STEVE Cotterill is hungrier than ever to manage in the Premier League.
With his 49th birthday approaching later this month, the man who transformed Cheltenham Town from a semi-professional non-League team into an established, full-time Football League club is ready to return to the management hot-seat.
Cotterill spent the second half of last season coaching for Harry Redknapp at Queens Park Rangers.
He was invited back, but politely declined Redknapp's offer.
Cotterill described his experience at Loftus Road as valuable, but he is looking forward to being a number one again.
"It was a different experience, not being the manager, and there was a certain amount of frustration when you've been a manager for a long time," Cotterill said.
"There are already a couple of coaches and an assistant manager Harry has had with him for years really in Kevin Bond and Joe Jordan.
"It was probably good for me because it taught me to be a little more diplomatic, which you have to be in that type of environment.
"He's had those guys with him for a long time, so it was about me trying to fit into it and it was interesting and a good learning curve."
Cotterill left Cheltenham in 2002 after five years of unparalleled success, taking the top job at Stoke City.
He has since been number two at Sunderland as well as managing Burnley, Notts County, Portsmouth and, most recently, Nottingham Forest.
He was sacked for the first time in his career at Championship club Forest, something he said was hard to take after working so hard to turn around the former European champions' ailing fortunes.
"I want a managerial job and my ambition is still to manage in the Premier League and I am determined to fulfil that," Cotterill said. "With my last job at Forest, I walked into carnage really because they were all over the place.
"At that stage of my career, it was the right size club and challenge, but turning it around ranks as one of my biggest achievements."
Cotterill was dismissed by Forest's new owners from Kuwait, the Al-Hasawi family, before he had even met them.
"Sometimes circumstances don't allow you to carry on your progression and you almost have to choose the chairman before the club now," he said.
"Nigel Doughty was the chairman when I went in and he was one of the best in the Championship.
"For the money he put in, he deserved to be a Premier League chairman, but what can you do about someone dying at 54 of a heart attack?
"That was a huge kick in the teeth for everyone at Forest because he was a really wonderful man.
"The minute Forest lost Nigel, there was always going to be a rocky road and I ended up getting the sack from someone I'd never met!
"That's the way football is, but it doesn't make it any easier when it happens like that.
"I am more ambitious than ever now, but when you are older, you learn to keep it in check a little bit because sometimes your burning desire can go against you.
"I think I am far better and far wiser and I have had the benefit of travelling abroad and watching a lot of different styles of football, which I think all stands me in good stead."
Before taking the job at Forest, Cotterill had to deal with Portsmouth's deepening financial crisis, suffering the uncertainty of two periods of administration at Fratton Park.
"I was happy at Portsmouth because I loved the club and the fans are something special there, so to leave was very upsetting for me," Cotterill said.
"I think I've been pretty lucky in my life, but maybe I am due a lucky break now.
"In my last two jobs I had two owners at Forest and three at Portsmouth with two administrations, so hopefully there is better fortune around the corner."
Cotterill is known for his extensive knowledge of players and attention to detail, particularly with tactics.
He has embraced the new technology available to managers and believes his passion for the game makes him ready to hit the ground running, wherever his next job turns out to be.
"One of the reasons I left QPR is because I don't want to be seen as a coach who can manage, I am a manager who can coach," Cotterill said.
"I need to lead a team and I like the tactics and preparing a team for a Saturday.
"You can only do that when you are a manager.
"The next job has to be the right type of job, but I am constantly preparing for it.
"When I am in a job, I am in my office at 6.50am every morning and unless I am going to a game I wouldn't be leaving before 7pm – those are the hours I've kept wherever I've been.
"When I am out of work, I am constantly driving to games at my own expense because I am a football nut.
"I love football, that's the bottom line. I would cross the road to watch a game of football.
"Not everyone is like that, but I always have loved the game and I always will do.
"It hurts sometimes when you are not involved and it's difficult for me to not be involved in football at this moment in time.
"I need to get back in, lead from the front and make decisions – that's what I do."
Cotterill is confident his top-flight experience with QPR will be hugely beneficial.
"I have known Harry a long time and I appreciated him taking me in," Cotterill said.
"It was was good to work with the higher-profile players like Júlio César, the Brazil goalkeeper, José Bosingwa, who won the Champions League the year before with Chelsea, and I had good relationship with the players.
"Experiencing Adel Taarabt was also good because people might think he's difficult to manage, but he's a fantastic boy."
■ For part two of our interview with Steve Cotterill, looking back on his remarkable success at Cheltenham Town, see tomorrow's Echo.