James McFadden is a fascinating yet often frustrating talent. Seen as one of the most gifted Scottish footballers of his generation, the 27-year-old is capable of producing magic one moment and discontented groans from the stands the next.
Those moments of magic, such as his strike for Scotland against France in Paris in September 2007, have been something of a rarity during his two-and-a-half years at Birmingham City.
However, what many observers fail to take into account is McFadden’s wretched record of knocks, niggles and injuries.
While the versatile forward wouldn’t have taken much satisfaction from his second consecutive return of just four goals last season, 35 starts in all competitions will be viewed as progress.
It’s the most starts McFadden has made in a single season in his career and the first campaign since his emergence at Motherwell that hasn’t been majorly hampered by injury.
Birmingham City manager Alex McLeish, who has worked with McFadden at both international and club level, has regularly alluded to the fact that the former Everton player has never managed to get a full season under his belt in English football.
Now that has been achieved, and a successful one at that, it comes as a relief to the player himself.
“For me, I’ve probably not played as well as I would have liked to have played but I’ve managed to steer clear of injuries,” acknowledged McFadden, while reflecting on the 2009/10 campaign.
“I only missed two games through injuries so overall I’ve played most of the games. I’m fairly pleased, it’s been good to get a good run of games under my belt.”
Indeed McFadden was a major member of McLeish’s unbeatable and ultimately a record-breaking season at St Andrew’s.
“It was fantastic,” he said. “We exceeded expectations and the fact we’ve got a top half finish was wonderful.”
Whether it be his favoured striking role or the wide berth that he largely operated from last season, Birmingham’s summer recruitment is sure to bring in added competition for McFadden.
McFadden accepts: “It’s time to bring in some players and build the squad so we can stay up next year. We need to make sure we are capable of doing the same and beat the teams around us.”