After getting knocked out of the FA Cup and the Europa League looking a near impossibility, Birmingham will soon be setting their sights on summer transfer targets.
Alex McLeish’s men will most likely finish around 10th position, a great achievement for a team that was one of the favourites for relegation pre-season. Some gloss has been taken off the season since the lack of transfer activity in January, but Blues fans must realise that at the start of the season staying up was the priority.
For fans to be expressing discontent about being ninth in the Premier League really shows you the sort of job Big Eck has done. He has raised expectations a lot at St Andrews and will be looking to take Birmingham to the ‘next step’ in the summer.
I’m sure Blues fans will be sensing some déjà-vu right about now. Three good seasons in the Premiership saw the Blues finish 13th, 10th and 12th under former boss Steve Bruce; however the 2005-06 season was a disaster and Birmingham were relegated after finishing 18th.
I’m sure McLeish has done his homework and will not make the same mistakes as Bruce did. McLeish has openly said that a player’s personality and work ethic is as important as their quality with a football. The tough task for McLeish will be getting the players he wants, the new Chinese owners keep insisting money will be available and it’s up to Big Eck to use it wisely.
Many positions will need to be filled if he wants the Blues to do the same as Fulham and become an established Premier League team. It’s unsure whether Man City will let Joe Hart spend another year at St Andrews, let’s face it they don’t need the money do they? So another goalkeeper could be needed with Notts County shot-stopper Kasper Schmeichel being linked.
The defence started brilliantly and up until recently has been rock solid. Roger Johnson and Scott Dann are gaining more and more experience but it’s at full back where the problems could arise. Stephen Carr has done a great job but he isn’t getting any younger and at left-back you have Liam Ridgewell. A left-back is a necessity, David Murphy isn’t good enough and Gregory Vignal is too injury prone. Signing a left-back would then allow Ridgewell to fight for a centre-back spot.
McLeish strengthened the midfield in January with the signings of Craig Gardner and Michel but there still isn’t a really creative midfielder at the club. Somebody in the David Dunn mould could do wonders for this Birmingham team, a winger or two are also a possibility. Birmingham lack a wide player with real pace to trouble defenders which is probably why McLeish went after Ryan Babel and Aiden McGeady in January. He might go back in for the latter in the summer if the price is right.
Up front is where most of the investment must go. Garry O’Connor and Marcus Bent are not Premier League quality and Kevin Phillips will most likely move on in the summer. This leaves the Blues with just Cameron Jerome as a senior striker. Whether McLeish will opt to sign Christian Benitez is still under debate but a big target man is a must. Roman Pavlyuchenko looks to be off limits now but somebody of his stature could help somebody like Jerome.
Jerome is always one of the main targets for fans criticism but he has definitely improved this season. He still doesn’t get as many goals as he should but maybe if another goal scorer or two were added to the squad it might help take some of the burden off and he might start to relax more.
It will definitely be an interesting summer of activity at St Andrews and if Birmingham are finally going to establish themselves as a Premier League outfit, Alex McLeish is the man to do it.