Sunday 25 March 2018

McLeish left in a 'trance' as Blues spin downward

Tottenham 2
Birmingham City 1

Jason Burt

This was chaotic, exhilarating, tense and, finally, cruel. Almost perverse. The Tottenham fans took great delight in taunting Birmingham, with each twist and stomach-churning turn, through the 90-plus minutes as the other scores filtered through and then stood and applauded the visitors' defiance as Birmingham's fans went down fighting.

Their team was more confused; it will be broken up. Their manager Alex McLeish seems unlikely to stay while the club's owner, Carson Yeung, who was here, faces a financial nightmare. He didn't buy into the Premier League dream to drop down to the Championship.

McLeish was broken afterwards, he spoke of being "absolutely devastated" and of facing a "horrible summer". This was, he declared, "probably the worst moment of my career". But nothing summed up his senses more than this recollection of the last few minutes: "It was like being in a bit of a trance, really, with what was going on. It is hard to tell your emotions."

Few would want to step through that maelstrom, while McLeish stood up to questions over his future: "I'm going to rise again, pick myself up. We (he and the owner) will have a chat and see where we go from there." However, he pointedly added that he had a "good contract" and expected its terms to be honoured.

How hurtful that both Spurs goals were struck by Roman Pavlyuchenko, a bit-part player for his present employer, but one that Birmingham tried to buy for £9m last year.

They were safe at half-time and they were safe for eight glorious minutes after Craig Gardner's superb equaliser -- but the permutations were simply bewildering. It was points, then goal difference and then, even, goals scored after Wolverhampton's second goal before Pavlyuchenko applied the sword in injury-time to end any argument.

Until Pavlyuchenko came on as a sub, Spurs' opportunities were limited. That was until the impressive Danny Rose tricked his way past Seb Larsson and passed infield.

The ball broke to Pavlyuchenko who took one touch and struck a wonderful curling right-footed shot that opened the scoring.

Suddenly Birmingham were down and then, from nothing, they were surviving. It came as Rose charged down Barry Ferguson's shot and the rebound dropped to Gardner. He struck a fierce drive which found the corner of the net to cue delirium.

But then news filtered through of another Wolves' goal and the dynamics changed dramatically yet again. Birmingham needed to win. But it was Spurs who got the win when Pavlyuchenko strode forward and struck a dipping shot that deflected off Ferguson, cannoned off the crossbar and beat Foster.

Birmingham were gone. "They said I was a lucky manager when we won the Carling Cup," McLeish stated. "I don't feel lucky today." And he wasn't. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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