Birmingham City manager Alex McLeish appears to be determined to unearth the next gem from the Emerald Isle after it emerged that he is running the rule over two more Irish players.
Fresh from persuading St Patrick’s Athletic midfielder Keith Fahey to sign a pre-contract agreement, McLeish’s scouting network appears to be working overtime in Eire in a bid to seek out further bargain acquisitions.
Sligo Rovers right-back Seamus Coleman and Limerick midfielder Jason Hughes are the current duo in question with reports from across the Irish Channel suggested that both are already in Birmingham.
Sources in Donegal claim that 20-year-old Coleman, a Republic of Ireland Under-21 international, received a call on Saturday evening to come to the West Midlands to meet McLeish, flew out from Derry Airport on Sunday, trained with the Blues’ first-team yesterday and will attend the club’s home Championship fixture with Watford tomorrow.
And while the eircom League of Ireland star enjoyed his packed out week, Sligo are believed to be
mulling over a ‘six-figure offer’ for their prized asset.
The Celtic fan is also being tracked by his boyhood club as well as Birmingham’s Championship promotion rivals Burnley.
Meanwhile 17-year-old Hughes, Limerick’s reigning young-player-of-the-year and fresh from an Ireland Under-18 call-up, is on trial at Birmingham, as has been confirmed by his current club.
Irish eyes are certainly smiling on St Andrew’s at the moment, but whether it’s a ploy to get Birmingham’s Digbeth-based Gaelic community through the turnstiles or just McLeish appealing to his Celtic roots, remains to be seen.
For the time being the threat of Watford, now under the tutelage of Jose Mourinho-schooled Brendan Rogers, is at the forefront of McLeish’s mind.
The Scotsman, who once again missed out on the Coca-Cola Championship Manager of the Month Award, this time to Wolverhampton’s Mick McCarthy, faces a selection headache at right-back after he confirmed that on-loan Nicky Hunt’s hamstring strain isn’t as bad as was first feared last Saturday.
Tomorrow’s game would be the final fixture of Hunt’s current emergency loan deal from Bolton Wanderers although McLeish is still considering striking up another agreement with The Trotters as he prepares himself for a hectic and crucial festive period.
However fit-again Stuart Parnaby, who impressed at right-back in the early part of the season, has returned to the squad so McLeish has a defensive decision on his hands.
Meanwhile Seb Larsson is available again after missing last weekend’s local derby at Molineux due to personal problems and Kevin Phillips looks likely to continue partnering Marcus Bent
up front despite being withdrawn at half-time against Wolves with a suspected virus.
McLeish doesn’t want his side to lose their recent momentum and slip off the tails of leaders Wolves although, in age old managerial fashion, he admits that he’s not too concerned with the current Championship standings.
“I think this league has proved over the years that teams can lose ground and can still catch up,” said McLeish. “I wouldn’t want to lose any ground, of course I’d rather be up there at the top. It’s also a league where things turn very quickly in two weeks time you may be saying that Wolves are trying to catch up on us.
“That’s the way it can go in this league but you’ve got to win the games to do that and we are definitely capable of getting on a good run.”
Certainly with a tricky midweek jaunt to take the south-west of England to take on Plymouth Argyle on the horizon, victory at home to Watford tomorrow is paramount.