Alex McLeish has quickly done what all associated with Birmingham City were imploring him to do at the end of last season. Within a week of the last ball of the season being kicked, and Joe Hart’s return to Manchester City, McLeish signed equally promising goalkeeper Ben Foster from Manchester United for £6 million.
Whilst Foster has disappointed in recent seasons, he is a player of competent ability and was perhaps the best option available to McLeish. Whilst he may not be as excellent as Hart, he will certainly provide Birmingham some valuable Premier League experience and sufficient talent. Another signing, and perhaps a more pertinent one for Birmingham’s needs, is imminent. Reports have surfaced that Valencia striker Nikola Zigic appears to be on his way to St.Andrew’s pending a contractual agreement. The fee, believed to be around £6 million, mimics the amount paid for Foster and shows the intent that both Alex McLeish and owner Carson Yeung have. The Serbian stands at 6ft7ins and will offer Birmingham something remarkably different to the diminutive and now former striker Christian Benitez. Zigic was in inspired form for his loan club Racing Santander this season scoring 13 goals in just 19 games. Should he join up with Birmingham and subsequently repeat that form, the club will have found the answer to their infrequent goalscoring ability.
Zigic, an international striker, is one of many players that have been mad readily available by the Spanish outfit this summer. Financial problems have already led to the sale of prized asset David Villa and providing that Birmingham complete the signing, Valencia will be suffering a huge loss. Just three years ago, in early August 2007, they paid Racing Santander million which is the equivalent of £16 million today. The one hindrance that Zigic may suffer is his knowledge of the Premier League. That does not seem to be all of the action in the Midlands this summer. Quotes attributed to McLeish yesterday suggest that there will be an abundance of activity at St.Andrew’s in the immediate future: “There are irons in the fire,” he said. “We have been linked with one or two players, we have put in bids for players. I think they will be excited about one or two of the names we are pursuing and what we are trying to add to the squad is players of quality.” The likes of Carlton Cole, Bobby Zamora and Wigan’s Charles N’Zogbia have all been mooted as potential acquisitions. Indeed, N’Zogbia is certainly in McLeish’s plans with two unsuccessful bids already this summer.
These telling remarks from McLeish will give fans an incredibly optimistic view of the season ahead. He looks set to solve the two biggest positional problems just weeks after the end of the season and his intimation that bids are still in the pipeline lay theory to the idea that further signings will occur. Who they will be is unknown but so far, Birmingham have been the most ambitious side in the league. They appear set to not rest on their laurels and have a want to push forward this season. They will almost certainly spend more money than they have ever done so and for those reasons, and the signings already made, Birmingham fans are beginning to see the long-term vision of both owner and manager.