Gardner: Arsenal were petrified of Big Ziggy

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The Independent Football

The Birmingham City midfielder Craig Gardner yesterday accused Arsenal of being "petrified" during their Carling Cup final defeat on Sunday. Birmingham were yesterday adjusting to the fact they will be playing in Europe next season after Obafemi Martins' late winner earned the club their first major trophy since 1963, while Arsenal were left licking their wounds.

Salt was then applied liberally by a gleeful Gardner, who said: "We started like a house on fire and we really got into them and you could see they were petrified and they were scared and then it all just went from there.

"Big Ziggy [Nikola Zigic] played up front on his own and I think he bullied them. They were petrified of him, midfielders were running off big Ziggy and we caused them problems. Stephen Carr hit the nail on the head when he said Arsenal have got more ability in the changing room but we have got more heart."

Birmingham's shock victory will not be marked in the traditional way with an open-top bus tour of the city, on safety grounds. Instead, there will be a civic reception at St Andrew's on Sunday.

Manager Alex McLeish said Birmingham would have to strengthen their squad in the summer to cope with the demands of playing in the Europa League next season. McLeish 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."

City goalkeeper Ben Foster said the club must use the euphoria of their victory to ensure they pull away from the Premier League relegation zone. They currently lie just two points above the bottom three, although they do have two games in hand on their nearest rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers and West Ham United. They also face fellow strugglers West Bromwich Albion at St Andrew's on Saturday. Foster said: "To win a cup in my first season here is amazing. We are also in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup; it is a tough match [against Bolton], and we'd love to come back to Wembley again. But we need to take this win, and the confidence that comes with it, into the remaining Premier League fixtures.

"We can't be playing in Europe next season but also the Championship. It is kind of unthinkable. We've been in fairly good form recently and we just need to carry that on and get a few more wins under our belts.

"Every game is a must-win game. We've played a lot of the big teams already and the run-in we've got is advantageous with a lot of teams in and around us. The league at the moment is very topsy-turvy. You win one or two and you are out of danger and you lose one or two and you are back in it.

"The 40 points isn't going to be the magic mark for safety it normally is. I think it is going to be more than that."