Monday 20 November 2017

McLeish watches Zigic soar after repeating Crouch's tall tale

Birmingham City 1
Tottenham 1

John Ley

When Alex McLeish signed Nikola Zigic from Valencia, he convinced the towering striker he could operate in the Premier League by showing him video clips of another colossus, Peter Crouch. How ironic, then, that while the lofty Spurs striker produced a less-than-convincing performance, the arrival of the Serbian giant turned the game in Birmingham's favour.

At 6' 8'', Zigic has stolen Crouch's boast as the tallest player ever to feature in the Premier League -- by 1cm -- and his arrival on the hour mark inspired Birmingham to take a point from a game that should have been Tottenham's.

Tottenham, more used to coming from behind, squandered the perfect opportunity to move within three points of the Premier League summit after taking an early lead and creating enough openings to claim a valuable win. Harry Redknapp admitted he had followed Zigic's career closely and that his 30-minute cameo was the best he had seen from English football's very own Goliath.

Redknapp, unwittingly, has helped Zigic's Premier League learning curve by sticking with Crouch throughout his career. McLeish admitted: "When I brought Zigic in I showed him lots of videos of Crouch."

Zigic's introduction to the Premier League has been slow since his summer arrival but the late Carling Cup winner, against Aston Villa, earned him a little bit of Birmingham history and, coming off the bench, he helped Craig Gardner steal the equaliser against Spurs.

"It didn't happen overnight for big Peter," McLeish recalled, "but now he's a player most teams would like because he's not only great in the air but he's got a great touch. My experience of foreign guys over the years tells me it takes time to settle."

Before Zigic's arrival, Spurs had taken control. Sebastien Bassong claimed an early goal after Ben Foster could only punch away a wicked Gareth Bale free-kick and, after four straight wins, a fifth appeared imminent.

Crouch had already squandered one chance, denied by the athletic Foster, when Luka Modric presented him with an opportunity he should have taken. Instead he missed his footing and Birmingham survived.

The stresses of the Carling Cup victory in midweek meant that McLeish felt it prudent to start Zigic on the bench but, once he arrived, Spurs' grip on a game they should have won loosened.

With nine minutes remaining, and with Spurs having struggled to cope with long balls into their area, Zigic rose at the far post to respond to Roger Johnson's lofty delivery and the effervescent Craig Gardner was on hand to score a fine header. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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