McLeish expects Johnson to be fit to face Sunderland

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The Independent Football

Birmingham are hoping key central defender Roger Johnson will be fit for this weekend's crucial home game against Sunderland.

Johnson suffered concussion in the weekend draw at Blackburn and had to be taken off at half-time – much to his irritation. Birmingham manager Alex McLeish insists he was right to replace the former Cardiff man and is confident he will be able to count on Johnson for the game against free-falling Sunderland.

He said: "I had to drag Roger off. You know how he never wants to stop playing. He was just saying 'give me half-time', but I said 'no chance'. He had a bit of a rant and a rave, as he does. But I told him there was no way I was going to compromise the health and safety of one of my most important players.

"The doctor felt there was concussion. Roger was a bit groggy but he will get over it. We don't think it's too severe and hopefully he will get over it for the weekend."

McLeish is also hoping that Johnson's replacement, Curtis Davies, will have recovered from a knock to his lateral knee ligament. Scottish midfielder Barry Ferguson is expected to be fit despite picking up a neck injury in the 1-1 draw at Ewood Park. Birmingham are 16th in the Barclays Premier League table, three points above the bottom three of West Ham United, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Wigan Athletic.

Meanwhile, injured Wolves striker Kevin Doyle has set his sights on playing for the Republic of Ireland in three internationals at the end of the season. Doyle has virtually ruled himself out of the remainder of Wolves' battle for survival with a knee ligament injury suffered on international duty last month. But he is hoping to return for his country in late May, even though he admits his club manager Mick McCarthy may not be too happy.

Doyle said: "If I don't play for Wolves again this season, I don't suppose the manager will be too happy to see me get fit and disappear for my country. But I'm going to try to make it."

Wolves have switched to a 4-4-2 formation in Doyle's absence for the past two games and have been thrashed 4-1 by Newcastle and 3-0 by Everton. But the 27-year-old said the system is not to blame. He said: "It's not the formation. We've played 4-5-1 and been successful. We've done it with both."