Alex McLeish is nearer to signing his number one target after Birmingham City last night came close to agreeing a fee of £5.75 million with Everton for striker James McFadden.

If an agreement can be reached today the Scotland international will travel down to Birmingham to open negotiations over personal terms and could be a Blues player in time for this weekend's Premier League match with Chelsea.

The Birmingham City manager is virtually certain to be able to hand defender David Murphy his debut on Saturday after Blues and Hibernian agreed a £1.5 million package to bring the 23-year-old back to England.

Murphy will undergo a medical today after agreeing a three-and-a-half year contract, with an option for a further two seasons, on Wednesday and is likely to start at left back for the visit of Avram Grant's title chasers.

"I have enjoyed my time at Hibs, but the club know I want to return to the Premier League and I am looking forward to playing in England again," Murphy said.

Hartlepool-born Murphy has already played in the top flight having begun his career with Middlesbrough, where he made 13 league appearances, before moving to Easter Road in the summer of 2004.

Since then he has gone on to build a reputation as one of the top full backs in the SPL with his defensive and offensive qualities and it took Blues two offers to tempt Mixu Paatelainen into parting with one of Hibernian's 'crown jewels'.

But it is McFadden's impending capture that will cheer McLeish the most. The former Scotland manager has been desperate to inject some creativity into his squad and following a successful spell working with McFadden in the national side, the Everton man quickly emerged as the ideal candidate to do exactly that.

He has already had two bids of £2.5 million and £3 million turned down and would have been concerned at apparent interest from Wigan Athletic and Bolton Wanderers, though McFadden has always been keen on the chance to be reunited with McLeish.

But news that his board have been able to persuade Everton to do business will be an enormous relief and although the fee is higher than the £5 million they wanted to spend, they will underline their commitment to McLeish by making McFadden one of the highest earners at St Andrew's.

With Murphy and McFadden all but on board, the Scotsman will now turn his attention to other areas of his team, particularly centre half where Blues have a real shortage.

McLeish presently has just Liam Ridgewell, Rafael Schmitz and the out-of-favour Martin Taylor on whom to call and is interested in Ridgewell's former Aston Villa team-mate Gary Cahill.

Cahill is anxious to pursue his career away from Villa Park and has interested several other Premier League sides including Bolton and Championship outfit Sheffield United with whom he has spent a large chunk of the season on loan.

However, the sticking point could be that Blues may want to take Cahill on loan until the end of the campaign while Villa would be more keen on a permanent transfer.

McLeish may also want to bring in another goalkeeper and Huddersfield Town's Matthew Glennon has interested Birmingham.

The 29-year-old was part of the Terriers side that dumped Blues out of the FA Cup a couple of weeks ago and is out of contract in the summer.