Liam Ridgewell, most notably known for being a strong willed centre-back has played a majority of this record breaking season at left-back. He was signed from cross-city rivals Aston Villa in August 2007 for a fee of £2million, thus becoming the first player to cross the second city divide since Des Bremner in 1984.
With the new Premier League season imminent, McLeish had to look abroad and gave former Liverpool left-back Gregory Vignal a trial in a friendly against Spanish outfit Sporting Gijon. Vignal, 28, impressed and Birmingham secured a one year loan deal with his club Lens.
Vignal started the season well at Manchester United but then unfortunately got injured. This prompted McLeish to play the versatile Stuart Parnaby in the left-back role. Normally a right sided player, Parnaby did as well as could be expected but much like Vignal, he has a history of niggling injuries. This occurred again and the only option for Big Eck was to put Ridgewell – who had been on the bench due to the formidable partnership between Roger Johnson and Scott Dann – at left back.
It was a decision McLeish was forced into but I’m sure if you ask him now he’ll have absolutely no regrets. Since the game at Arsenal in October, Ridgewell has been a permanent fixture in a very solid looking back four alongside Johnson, Dann and captain Stephen Carr.
It took a while for Ridgewell to be ‘accepted’ by the Birmingham fans, crossing the divide is never easy and I’m sure Ridgewell will be giving tips to new boy Craig Gardner who did the same.
One of the lowest points of his Blues career must have been last year’s 3-2 home victory against Charlton in which Ridgewell made a hash of a long ball and allowed Andy Gray to then put the Addicks 2-1 up at St Andrews. There were notable boo’s from the home crowd but to Ridgewell’s credit he has battled on since that moment.
In his willingness to play anywhere for the team, including his newly found home at left-back, he has really shown the desire that has seen him become a fans favourite and candidate for this season’s player of the year award.