Preston North End boss Alex Neil salutes Birmingham counterpart Garry Monk

The last time Preston visited St Andrew’s they brought to an end Harry Redknapp’s time in charge of Birmingham City.

A 3-1 win for North End in September last year led to Redknapp getting his cards within a couple of hours of the final whistle.

Che Adams has scored eight Championship goals for Birmingham City this season

Che Adams has scored eight Championship goals for Birmingham City this season

Fourteen months later, Redknapp is entertaining us in the jungle and it is Garry Monk steering the City ship.

In between was a spell in charge for Steve Cotterill, with Monk arriving in March.

Against the odds, Monk has guided the Blues to the upper reaches of the Championship.

Their 27-point haul from 19 matches is unexpected due to them spending most of the summer under a transfer embargo.

That was imposed due to them allegedly breaching the EFL rules on spending limits.

A hearing on the matter is set to take place in February.

PNE manager Alex Neil is impressed with the job Monk has done in the Midlands.

The fact that Monk has been prepared to change styles to adapt to the players available to him, in particular has caught Neil’s eye.

“Garry has shown that he is a good manager,” said Neil.

“I thought he did a good job at Leeds, then he went in at Middlesbrough and spent a lot of money which brings a lot of pressure with it.

“Middlesbrough was a job like mine at Norwich – either you got them to the top and went up or you weren’t going to be there long.

“Garry probably left there prematurely last Christmas, they were still in the hunt.

“He’s now at Birmingham and doing a good job.

“The strange thing with Garry is if you look at how Swansea played under him, they passed the ball to death.

“If you look at Leeds, they were a counter-attacking team.

“His Middlesbrough team did a bit of everything, while Birmingham are probably the polar opposite to Swansea.

“So he has gone full circle and Garry will say that is down to the players at his disposal.

“That is the sign of a good manager, in that you can find different ways to win games.

“Birmingham will be a tough team to crack, we will have to work very hard.”

The bulk of the Blues’ goals this season have come from front pair Lukas Jutkiewicz and Che Adams.

Former Burnley striker Jutkiewicz has found the net 10 times and Adams eight.

Neil sees Jutkiewicz as key to making Birmingham tick.

“Jutkiewicz is top in the statistics for winning aerial duals,” said Neil.

“They play around him and get bits from him.

“Birmingham are a tough team to play against, I think they have only conceded three goals in the first 30 minutes of games this season which shows something.

“They have the lowest amount of possession in this league and the lowest number of passes.

“But they are set up really well behind the ball and are a big threat on the counter.”

On Wednesday, the Blues beat Millwall 2-0 at the Den, that following a 4-2 defeat to Aston Villa last Sunday.