Birmingham City 4 Tottenham Hotspur 1: Forssell forces Spurs to doubt strength of reserves

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The Independent Football

Mikael Forssell should act as an inspiration to every long-time injured professional, even to one, at Arsenal, who may be forgiven for not yet being able to cast any admiring glances in the direction of St Andrews.

What the Finn has come through in four years when the treatment table has become like an extension of his spine provides an example of sheer doggedness and saintly patience. Such fighting spirit may yet be the quality that keeps Birmingham in the top flight this season. That and his undoubted finishing ability, of course.

Spurs would probably testify to the former and the latter after the repeated forays of Forrsell and his eminently suitable forward partner, James McFadden, netted him Birmingham's first hat-trick in the Premiership. In truth, this was not the Tottenham of six days earlier at Wembley – hangovers have rarely been so blearily expressed – but Alex McLeish was determined this should not detract from his side's first League victory since Boxing Day or, more to the point, the contribution of his blond striker.

"He was merciless in front of goal," said the manager. "And his link-up play was also good. He's had a lot of injury problems and when they are of that magnitude it is going to have some effect."

If the manner in which Forssell has recovered is commendable then so, too, has been that of McLeish's man-management of a 26-year-old who was once fêted at Stamford Bridge. The temptation to throw in Forssell – who scored 17 goals in the Premiership in the 2003-04 season – must have verged on the irresistible as the goals dried up and the relegation rivals closed in. McLeish, however, stood firm and now, in these final few months of the season, might he collect his reward.

"Mikael is a definitely a finisher, one of the best I have seen, and he is totally fit but obviously with the bad injury he sustained he couldn't play 42 games in a season," said the Scot. "We have tried to be careful with Mikael. Sometimes we take him out of training. He is on a weight exercise programme to strengthen the muscles that protect the knee he damaged a few years ago and he is a hard worker.

"Mikael is bursting to play in every single game but I have to rely on my experience . Saying that, if he is the one to light the touchpaper then I will probably flog him to death. He believes that he can be the man who will get the goals. I believe in him too."

It was hard not to after this show, despite Spurs' startling lethargy. If the Wembley victory over Chelsea had hinted that in future campaigns they could be ready to launch an assault on the top four, this capitulation positively screamed that the squad needs radical strengthening before they can even dream about it. The five players brought in by Juande Ramos were plainly not up to it, a fact all but acknowledged by the assistant manager, Gus Poyet.

"The players don't understand how important the Premiership is but they will next week," he said.

With Spurs playing in the last 16 of the Uefa Cup, against PSV Eindhoven, on Thursday, these fringe players will likely have another chance. Next up in the League is a trip to Upton Park on Sunday. Lucky old West Ham.

Goals: Forssell 7 (1-0), Larsson 55 (2-0), Forssell 59 (3-0), 81 (4-0), Jenas 90 (4-1).

Birmingham City (4-4-2): Maik Taylor; Kelly, Jaidi, Ridgewell, Murphy; Larsson, Johnson, Muamba, McSheffrey (Parnaby, 70); McFadden (Zarate, 84), Forssell (Jerome, 84). Substitutes not used: Doyle (gk), Nafti.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Robinson; Hutton, Kaboul, Chimbonda, Tainio (Jenas, 46); Malbranque (Keane, 46), Zokora (Gunter, 73), Huddlestone, O'Hara; Berbatov, Bent. Substitutes not used: Cerny (gk), Lennon.

Referee: L Probert (Gloucestershire).

Booked: Birmingham Johnson.

Man of the match: Forssell.

Attendance: 26,055.

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