Thursday, 15 July 2010

Doing it again, new faces and conquering the Far East

After the heroics performed on and off the pitch last season to give Birmingham a rightly deserved top of the table place in the Premier League last season, the question is; can they do it again?

Some people, namely pundits, would class Birmingham’s wonder season as a one off; that it won’t happen again. It was hard to do what we did last season, but it’s going to be even harder to repeat it again in 2010-11, and prove to the pundits and the rest of the Premier League that last season was no one off, that it was no fluke.

Three new faces have been brought in already to bolster the squad and replace players lost at the end of last season; highly rated goalkeeper Ben Foster has come in to take the place of Joe Hart; the player who gave himself legend status at the Blues in just one season. The tallest player to play at the 2010 World Cup, Serbian giant Nikola Zigic, has squeezed into the small gap left by Christian ‘Chucho’ Benitez who failed to impress Alex and his staff in his season-long loan.

Also brought in to give a bit of more bulk to the ever thinning squad at Blues, is young Spanish midfielder Enric Valles. Valles learnt his trade at Barcelona, before moving to the Dutch league. Having not played many games last season, he will need to get match fitness levels up before he possibly makes a start in the Premier League, but the age of twenty with not much experience, he may be ‘one for the future.’ McLeish is also hoping to bring in to “ another couple of bodies to the squad at least,” and with bids in the process and some already tabled, it looks like a further few faces will be added to the Blues squad before the season kicks off against Sunderland on the 14th August.

As well as brining in new players, a new face in the management team has been brought in after Roy Aitken received an offer he couldn't turn down. After a week-and-abit long search, Alex's new Assistant Manager is Peter Grant. The former-Scotland international has got plenty of experience, even with a stint as first team manager of Norwich City. He is an ideal replacement for Aitken, with McLeish saying that "his personality is akin to that of the man we have just lost, Roy Aitken, and that will be a great asset to us."

To start off the new season and hopefully to start off a repeat of last season's brilliant record, Blues got back down to business on Wednesday when they flew out to the far east to begin their pre-season tour of Hong Kong and China. There to welcome them at the airport were masses of press, and even a model by the name of Jenny Wong, who presented McLeish with a bouquet of flowers - organised by Carson Yeung of corse!

After two days of training in the tough humidity of Hong Kong, Birmingham start their pre-season matches on Sunday against the Hong Kong League XI team - a team made up of the best players from the Hong Kong league. This match kicks off at 3pm local time, which is 8am UK time, so if anyone is committed enough, the Birmingham Mail is doing a live blog for the game, with the coverage starting at 7.30am, which can be found here.

The second of three games of the tour, to be played on the 21st July, will be played at the famous Birds Nest stadium in Beijing, against Beijing Guoan. But something about this match will be different: that’s because it will be broadcast live on TV across the whole of China! And after all the media interest already, you can guarentee a lot of people will be tuning in to watch the game! Liaoning Hongyun are Blues’ third and final opponents on their pre-season tour, and this match will be played on the 24th July.

Of corse, the main aim of this tour is to get the players ready for the new season, but another aim is to get Birmingham City promoted in the far east, and the circulate interest of another Premier League team (after all, they must be bored of Manchester United by now, surely…) After six players plus McLeish taking part in a PR event at a shopping mall in Hong Kong in one of their first days there, you can guarentee there will be a lot more in the way of publicizing our team, and by the time the team depart from Hong Kong, they might have a few thousand more fans supporting them next season. This can only be good for the club, and the future really does look bright for the blue half of Birmingham.

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