Fortress St Andrew's vital for survival, says McLeish

Birmingham manager looks to Stoke as example of home form keeping small sides up
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Alex McLeish has urged Birmingham to use the efforts of Stoke last season as "the big yardstick" in their battle for Premier League survival. McLeish is aware of how Stoke's impressive home form was a massive factor in Tony Pulis's side defying the pre-season odds and earning a second season in the top flight.

Birmingham paid the price during their last experience of the Premier League two years ago for drawing too many matches in front of their own supporters. McLeish knows that has to change as the Blues gear up for successive matches at St Andrew's against Portsmouth tonight and Stoke on Saturday.

The former Scotland manager said: "Our home form cost us last time we were in the Premier League. One more victory would have kept us in the division but there were too many draws. Certainly, in my 13 games at home after coming here mid-season, we only lost one but didn't get enough wins.

"It is that which played a big part in keeping Stoke in the division last year. Stoke are the big yardstick for Premier League survival.

"There are games coming up we would be looking to try and win. Your home matches are so vital to your survival in the Premier League."

McLeish believes his players will take great confidence from their performance against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday, when they were only beaten by a Wayne Rooney goal. But he is also aware of the need for his strikers to be clinical in front of goal if they are to reap the rewards of their general play.

He said: "We frustrated United, which was the game plan, and may have got something out of the game. The next stage is to put the ball in the back of the net.

"Cameron Jerome played a lone furrow up front, which is not easy against two top centre-backs, and Christian Benitez livened the place up when he came on and is a big-game player.

"But we know at home we have to play in a different way where the onus is on us to take the game to the opponents. That is where we need the strikers to really show us what they can do.

"Of course, I would have taken it if we had played rubbish at Old Trafford and ended up with something from the game. Results are the be-all and end-all. But, when you go to places like United and the other top teams, sometimes even a narrow sort of loss can act as a boost to the confidence."

McLeish is still looking to add to his squad and is still interested in the Sporting Gijon midfielder Michel. The manager said: "I would like to enhance the team to enhance our chances. We would like to get the players in who might give us that better chance."

McLeish believes that midfielder Barry Ferguson's knowledge and experience will prove valuable if Birmingham are to stop being a yo-yo club between the Premier League and the Championship.

He said: "Barry has done it in the Premier League, at international level. He has played at an extremely high level, a higher level than a lot of the players in the Premier League with his Champions League experience. He knows the importance of keeping a football and not giving it away cheaply."

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