Birmingham City: How should McLeish spend his transfer budget?
Birmingham City’s new owner Carson Yeung has given manager Alex McLeish a massive boost ahead of the January transfer window by stating that up to £40 million will be made available to him to bolster the Blues squad – but just how should he spend that cash?
Big Eck has freely admitted that he has never had that sort of money to work with before and is looking for quality not quantity when it comes to strengthening his small squad. The former Rangers and Scotland boss has managed to bring quality to St Andrews on a tight budget already, but some Blues fans are concerned about how he will cope when it comes to splashing that amount of money.
Birmingham have made a credible start to their return to the Premier League but, as I write, the Blues are just outside the relegation zone on goal difference and they could well do with an injection of creativity in January.
So what areas of the pitch need strengthening? Well, ideally, all of them. But here is my assessment of what areas need urgent attention and I have suggested a few potential transfer targets that Birmingham may be interested in.
In goal Joe Hart is a top class shot-stopper. Unfortunately for McLeish he is only on loan until the end of the season from Manchester City, who will not want to let one of the best young English goalkeepers leave. So I think another experienced and gifted goalkeeper is a definite must for McLeish, but that could wait until the summer. He could then possibly go down the loan route again by asking Sir Alex Ferguson if he could take Tomasz Kuszczak or Ben Foster for 12 months.
Defensively City have held their own this season without pushing up too many trees. McLeish, who learned his trade in the great Aberdeen side of the early 80s under Sir Alex Ferguson, will no doubt be passing on his vast experience to the rear guard, but he needs some more class in there.
He could well tempt Rangers with a few million for the impressive Madjid Bougherra. The Algerian international is strong, skilful and prepared to put his body on the line. He could be a decent acquisition for Birmingham. Or how about Fulham’s Chris Baird? He has been on the fringes of Roy Hodgson’s team but he is highly regarded for his defensive displays.
Birmingham fans have craved some excitement and I think a midfielder who can get the fans off their seat with a sublime piece of skill is a must. Barry Ferguson has come in from Rangers and done well. The Scot is always composed and assured in position and likes to keep things simple. However, they need someone who can split defences with one simple pass, someone who can score from distance, someone who will probably cost £8 million plus.
At Blackburn, David Bentley was immense. However, his dream move to Spurs has turned into a nightmare. Big Eck has a knack of motivating players to give their all for him and an on-form Bentley would be a cracking signing for Birmingham.
Another possible target could be the promising young Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic. The 21-year-old currently plays for Schalke in the Bundesliga but may well relish the opportunity to join his international teammates Modric and Kranjcar in the Premier League.
And up front McFadden, O’Connor, Phillips, Jerome and Benitez all know where the goals are. Unfortunately for Birmingham City, none of them are what you would label a clinical marksman.
Italian Luca Toni is rumoured to be seeking a move away from Bayern Munich and has been linked with West Ham United. However, Birmingham could well steal him from under the Hammers’ noses given their current financial plight. He has bags of experience and his goal record is phenomenal.
Big Eck may also be tempted to give Roman Pavlyuchenko an escape route from White Hart Lane. The 27-year-old has failed to make much of an impact at Tottenham and has fallen down Harry Redknapp’s pecking order. Could St Andrews be the ideal home for Pavlychenko?
Of course at this moment in time Alex McLeish’s main priority is to get Birmingham away from the drop zone, but make no doubts about it, Eck will be looking at potential signings right now.
Now, most of the names I have mentioned so far probably won’t come off but there’s no reason why Birmingham should not be looking at players of that standing. However, who would you – the Birmingham fans – love to see arrive at St Andrews in January? I’d love to hear from you.
· Calling all Birmingham City fans. What areas of the pitch do you think needs urgent reinforcements and what names would you like to see arrive at St Andrews? How confident are you that Alex McLeish will be able to spend the money efficiently? Do you think McLeish is the right man to not only keep Birmingham in the Premier League but realise the new owner’s plans for the club? I’d love to hear from you.