Club Focus – Birmingham City – Blues look to progress to the next level

The beginning of a calendar year did not bring the emphatic start that Blues fans would have desired. Playing against an opposition like Nottingham Forest should have been easy pickings for Birmingham, but their second string team did not impress and they were actually lucky to hold Forest to a draw.

Nevertheless, all of the club’s focus will remain on having a successful season in the Premier League. Many experts have commented that because Birmingham are apparently safe from relegation in 2010, Alex McLeish should place more emphasis on a successful cup run. Judging by his line-up against Forest, it would not be surprising if McLeish thought very differently, and his attention will now turn to the upcoming fixture against Manchester United.

The Birmingham-United encounter is an interesting prospect. United will be rocked from their defeat to Leeds so now is presumably one of the best times to play them. If Birmingham go into the game positively, they could force United to succumb to a second straight defeat. It seems that Birmingham are free from the shackles of a relegation dogfight and we will see whether the gaffer will look to install a more attacking style – an alteration that could arise if City make a few attacking additions in the January transfer window.

The game will take place at St.Andrew’s – a ground that has seen the fewest amount of goals in the Premier League this season. A direct result of this bland brand of football is that the average attendance at St.Andrew’s has dropped from 26,187 to 24,267. This statistic is surprising considering the club is currently experiencing its best run for over 100 years. An impressive result against United, whilst flexing their attacking prowess, will no doubt have a positive impact on the gate receipts.

Success against United would also raise the clubs profile at the time of new signings – players like Craig Gardner and Steve Davis, of Aston Villa and Rangers respectively, may be tempted to join the club if the Blues begin to stand tall against the brighter lights in the league. However, the fact remains that if Birmingham lose the game, it will end one of the club’s most successful periods, and 2010 would have brought two negative results. While losing to United would not be an embarrassing result, the hearts of all Blues fans will surely be telling them that this is a game that they have a good chance of winning.

Club owner Carson Yeung will be in attendance on Saturday and he may be tempted to invest more money if he feels that the club can launch a successful bid to gain European qualification. His long-term aspiration to make Birmingham City a global brand appears to be happening quicker than expected. To sustain this level of club growth, Yeung needs to extend the contract of manager Alex McLeish, who without, Birmingham would not be in such an esteemed position. It is still debatable as to whether Yeung needs to give McLeish money in the transfer market – it could either add spice to a hungry squad or unsettle a group of players that have given their all to the cause.

An educated assumption would be that while the current squad has performed admirably, a few clever additions would be welcomed as long as the arrivals buy into the current ethos of the squad. A marquee signing like Kevin Kurayni or Aiden McGeady would boost the clubs profile but at the same time they could upset the equilibrium of a dressing room filled with modest egos and a strong team spirit. A valid option seems to be life-long Blues fan Gardner from their local rivals, who possesses Premier League experience and would arrive with a respectable reputation rather than a star billing. Only McLeish knows if he’s going to buy a striker but there is a distinct lack of front men that fit the bill. Taking the Blues to the next level will be McLeish’s toughest task of his managerial career to date.

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