Birmingham manager Alex McLeish hailed man mountain Nikola Zigic for his influence in his side’s Carling Cup semi-final win over West Ham.
While the towering Serb did not score in City’s come-from-behind 3-1 victory at St Andrews in extra-time to win 4-3 on aggregate, the Scottish manager saved special praise for the English Premier League’s tallest player after he was substituted on at half-time for Matt Derbyshire.
“I said if you get a chance to cross the ball do it, put it in the box with big Zigic in there. It was his most effective game for us and when he plays like that he can be very difficult indeed to handle,” McLeish told Sky Sports.
“I was probably more relaxed than I have been in recent weeks in the (English) Premier League. I don’t know why, but I did have a calm about me,” he said.
“I just had to trust the players and the players had to trust each other. We tried our best in the first half but we huffed and puffed without really troubling them. Zigic made the difference.”
McLeish was beaming with pride at Birmingham’s fight back, and is now anticipating a chance at winning City’s first piece of silverware since they won the Third Division in 1994/95 and their first major trophy since claiming the League Cup in 1963.
“I will have enormous pride leading the side out at Wembley. I have been involved in a lot of semi-finals and have got to finals in Scotland in my career, so to come to England and get to Wembley is a dream come true,” he said.
West Ham manager Avram Grant was disappointed with his side’s defence on set pieces, as they crumbled from a two-goal aggregate lead to lose in extra-time.
“They started with a lot of long balls and we didn’t deal with it so well, that was the difference,” the under-fire manager said.
“I am not happy that we are not in the final. I think we did well in the Carling Cup. In this game, in the first half we were good but unfortunately we are not going to Wembley.”
“I think the players played good and we are not playing like a team at the bottom. We need to defend better from set-pieces.”