When Lee Carsley speaks about the necessity of Birmingham City returning to the Premier League he does so with the authority of an experienced professional footballer and the passion of a punch-drunk Blues supporter.
The club captain is about to embark on his first season with his hometown team and is certain to lead Alex McLeish’s side out when Sheffield United visit St Andrew’s in five days time.
He will feel the significance of the occasion on the field every bit as much as those who were so wounded by last season’s relegation do off it. Indeed it is for his undoubted know-how and instinctive understanding of the club that McLeish brought him back to the city he left when he moved from Coventry City to Everton in 2002.
Carsley will add purpose to the Birmingham midfield that at times last season was overworked and yet under-performed. That he has been handed the armband in the light of Damien Johnson’s continuing back problems only makes his homecoming more poignant.
“It means a lot,” Carsley says. “If I could skipper the side it would be the sweetest moment of my career. I have grown up ten minutes from the ground and I know what it means to the people of Birmingham. It is a passionate club and it matters to a lot of people.
“A lot of the fans are not happy that a club of this size is in the Championship. It belongs in the Premier League and the top half of the Premier League.”
When Carsley first met with McLeish, with the slung mud barely dry following relegation, he told the Scot of his desire to win a Championship medal and stabilise Birmingham in the top flight. The two were immediately bound by a common purpose.
He hopes the fans will recognise that too. With astronomic prices and boardroom instability there has been much to complain about in the last couple of years and frustration boiled over after the final game of last term when board members were harangued by irate supporters.
He accepts there will be pressure from within his immediate relations, who also follow the club, and from his extended family. “Hopefully there will be a bond with the supporters because they will see me as one of their own,” he said.
“I grew up in Sheldon and a lot of my friends in those days wanted to be footballers. Hopefully they will be proud of what I can do for the team.”
The first thing he must do is to coax his team-mates, many of whom were shell-shocked by the way things worked out last season, out of their defensive shells.
They spent much of the 2007-08 campaign fighting a rearguard action, too conservative to commit men forward yet not secure enough to remain air-tight at the back.
At times in the last couple of warm-up matches Carsley has been seen exhorting his colleagues to move further up the pitch. It is a mindset they must change if they are to dominate games the way they should in the Championship.
“You have got to remind people to keep moving and keep wanting the ball,” he says. “There are going to be times next season where teams are going to be camped in with 10 men behind the ball and there’s going to be a lot of frustration.
“It’s vital everyone keeps wanting the ball because with the quality we have got we will open teams up. You only have to come and watch training to see the quality is there. It’s about transferring that from training to the pitch.”
They singularly failed to do that against Fulham on Saturday and were even outmanoeuvred at times by Leicester City, of League One, last Tuesday.
The injection of pace through the arrival of Quincy Owusu-Abeyie and the retention of James McFadden and Sebastian Larsson will go some way to ensuring practice has made perfect and that this Saturday Kevin Blackwell’s team are the first of many forced to hang on for their lives at St Andrew’s.
If Birmingham achieve that they will have taken the first step towards redemption. “If you are coming to watch you should be coming to watch the Blues win, not thinking ‘Here we go again’.
“It’s important we get to a good start and get that snowball effect where there’s a momentum. It makes a hell of a difference to the area when both teams are in the Premier League.”
And despite the 39 international caps which suggest he’s actually Irish, as a born and bred Brummie, he should know.