Barry Ferguson was last night negotiating personal terms with Birmingham City ahead of a move to St Andrew’s.
The Rangers midfielder travelled to the West Midlands yesterday after being told not to join his club’s pre-season training, as a deal that could be worth up to £1.5million edged closer to completion.
The move comes as no great surprise as talk of the 31-year-old being reunited with Alex McLeish, his former Scotland and Rangers manager, has persisted throughout the summer – although the delay in a deal reaching its final stages suggests that Ferguson was not necessarily McLeish’s first choice for a central midfield playmaker.
McLeish has previously spoken of bringing a player ‘in the Ferguson mould’ into his squad but, until now, the Birmingham manager had held back on actually making a move for the deposed Rangers captain.
Ferguson’s quality has never been questioned by McLeish, but his age may have been. Indeed, Birmingham will still need to add young legs to their central midfield – Aston Villa’s Craig Gardner being one possibility – before the start of the Premier League season as their ranks are currently made up of 35-year-old Lee Carsley, 32-year-old Lee Bowyer and 30-year Damien Johnson.
Ferguson’s weekly wage, currently £28,500, may prove to be a slight stumbling block but his Rangers team-mates already appear to be resigned to the fact that he was Premier League-bound, set to be his second spell in English football following his stay with Blackburn Rovers between 2003 and 2005.
The Scottish champions’ Portuguese midfielder Pedro Mendes said: “Quality players can adapt themselves pretty well and Barry is a quality player so I don’t think he would have any problems adapting himself to the Premier League.
“He has a strong presence in the dressing room and on the pitch and has been captain of Rangers for years and years. It’s always a shame when you see good players go, especially quality players.”
In what appears to be an unintentional trend developing between Birmingham and controversial midfielders, see Bowyer and more-recently Joey Barton, Ferguson has attracted his fair share of negative publicity.
In April, an all-night drinking session and inappropriate gestures towards photographers during an international match against Iceland saw him stripped of the Scotland armband and banned from representing his country again. The incident also resulted in him being dropped, fined and stripped of his club’s captaincy by Rangers manager Walter Smith. Ferguson’s future at Ibrox has looked in doubt ever since.
Elsewhere Crystal Palace are said to be keeping an eye on Birmingham striker Garry O’Connor with the view to a loan move, however there is no doubt over fellow Blues forward Cameron Jerome’s future at St Andrew’s as the Yorkshireman has signed a new five-year contract with the club.