Saturday 21 January 2017

Birmingham City

Published 17/05/2011 | 05:00

Relegation after winning the League Cup would not be a unique achievement -- it was a fate embraced by Norwich in 1985.

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Birmingham may have lifted their first serious piece of silverware since Kennedy was president, but they have been crippled by injuries and have no momentum to speak of, having lost four of their last five matches.

Sunday's insipid defeat by Fulham, soft in defence, softer in attack, was typical. Alex McLeish had called on his team to be "Rottweilers" in their final game at St Andrew's, but they behaved with the kind of courage under fire Scooby Doo used to display.

Although defender Liam Ridgewell and midfielder Craig Gardner will return from suspension, McLeish saw four players injured against Fulham -- Alexander Hleb, Lee Bowyer, Stuart Parnaby and Martin Jiranek. A groin injury to the giant Nikola Zigic means Birmingham's attack will be spearheaded by the older, smaller and wiser Kevin Phillips.

There is always one club that falls late and unexpectedly into the mire, is unprepared for the scrap and suffers accordingly. In 2009 it was Newcastle, this time it is Birmingham, a club that three years ago were also unable to save themselves.

This time around, McLeish's problems have been a chronic lack of goals -- fewer than any other Premier League team, and they will probably need to score at White Hart Lane. A draw will probably be enough, unless Wigan win at Stoke or Blackpool triumph at Old Trafford and McLeish is under no illusions: "It will be a tough task for us to go to Spurs and win, but we have done it before," he said. Indeed they did but it came in the season of their relegation and five of their six most recent journeys to Tottenham have been lost.

Score in reverse fixture: Drew 1-1

Last victory v Spurs: 4-1 March 2008

Form: LLDLL

Away form: LDLLL

Top scorer: Craig Gardner 7

Odds to go down: 4/5

Irish Independent

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