The duo will return to St Andrew's with West Ham on Saturday for the first time since selling up to Carson Yeung in a £81.5million deal last season.
Sections of Blues fans criticised Sullivan and Gold at the end of their reign for a lack of investment in the team.
But McLeish recognises their contribution to City and the former Rangers and Scotland boss will always be grateful to them for giving him his first managerial job in England.
McLeish said: "I don't know what reception they will get, it's not for me to say. But I've got a lot of respect for them, the job they did for this club.
"They brought the club up from the bones of their backsides to being a pretty decent outfit without getting that real consistency of the Premier League.
"I think Steve Bruce had a really good spell of five years in the Premier League and that was a magnificent achievement for a club that is low on resources and revenue. Steve did a brilliant job.
"That is the challenge for the smaller clubs but they did a great job."
McLeish added: "They never let the spending get out of hand. The fans got a little bit annoyed that there wasn't enough investment but that is another story.
"We've seen some clubs struggle financially. We've seen the big clubs go down the divisions and it is a tragedy.
"We wouldn't want to see that happen to Birmingham, certainly in my time here."
McLeish is hoping the Blues fans will channel their efforts into making life uncomfortable for the West Ham players rather than Sullivan and Gold.
He said: "I would like the Birmingham fans to unnerve the opposition, but more so the team on the pitch.
"The Birmingham fans have been renowned for their hostility over the years, not in a nasty way, but in making people feel uncomfortable on the pitch."
McLeish is prepared to allow striker Garry O'Connor go back on loan for a second spell to gain sharpness.
O'Connor has already spent a month with Barnsley this season after a lengthy lay-off following a double hip operation.
McLeish said: "Garry is going to go out on loan again. We just feel he is a bit rusty. He is not going to get regular first- team football at the moment and he asked to go out on loan.
"He came in for the Blackpool game and did well and I was hoping he would move forward but he said he needed more time."