McLeish fires up at his players

Birmingham City manager Alex McLeish is still angry that midfielder Craig Gardner is suspended for Saturday’s trip to Newcastle United.Gardner was sent off for a second bookable offence in last weekend’s heated 1-1 draw with Wolves.

McLeish was unhappy to see Gardner buck the trend by being the only player to be sent off for Birmingham this term.

“Craig has been sent off a couple of times this season and he has been suspended for a total of five games,” McLeish said on Thursday.

“I thought our discipline had been very good and he was a bit unlucky because it was a passionate derby.”

“We’ve got house rules in place to deal with it but they are not for public discussion.”

“Craig and the rest of the guys know the rules.”

McLeish is well aware that his players have still not secured their Premier League status for next season.

The side’s form badly slipped after clinching the Carling Cup in February and McLeish’s men have taken just one point from their last three outings – conceding nine in the process.

But McLeish can take heart from the fact that Newcastle have not won a game since the start of April.

“We’re not relaxing, we don’t know how many points we still need,” he said.

“The focus is now on the next game at Newcastle and trying to get a result there.”

“We need to deliver a good performance until the end of the season.”

“The guys put in a tremendous effort when we drew with Wolves last weekend.”

“Our energy, stamina and concentration was just fantastic.”

“You would have expected Wolves to have had more of the ball than they did because we had Craig sent off but our resilience and desire was magnificent.”

Birmingham were beaten 5-0 at Liverpool on their last away day and McLeish held his hand up to his own mistakes.

He knows they must be set up better on the road in order to get a positive result.

“We need to put in a strong performance and use our will and determination,” he said.

“I know we have to be much better organised than we were at Liverpool. We were a bit open at Anfield and I’ve got to take a bit of blame for that as well.”

“The players are confident of getting the points.”

Birmingham will be without goalkeeper Maik Taylor, defender Scott Dann (calf), midfielder Enric Valles (ankle) and forwards James McFadden (knee) and Obafemi Martins (groin).

Forward Nicola Zigic will face a late fitness test on his groin.