McLeish delighted by Zigic's early arrival for life with Birmingham

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Birmingham striker Nikola Zigic will report for duty after only a mini-break following the World Cup to have time to adapt to the Premier League for the new season.

Zigic was part of Serbia's squad in South Africa but will link up with his new team-mates next Monday in time for City's pre-season tour of Hong Kong and China which begins on Wednesday.

The Birmingham manager, Alex McLeish, has taken into account that Zigic did not feature regularly for Valencia last season in deciding not to give the player a lengthier summer holiday.

McLeish, who splashed out £6m on Zigic, said: "He certainly didn't play as many games as the lads in our squad last season when, for a long time, we fielded virtually an unchanged team. He should be fine and in any case we've got to get him up to a level of fitness where he's ready for the Premier League."

McLeish, who has also signed goalkeeper Ben Foster from Manchester United for £6m, added: "We will be showing Nikola some of the footage from last season which should give him a good insight into what he should expect.

"The Premier League is rough, tough and, while Nikola is a big lad, the Premier League is hard in terms of aggression and that different style of football."

McLeish is adopting his normal stance of not discussing potential transfer targets but it is understood Marseille's Ghana winger Andre Ayew, who impressed during his country's run to the quarter-finals, interests him.

The Birmingham midfielder Keith Fahey has signed a one-year contract extension with the club. The new deal will keep the 27-year-old Irishman at St Andrew's until the summer of 2013.

Fahey joined Birmingham from League of Ireland side St Patrick's Athletic in January 2009 and has gone on to establish himself in McLeish's first-team squad, scoring four times in 59 appearances.

"Keith has proved to me that he's a Premier League player," McLeish said. "Having had trials that didn't work out perhaps the way he would have wanted to at clubs when he was younger, he is a brilliant example to young players in that if at first you don't succeed you should try and try again. He got a second chance and he has grabbed it. His is an inspirational story."

Fahey's first foray into English football began with a unsuccessful spell as a trainee at Arsenal before an ill-fated switch to Aston Villa in 2000 that brought just one first-team outing. He subsequently returned to the Irish league before Birmingham offered him a second opportunity to make his mark in England.

"Keith is a brilliant lad who is well-liked and is a great professional," McLeish added. "All of those qualities make him a manager's dream but it shouldn't be forgotten that he's a very good footballer too."

Dublin-born Fahey's impressive form in the Premier League led to him being handed his first senior cap for the Republic of Ireland in a friendly win against Paraguay at the end of May.

Meanwhile, West Bromwich Albion have confirmed their interest in signing striker Frédéric Piquionne who played a major role in Portsmouth reaching last season's FA Cup final. The 31-year-old Lyon player spent the 2009-10 campaign on loan at Fratton Park and scored 10 goals in all competitions. They included two against Birmingham in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup and another in the shock success over Tottenham in the semi-final win at Wembley.

Piquionne has since returned to Lyon but Albion are keen for him to return to the Premier League. The club's sporting and technical director Dan Ashworth said: "Frédéric has got a couple of years left at Lyon and we've made an inquiry but there is no firm commitment. He is a player who has been linked with three or four clubs so he's not short of options."

Another ex-Portsmouth player, Albion winger Jerome Thomas, has signed a one-year extension to his contract which will keep him at the Hawthorns until the summer of 2012. Thomas made the move to the Baggies on a free transfer last summer after being released by Pompey.

Albion also expect more offers to be made for their midfielder Borja Valero who enjoyed a successful season on loan back at Real Mallorca, the club West Brom signed him from two years ago. They have already rejected a bid from Seville and Ashworth admitted: "I suspect we will get another offer between now and the end of the transfer window." Valero is back training with Albion but would welcome a permanent move back to Spain.

Comments