able to go through the full preparation (for the game) but we've identified certain things to focus on that will give them security and confidence to go out and play how we need them to play.

"Number one is determination. We have to fight and crawl off the pitch. What I can see in this group is that they've got that in their eyes. It’s a tough game and a difficult situation for everyone.

"All I care about is those players giving everything. If they give that, that’s what our fans want, that’s what everyone wants. I just want them to be confident and give everything they’ve got - and that’s the best birthday present I could ask for.”

Monk won ten of his 23 matches in charge at Middlesbrough and lost his job having failed to keep the team in touch with the automatic promotion places. There was also a fear they were not showing enough to suggest they would climb into the top six under him.

He said: "You learn lessons every day. Throughout my managerial career there will be lessons to be learned. It's my fourth year but I've already had huge experience in that four years, a lot has gone on and I've learnt a great deal.

"You take all of that into your next opportunity, it's a process you go through. I feel confident my work has been relatively successful in the short time I have been doing it."

Pulis will be forced to make one change to Middlesbrough’s starting line-up they come up against Monk’s first Birmingham line-up.

Middlesbrough captain Grant Leadbitter is suspended for the next two matches after collecting his tenth yellow card of the season against Leeds on Friday night.

His unavailability is something of a blessing for the 32-year-old because he has been carrying a hamstring niggle since feeling it during the draw at Sunderland.

Leadbitter was replaced with Adam Clayton against Leeds and that would be the likeliest move by Pulis at Birmingham.

Clayton has played a few times already alongside Mo Besic, who is really starting to shine in the middle following his move from Everton on loan.

Otherwise Middlesbrough have no other injury concerns. Fabio da Silva is nearing a comeback but remains unavailable, while striker Rudy Gestede is sidelined for the season after an ankle fracture.