Birmingham City plan to field their strongest possible line-up for tonight’s FA Cup third round tie against Wolverhampton Wanderers according to their joint first team coach Roy Aitken.
Just how strong that starting line-up will be remains to be seen as Birmingham won’t have a full complement to choose from despite their recent acquisitions.
Sebastian Larsson (groin), Kevin Phillips (hip), Garry O’Connor (groin) and Gary McSheffrey (knee) are still unavailable due to injury, David Murphy is suspended, recruits Lee Bowyer, Hameur Bouazza and Scott Sinclair are all cup-tied while a clerical error means Keith Fahey will continue his frustrating wait for a first Birmingham appearance.
That means that the feelgood factor from Alex McLeish’s recent transfer dealings is unlikely to be felt fully until Saturday’s Championship fixture with Cardiff City, by which time it may have been turned up another notch.
Aitken faced the media yesterday in place of McLeish who was absent due to ‘personal’ reasons but of course the Birmingham manager’s no-show led to further speculation that a deal for Kris Boyd could be closer to completion.
Unsurprisingly Aitken opted to not shine any further light on the Rangers striker’s future and instead concentrated on tonight’s rearranged FA Cup fixture at St Andrew’s.
It is a fixture that Aitken insists Birmingham will be going all out to strike the first psychological blow on their West Midlands neighbours and Championship title rivals.
“We won’t treat the cup competition lightly at all,” said Aston Villa’s former assistant manager. “We’ll give it the total respect it deserves and we will be putting out as strong a team as we can.
“It’s great to have momentum in all competitions, we haven’t played for a while so the boys are hungry for a game anyway. It’s against one of our local rivals, it’s against a team that is doing very well in the Championship like ourselves so it has got the makings of a terrific match.
“We’ll be looking forward to the match and hopefully we can go as far as we can in the competition.”
Although the cub’s trio of new faces won’t be involved tonight, Aitken was still quick to emphasise the impact they have already made on the training field.
Aitken is confident that the arrivals, with possibly more on the horizon, will help Blues shift up a gear for the all-important second half of the season.
With their possible replacements watching on from the St Andrew’s stands, Aitken also wants to see the incumbents fighting for their places tonight.
He said: “It’s an exciting time, the players we have brought in are players who wear their heart on their sleeve, they’ll give the fans everything they’ve got and they are hungry for success, they want to do well themselves.
“If we’ve got players on the sidelines desperate to take part then it’s up to the boys on the pitch to hold on to their positions and put in a performance that makes it difficult for the manager to leave them out.”
Blues have handed the Brazilian centre-back Marcio Giovanini a trial. The 30-year-old recently left Greek side Veria, for whom he made 11 appearances over two seasons.
n?Birmingham City’s Youth side qualified for the fifth round of the FA Youth Cup after a thrilling 3-2 victory over Crewe Alexandra at Damson Parkway last night.
The youngsters booked their date at either Tranmere Rovers or Bristol City after a spirited second-half recovery enabled them to erase a two-goal deficit.
Crewe led at the interval through a Matt Lund penalty after 16 minutes and the visitors doubled their lead seconds after the restart through Alex Tichner.
Blues struck back immediately through Matt Tootle’s own goal and were level after 52 minutes thanks to Jacob Rowe’s header.
The winner came after 68 minutes courtesy of Robert Gradwell’s strike.