McLeish wants Martins as reward for reaching final


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The Independent Football

Alex McLeish, buoyed by his Birmingham City side's progress to their first cup final in 55 years is seeking to use it as a springboard to bring in the striker club owner Carson Yeung has been unwilling to sanction, with a loan move for Obafemi Martins a possibility.

McLeish brushed off chief executive Peter Pannu's criticisms of his purchases four days ago – when he insisted, after the defeat at Old Trafford, that he would "go right to the death" to find someone to enhance the forward area. Martins, who scored 28 goals in 88 games for Newcastle United, could meet that requirement.

The Nigerian failed to settle in Wolfsburg after a £9m move from St James' Park at the end of the 2009-10 season and left this summer for a three-year deal at the Russian side Rubin Kazan, though he has also failed to make an impact there. McLeish could use a striker with proven Premier League quality. He admitted after the 5-0 defeat at Old Trafford on Saturday that Matt Derbyshire has taken time to settle since his loan move from Olympiakos – he is yet to score in the Premier League – and support is needed for Cameron Jerome: midfielder Craig Gardner is the club's leading scorer. The 26-year-old Martins scored some spectacular goals for Newcastle, though he could not prevent the side being relegated in May 2009.

After the failure to sign Robbie Keane – who suggested Birmingham had exaggerated the prospects of him signing – and Kenny Miller, Yeung's confidence in McLeish was looking increasingly questionable. There is certainly no cocktail more dangerous to a manager than indifferent results and a proprietor unhappy with his investment returns and even McLeish acknowledged his own vulnerability after his side's triumph over West Ham took them to a Carling Cup final against Arsenal.

But defender Liam Ridgewell accused McLeish's critics of having short memories. "People have forgotten what happened last year and what we're still doing this year," he said. "It's tough the second season but we know what the gaffer can do and we're all sticking together."

Larsson, who will miss next month's final if a mooted swap deal for the West Bromwich Albion defender Curtis Davies goes ahead, echoed that sentiment. "He's done well since he came here so any other suggestion is just rubbish," Larsson said. "We were not good in the first half on Wednesday. I wouldn't say there were strong words said at half-time but he made us realise we had 45 minutes to rescue the game and we needed to take the chance."

Gardner offered a similar endorsement. "The gaffer always fires us up," he said. "We will go to the final as underdogs but we are a team that will never fold, never give up. We will be in Arsenal's faces like we are in everyone's faces and I'm sure it will be a cracking game."

"We've drawn 11 games in the Premier League and that's been our downfall," McLeish said. "I'm not invulnerable. I have to get results. We just have not scored enough goals but this [win over West Ham] might give the lads extra motivation to start getting goals."