MX23RW : Saturday, January 19 05:05:08

Harlee Dean enjoying cult status at Birmingham

Harlee Dean enjoying cult status at Birmingham
© Reuters
Blues are looking for their first win at Villa Park since 2004.

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.

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.

"Someone has already tweeted me and said if I get the winner on Sunday they will get me tattooed on them.

"The baby naming is just really nice, it's an unusual name so people seem to like it.

"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."

The centre-back worked under Villa boss Dean Smith at Brentford before he joined Birmingham.

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."

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Birmingham City's Robert Tesche on February 18, 2017
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