Birmingham must savour Carling Cup final says Alex McLeish

Alex McLeish has drawn on his own experience as a player in urging his Birmingham team to "relish every moment" of Sunday's Carling Cup final with Arsenal.

McLeish recalls how, as a young Scotland midfielder, he allowed his first meeting with England "to pass me by" and he does not want his squad to fall into the same trap against the Gunners.

It will be his first major final south of the border after winning 19 trophies as a player and manager in Scotland.

He said: "What is the message to players? Relish every moment of the final and don't let it pass you by.

"I played my first game against England many years ago at Hampden Park and I was a young midfielder at that time against two wily characters in (Sir) Trevor Brooking and Terry McDermott.

"The game, I just never got into it at all. I suppose playing against two great players had something to do with that.

"But we don't want this occasion on Sunday to pass anybody by and, to be honest, we've got a lot of experience in that squad so the players shouldn't be fazed."

McLeish is hoping the final will not just be a one-off appearance on the big stage for his players.

He is hoping Arsenal's heavy fixture list, as they chase four trophies, will count in City's favour.

McLeish said: "I hope it's a not once in a lifetime for the players. "I hope there's more to come.

"It's my first cup final in England and I'd love to win it. I'd love it to be my first success in England and I hope there's more for the players.

"I've got to do everything I can in my power to win this trophy.

"We know Arsenal are favourites but they've got a little bit of fixture congestion, so maybe that will be in their minds a little bit.

"The other great advantage we have is that the stadium will be half full of Birmingham fans.

"We will really relish that because we normally go down to London and play against the big clubs and there's only a sprinkling of the Blues fans there."

McLeish is hoping his experience of being a winner as a player and manager will be some help in trying to upset Arsene Wenger's side.

He said: "It doesn't guarantee me anything. It doesn't guarantee that the team will win.

"But I do have a fair bit of experience in certain situations and, if that's needed on the day, then hopefully something like that can come to the fore.

"It would be nice to think that the players can win it with the tactics and formation that we lay out before kick off and that they adhere to every little instruction.

"But they've got to express themselves and play their own game."

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