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Blues count cost of Cup glory

Suddenly the euphoric winter's afternoon when Birmingham stunned Arsenal to lift the Carling Cup looks like a mirage or a millstone.

This supine defeat by Fulham, who scored at the start of either half through defender Brede Hangeland, leaves Alex McLeish's side in danger of emulating Norwich in 1985 and becoming the second club ever to win a major trophy and be relegated.

Birmingham will step out at Tottenham on the final day with only two victories in 11 Premier League matches spread over the 77 days since Obafemi Martins' goal sparked a rhapsody in blue at Wembley.

The permutations for Birmingham's survival run the full gamut. Their manager, Alex McLeish, admitted the Carling Cup triumph had had an effect physically and mentally on his players but responded tersely to suggestions that a depleted team had not shown their customary tenacity and spirit.

"It's a tough task to go there and win, but we've done it before," he said, doubtless recalling a 3-2 success at White Hart Lane in his first game with Birmingham.

McLeish added: "We've been in the situation before where it has looked impossible and it has happened for us. They've shown the character time and again, but today we were out-muscled." (©Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent