Harlee Dean is writing his name into Birmingham folklore – as fans get his face inked on their skin.
One supporter already has Dean’s likeness tattooed on his leg while another has promised something similar if the defender scores the derby winner against Aston Villa on Sunday.
The 27-year-old has also had a baby named after him this season to underline his cult-hero status at St Andrew’s.
Dean has impressed since joining from Brentford in 2017, helping Birmingham beat the drop last season and starring this term with Blues again fighting the odds.
As for Garry Monks side, Birmingham are one place below Villa in the table, but the two sides are locked on points. The Blues have failed to win their last two but have only lost one of their previous 13 games so theyre no slouches. Birmingham have picked up seven points from their last four away games too so theyll be up for a fight at Villa Park.
He previously worked as a silver service waiter in a golf club and laboured for his dad and believes fans appreciate his authenticity.
He told Press Association Sport: “The tattoos are a bit mad, it’s not like I’ve won a cup here. God knows what someone will do if we get promotion.
Club in serious discussions for Aston Villa outcast, player open to returning to homeland
“Someone has already tweeted me and said if I get the winner on Sunday they will get me tattooed on them.
“I’ve been lucky, the fans have taken to me. It’s hugely appreciated. I’m just a hard-working fella and they can see it.
“When I was in non-league I was working at the same time and you see the young boys now and they just haven’t got the hunger. People have had much more talent than me but it’s about your attitude and your heart.”
Birmingham are behind Villa on goal difference in mid-table after just one defeat in their last 13 games, despite the threat of a points deduction after the club breached FFP rules.
They have not won at Villa Park since 2004 but Dean believes, after Blues beat the drop on the final day of last season, they are equipped to end their drought.
He said: “It’s completely different to last season. You can’t wait to go into training, whereas you didn’t want to go in last year. We’ve been given an identity and have embraced it.
“The squad dynamic, the results, the atmosphere, it just didn’t feel right last year. Maybe last year it wasn’t cool to work hard but this year it is.
“(Manager) Garry (Monk) got across what he wanted from us and everyone grabbed hold of it because we know what we can be if we do it right. He’s the best manager – and it’s the best staff – I’ve worked with. It’s a siege mentality.”
Ex-Walsall manager Smith returned to the Midlands when he was appointed at Villa last month and has won three and lost two of his five games.
“There’s much more to come. The players are getting used to our style. They’re getting better in training every day,” Smith told the club.
“They’re getting better at winning the ball back and a lot of the patterns that we like to see in the final third of the pitch.
“We’re starting to get better but you’re always chasing perfection. We will continue to chase perfection.”
Twitter Facebook Reddit Aston Villa have W8-D4-L0 in their last 12 games against Birmingham Join today View market Sunday sees the Second City derby take place as Aston Villa entertain Birmingham. Mark O'Haire previews the mouthwatering match from Villa Park.
“The hosts have now returned W18-D10-L3 at Villa Park since the start of last season, and have managed to net in each of their last 20 in front of their own supporters”
Aston Villa v Birmingham Sunday November 25, 12:00 Live on Sky SportsAston Villa excel in last encounter
Aston Villa boss Dean Smith said his side produced “a performance that merited the result” after his side eventually ran out comfortable 3-0 winners at Derby. John McGinn, Tammy Abraham and Conor Hourihane scored in the second-half to secure the Claret & Blues biggest victory in more than six months.
The Villans were on top throughout and created several good chances but failed to find the net until they notched three times in 11 minutes late on. McGinn, Abraham and Jonathan Kodjia had all been guilty of wasting opportunities at Pride Park as the Rams struggled to contain Smiths enterprising side.
With 12 players away on international duty, the club will monitor the condition of returning players ahead Sundays showdown, although Villa are hopeful captain James Chester and the influential McGinn will be fit enough to feature. Elsewhere, Neil Taylor should be available but Birkir Bjarnason is a major doubt.
Birmingham boss Garry Monk blasted his Blues players for their sloppy second-half performance against Hull before the international break. Leading 2-0 at the break thanks to Che Adams double, City shipped three goals in the second 45 minutes and required Adams hat-trick goal to pinch a point late on.
The stalemate – the Blues ninth drawn match of the season thus far – extended Birminghams unbeaten run at St Andrews to 14 matches but Monk preferred to focus his ire on a defence thats now conceded six goals across their most recent two second-half efforts. The City boss bemoaned simple and elementary errors.
Birmingham are fretting over the fitness of Congo international Jacques Maghoma and Spanish winger Jota ahead of Sundays derby. The pair have resumed full training and are expected to feature but whether Monk trusts the duo from the start remains to be seen. Long-term absentees David Davis and Isaac Vassell are still unavailable.
Aston Villa [1.86] have enjoyed the upper hand in recent derbies, last losing to their city rivals back in March 2005 when the pair where Premier League clubs. The Claret & Blue have since returned W8-D4-L0 in 12 contests against Birmingham, silencing the Blues on seven occasions and shipping just five goals.
Under Smiths watch, the Villans have tabled three triumphs from their five fixtures, including back-to-back victories to nil on home soil. The hosts have now returned W18-D10-L3 at Villa Park since the start of last season, and have managed to net in each of their last 20 in front of their own supporters.
Although Birmingham [4.60] are prospering at St Andrews, the Blues have struggled to repeat their efforts on the road under Monk. City have W3-D3-L7 in 13 away days, with each win arriving by a one-goal margin. The visitors have only managed to score more than a solitary goal in 5/31 (16%) games as guests.
Villa are understandable favourites to pick up maximum points on Sunday but there might well be a better value angle of attack elsewhere at the odds on offer.
Aston Villa have recorded three shutouts in five since Smith pitched up as three of those fixtures featured fewer than three goals. With Second City derby dates having a history of low-scoring encounters – each of the past eight have produced Under 2.5 Goals – a repeat is understandably odds-on at [1.86].
Seven of Birminghams past nine Championship matches have seen Over 2.5 Goals as Monks men have recorded a sole clean sheet in that sample. But the Blues have a history for goal-shy games away from St Andrews with only 20/31 (65%) paying-out for Unders backers since the start of 2017/18.
With derby dust-up often hotly-contested and competitive encounters, as well as the awareness of Birminghams ability to frustrate under Monk, Im happy to take a safer option and support Aston Villa double chance and Under 2.5 Goals at 11/10 in Betfair Sportsbooks Same Game Multi market.
For any queries relating to Betting.Betfair, e-mail [email protected] For any other Betfair-related queries, contact the helpdesk