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FA & League Cups

Birmingham must strengthen for European challenge says Alex McLeish

Alex McLeish admits Birmingham will have to strengthen their squad to cope with the demands of Europe after their shock Carling Cup success.

Blues were today celebrating only the second major trophy in their history after overcoming Arsenal 2-1 at Wembley.

It means they will participate in the Europa League if they come through next summer's qualifying rounds.

But McLeish is aware of the need for additional players to be brought in to combine any aspirations in that competition with the demands of the Barclays Premier League.

He said: "Initially I had forgotten we were in Europe because in Scotland, you don't get into Europe after winning the League Cup.

"We are so proud to win the cup and get into Europe.

"But it's not without its problems in terms of needing a strong squad to do that.

"We have to try and develop the squad further. We will need to strengthen."

McLeish's faith in Serbia striker Nikola Zigic - ridiculed by some City fans earlier in the season - was again justified.

The former Valencia player scored the first goal and was involved in the winner, scored by substitute Obafemi Martins.

McLeish said: "Arsenal were very apprehensive of the big fellow (Zigic).

"I think we've helped him improve his game though he might not agree when he's got to try and head every ball that's kicked up to him.

"It isn't like the cultured football he was used to in Europe.

"But he's certainly added something to his game that will benefit the Serbian national team.

"Even when we lost to Newcastle last week, Ziggy was probably our most effective player.

"Our players probably didn't realise it until I showed them a video of the game and he must have headed about 30 or 40 balls that night but just didn't get the breaks."

McLeish felt the discipline showed by his players was a key factor against the Gunners who were guilty of some rash challenges, particularly on midfielder Lee Bowyer.

He said: "It was important for the players. We talked about discipline and we kept our discipline.

"We could have gone flying into tackles, got yellow cards or reds. But we did that well.

"We kept our discipline. We concentrated on maintaining that. It's about educating them, drilling it into their heads.

"If you do it enough times, it does stay with you.

"It's something I learned from a very early point in my career and has stuck with me ever since."

McLeish felt all his players played to their potential against the Gunners which was all he demanded, irrespective of the result.

He said: "I said to them 'come in after the game, be proud of your individual performance, and look in the mirror and say I thought I did pretty well' - and I couldn't fault a single player."