Alex McLeish has set the foundations now to build something special at Birmingham City. In two years he has set his side up to comfortably survive in the Premier League, to such an extent that the clubs current status in and around the relegation zone has made them look more unflattering than their performances deserve.
Whatever the case though, they have one reason to look up, they have just won the Carling Cup final when they were true underdogs. Whatever the manner of the win and how the winner came, this is silverware and silverware breeds confidence which breeds success.
After a few seasons in which they had become a yo-yo club, last season they were massively impressive, comfortably safe for the vast majority of the season and even ruffling quite a few feathers along the way. Built on an untried but successful defence, this overshadows that they have great talent around the pitch. Players do not just impose themselves in defence but also in midfield and attack, where he has plucked several from obscurity to be relevant.
Steven Carr had once retired after his spell at the imploding Newcastle had no doubt destroyed his zest for the game. Lee Bowyer was thought of as a lost cause, but has been a major part of the clubs destiny. Keith Fahey was completely unknown in England, and now is a regular starter for Birmingham and is involved in the Republic of Ireland squad with much success so far. His two main centre backs Roger Johnson and Scott Dann never once played a top flight game between them, but they have become the cornerstones along with Carr and Liam Ridgewell who was discarded by Aston Villa.
The same rivals let go of Craig Gardner as well, who has been an inspiration this season and is as local if not more so than Steven Gerrard (he always supported Everton before he wore red, Gardner is Birmingham through and through). He has some players who have big reputaions as well, Zigic, Hleb, Beausejour and last night’s scorer Obafemi Martins.
Right at this moment, they can consider themselves the biggest team in the Midlands. With European football to come and likely survival, and still another possible trip to Wembley in the FA Cup, this is the second of 2 progressive years in the top flight. Chock full of character right down from the manager, with a little further investment from their owners who thus far have backed up their word with money, the skies the limit .
Another few years of Premier League establishment beckons.