McLeish backs Ferguson spirit to keep City buoyant
Birmingham City 2 Burnley 1
Monday 03 May 2010
The lighter side of Alex McLeish's personality shone through after Birmingham completed their St Andrew's campaign with a 15th unbeaten match in a row – but it was soon business as usual as he urged his players to avoid second-season syndrome by following the lead of the rehabilitated Barry Ferguson.
McLeish had addressed an exultant crowd after a routine win over relegated Burnley, secured by Brian Jensen's own goal and Christian Benitez's first home goal of a season-long loan before Steven Thompson's token riposte. Later the Birmingham manager admitted he was tempted to burst into song, a la Phil Brown, with "Fly Me To Dunoon", a Scottish twist on a Sinatra standard, or a "wee" rendition of ELO's "Mr Blue Sky".
His high spirits were understandable. Ferguson, who lost the Scotland captaincy in disgrace before coming south last summer, has been instrumental in achieving what is likely to be their first top-10 finish since 1959. "Barry has always been a great player," McLeish said. "But the Rangers fans weren't in love with him any more. He's such a determined character that when we spoke on the phone last summer, he told me his legs were fine and said 'Give me a trial'.
"The question was whether all the furore and negativity had dampened his spirit. I did some homework and made enquiries with people who worked with him up there, and they said I'd nothing to worry about."
Ferguson's metronomic midfield displays, along with Joe Hart's high-class goalkeeping, have helped Birmingham bridge the gulf between Championship and the elite in a manner Burnley briefly promised to achieve before Brian Laws succeeded Owen Coyle as manager.
"Now the challenge is not to be one-season wonders," McLeish said. "What I'll say to Roger Johnson, Scott Dann and all these lads is: 'Do it again, turn up for your work for the next 10 years like Barry Ferguson has done'."
Birmingham City (4-4-2): Hart; Parnaby (Fahey, 79), Johnson, Ridgewell, Vignal; Larsson, Ferguson, Bowyer, McFadden (Michel, 66); Jerome (Carsley, 90), Benitez. Substitutes not used Taylor (gk), Murphy, Tainio, Redmond.
Burnley (4-3-2-1): Jensen; Mears, Cort, Caldwell, Fox; Elliott, Alexander (McDonald, 85), Cort; Paterson, Nugent (Blake, 65); Fletcher (Thompson, 68). Substitutes not used Weaver (gk), Duff, Rodriguez, Bikey.
Referee P Walton (Northamptonshire).
Booked: Birmingham Parnaby, Vignal; Burnley Fox.
Man of the match Ferguson.
Latest in Sport
Arsenal transfer news and rumours: Gabriel Paulista sent to Paris to speed up move; Luis Suarez bid planned; Gunners eye Daniele Rugani
Gabriel Paulista: Talented Brazilian could grow into world-class defender at Arsenal
Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao: Pair finally meet at NBA game and shake hands, will the fight be announced during Super Bowl?
Andy Murray vs Tomas Berydch: Murray cool over reunion with coach Dani Vallverdu at the Australian Open
Manchester United transfer news and rumours: David De Gea new deal; Gareth Bale on speculation; Wilfried Zaha exit
- 2 Mystery man who gave mum heart-warming note on train 'wanted to put a smile on her face'
- 5 Amal Clooney gives excellent answer to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures