WHEN Steven Caldwell captained the Clarets to promotion to the Premier League in 2009, he was a leader of men.
Burnley’s climb from the second tier to the top flight had been engineered by a largely experienced group.
There were a smattering of young players, like Chris McCann, though even the midfielder had more than 100 appearances behind him.
Caldwell’s situation as Birmingham skipper these days, however, could not be more different.
The last time he faced his former club, just before Christmas, the Blues fielded seven teenagers, such was the level of injuries and illness within the St Andrew’s ranks.
Since then they have fluctuated between young and old, trying to find the right mix.
“We’re in that transition period at the club where we don’t have the experience or the resources to get experienced players, so we’re trying to get a blend between the older guys and the youth and reserve team players,” said Caldwell.
“It’s something I’ve enjoyed being a part of – trying to help young lads and watch them trying to improve as players.
“You feel you have got a real duty to go out there and help the boys through it and use all your experience and know-how to hold it together. I think we did well last time in what was a tough game, but a good game.”
Caldwell expects a similar duel in today’s Turf Moor visit.
“I’m looking forward to going back. It’s going to be enjoyable, but it’s going to be a tough game because Burnley are doing really well.
“We’re going to have our work cut out,” said the Scot, who is anticipating marking Charlie Austin if the Clarets top scorer returns from injury.
“Charlie’s a good player,” said Caldwell. “That was the first time I’d played against him last month. He’s got good movement.
“But Burnley have a number of good players and they’re getting going just now.
“They have a good manager too in Sean Dyche. I’ve spoken to him a couple of times in the past and respect him as a manager. He’s brought solidity to Burnley, with four clean sheets from their last five games, but they’ve still got good attacking options.
“They have a nice blend between the two. Nobody wants a team to sit back and be so defensive and not create chances.
“Burnley seem to be doing both sides of the game extremely well, they’re an in-form team so we know how difficult it’s going to be.
“But it pleases me to see them doing well.
“I love the football club and always will. It was a very special part of my career, the three and a half years I spent there.
“Obviously I prefer my club to be ahead, but I always look for Burnley and it’s all credit to Sean and his team that Burnley are in the position they are.”
Caldwell is widely regarded as a manager of the future.
And he admits he is keen to follow in the footsteps of former Burnley team-mate Graham Alexander, who has made a good start to his first taste of the hotseat at League Two Fleetwood Town.
But, while management is a path he one day hopes to tread, he hopes it is still some way off yet.
“I’m pleased Grezza is in management, he’s going to be a fantastic manager “I hope to be a manager myself one day too, but I’m still trying to focus on playing at the moment,” said the 32-year-old.
“I feel I’ve got a good few years left in my legs. When that time comes to hang up my boots I’d love to get into coaching or management.
“But at the moment I’m feeling great and hopefully I can play as long as possible.”
Caldwell scored his first league goal in over three years last weekend (his last being for Burnley in the Premier League at home to Aston Villa).
And he finds it hard to believe that it was four years this week since the Clarets were cruelly denied a place in the League Cup final after clawing back a three-goal deficit from the first leg at home to Spurs.
Suspension meant Caldwell had a watching brief, but the defender said: “I think about that night a lot. In my opinion it was one of the best performances by a side ever.
“To know what we had to do and go out there and win 3-0 and prolong the tie was incredible.
“It was a pleasure to be part of that team, and the lads on the day were brilliant.”
Of Birmingham’s prospects today, Caldwell added: “It’s been up and down for us this season.
“We have the quality and pace to hurt teams though, so it promises to be a good game.
“If it’s anything like the game at St Andrews it will be two teams trying to win. That ended up being a good spectacle.
“There is only Chris McCann, Michael Duff and Brian Jensen left from the team I played with, but I know what to expect.
“It’s a difficult place to come and play, but we will be ready for it.”