Thursday 19 April 2018

McLeish relationship 'phenomenal' - Birmingham chairman

Birmingham acting chairman Peter Pannu has dispelled concerns about a rift with manager Alex McLeish over the Scot's ongoing contract negotiations.

Pannu was quoted yesterday saying McLeish was asking for "a very large amount of money which I was not prepared to meet" and that he was "no Jose Mourinho".

But Pannu insisted today the comments had not been meant as a criticism and that McLeish could sign a new contract as early as next week.

He told the Birmingham Mail: "This is all nonsense. We are just perhaps inches away from Alex signing a contract, possibly by next week.

"Our relationship is phenomenal, we are very strong and close, and I want to dispel this notion that there is anything wrong.

"In fact, I spoke to Alex about the Mourinho reference and we laughed about it. In the whole context of the interview I did, it would not have had a sting to it. But to take out the extract like that made it look worse than it was.

"Mourinho came up because I mentioned that the agent who made the initial approach to me about Alex and his contract represents Mourinho.

"Nothing was meant as a slight to Alex in the context of the conversation I had."

McLeish declined to comment on the situation at a press conference yesterday following the transfer deadline day signings of Alexander Hleb, Martin Jiranek and Jean Beausejour.

The Scot, who still has a year left to run on his current deal, is being rewarded for Birmingham's first season back in the Barclays Premier League that saw them finish ninth.

And Pannu is confident the saga will soon be brought to a successful conclusion, adding: "We have agreed figures, there is only one clause still be sorted out. It is not pay related."

McLeish, meanwhile, has revealed letters from Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson and his Arsenal counterpart Arsene Wenger helped secure Hleb a work permit.

The former Gunners winger was initially denied a permit to return to England from Barcelona because his national team, Belarus, are ranked outside the top 70 in FIFA's world rankings.

But the Blues were successful with an appeal, and McLeish said: "Both Sir Alex and Arsene Wenger gave us a headed notepaper endorsement of Hleb's quality to play in England.

"I think the panel were pretty positive about it anyway. But we had to make sure the panel were aware that Hleb was always a target and it helps when you have got two top managers endorsing a particular player."

Striker backs McLeish

Birmingham striker Kevin Phillips gave McLeish his full backing, describing the former Scotland boss as a miracle worker.

The 37-year-old told Sky Sports News: "I know for a fact every player at the club wants the manager to stay. He's worked miracles here. Everything is in place. We all know contracts take a while to sort out and I'm sure he'll get it sorted."

Phillips signed a one-year contract extension in July but a torn thigh muscle last month ruled him out for what McLeish described as "a considerable period".

The striker still has not put a timeframe on his return but revealed he is being spurred on in his rehabilitation by the prospect of playing with the club's new signings.

He continued: "I'm on the mend, I'm not too far away. With the signings we've just made, I want to be on the football pitch as soon as I can.

"The manager's pulled off some unbelievable business to persuade Hleb to come here. It can only be great for the club, the supporters, and us players as well."

Press Association

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