McLeish snaps up 'explosive' Martins

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The Independent Football

Birmingham City yesterday signed Obafemi Martins on a six-month loan deal. Nigerian striker Martins joined from Russian side Rubin Kazan until the end of the season, and Alex McLeish described the 26-year-old as an "explosive" player who would "excite the fans".

"He's an explosive type of player," explained the Birmingham manager, "and is similar to Chucho [Christian Benitez] but with much more experience. He has great pace, is two-footed, very good in the air for his size and I'm sure he's a signing that will excite the fans." McLeish had already brought in David Bentley and Curtis Davies in the January window and described himself as "happy with the signings we've made in January".

Martins is not new to the Premier League, having spent three years at Newcastle United. He came to England in August 2006 from Internazionale for a fee of £10m. In 88 Premier League games he scored 28 goals but he left after Newcastle were relegated at the end of the 2008-09 season, joining German side Wolfsburg for £9m. Following one season in the Bundesliga he joined then-Russian champions Rubin Kazan, but after six months in Russia he has returned to England. He hopes to make his Birmingham debut in tomorrow's home game with Manchester City.

Birmingham drew 0-0 at Eastlands in November and City manager Roberto Mancini hopes to avoid a repeat at St. Andrew's. "I think it will be different at Birmingham," he said. "When we played them before at home we had a lot of chances to score and it finished 0-0." When asked if he thought City might still have problems breaking teams down, he said that "the team has improved a lot since November".

Mancini hopes that Manchester City's away form will improve after a loss and a draw in their last two outings. They followed a defeat at Aston Villa with a draw at Notts County, and intend to record their first away victory since beating Newcastle on Boxing Day.

"I think it is time we returned to winning ways away from home after the two games at Aston Villa and Notts County," said Mancini. "The away form isn't a frustration for me [compared to City's home form], I understand football very well and I know that there are some moments where maybe you can't score or you concede a goal in the first session to your opponents."