Alex McLeish may have eased his left-back worries but centre-half still remains a problem area for the Birmingham City manager on the eve of the Premier League season.
Blues, who kick-off their campaign at Manchester United on Sunday, confirmed the signing of Gregory Vignal on a one-year deal from Ligue 1 club FC Lens yesterday, subject to a medical.
The 28-year-old Frenchman, who impressed during the friendly against Sporting Gijon while on trial, will come straight into the team at Old Trafford.
While Vignal will take to the field on Sunday as an injury-free defender, a rarity at Birmingham at the moment, his lack of summer match practice will come as a great concern, especially as he is likely to come up against the speed and trickery of Antonio Valencia.
If that isn’t enough to give McLeish a sleepless night on Saturday, the issue of finding two fit and capable centre-halves for the showdown with the champions will be. Four – Liam Ridgewell, Scott Dann, Giovanny Espinoza and Martin Taylor – aren’t fit enough, only one is – Roger Johnson.
That now means Franck Queudrue, a left-back, is set to partner Johnson, a Premier League rookie, at the back at Old Trafford. Although he got through 90 minutes last Saturday, Queudrue’s match fitness levels remain a concern.
Any sort of injury to Birmingham’s back-line on Sunday would be potentially disastrous; the fact that McLeish half-considered playing striker Garry O’Connor there highlights that point.
Summer signing Johnson, who is preparing for a dream Premier League debut at the Theatre of Dreams, had already admitted that Birmingham’s pre-season preparations were severely hampered by injuries in defence.
“It’s not helped with all the injuries,” said Johnson, who arrived from Cardiff for £5 million. “Me and Scotty (Dann) both had off season operations and he is still not right and with Tiny (Martin Taylor) picking up the injury that he did it’s just been carnage defensively.
“We’ve not been able to get any understanding with each other because I’ve not played with the same centre-half all pre-season. It’s been difficult but in a few weeks we’ll have everybody back fit.”