As debuts go, Dutchman Kemy Agustien made a less than auspicious start to his Birmingham City career at Southampton but manager Alex McLeish has promised Blues supporters the on-loan midfielder will come good.
The 22-year-old, who is on a season-long loan from AZ Alkmaar, finally made his first appearance for Blues after recovering from a hernia operation but he looked rusty as Blues produced a below-par performance. Her certainly wasn’t the only player to have an off-day as Blues slumped out of the Carling Cup at St Mary’s and McLeish kept his players in the dressing room for 25 minutes after the game for a frank discussion.
However, McLeish emerged and backed the Holland under-21 international and said he would make an impact for Blues once he was fit.
“I’m not going to talk about individuals and criticise them in any way,” said McLeish. “We know Kemy’s a better player than that.
“He was hurting in the dressing room, so when it affects people you know they care, and he’s got a lot to give this club. The games I’ve seen him in, he’s been exceptional and he’s been good in training and we’ve got to remember he’s just had a hernia operation, it was his first game and he’s got to get used to the movement of the strikers and get into the pace of it over here because it is different from Holland, no doubt about it.
“We said a few things in the dressing room after the game. We had a chat and got things off our chest. We threw it to the players also and they just admitted that they never got anywhere near the level they are capable of, but if they are going for the level I want to go for, then they’ve got to improve and there’s got to be no let-up.
“The players are better than that, as we’ve seen in the previous games, and it was quite a good pre-season. There is more to come from some of them, but we also know we’ve got to bounce back now at Norwich on Saturday.”
One player who did receive some praise was 16-year-old midfielder Jordon Mutch. The former Derby County trainee became the second youngest player to appear for the club, behind Trevor Francis, when he came on as a half -time substitute for Gary McSheffrey. Mutch certainly showed no fear and was booked for an over zealous tackle.
“I thought Jordon looked assured,’’ said McLeish. ‘‘He made a foul tackle admittedly but it was nice to see a player laying a glove on the opposition because we were soft all night, all over the pitch – and that from a 16-year-old kid to do it, for the first time in the match.
“He has got a bright future and we hope a long future with Birmingham City. His confidence took a wee knock after the Fulham game in pre-season, but you look back at training over the last couple of weeks and there was no hesitation in sticking him on at half-time because we needed to do something.”
McLeish revealed James McFadden and Sebastian Larsson, who have both been called up for international duty for Scotland and Sweden respectively next week, were rested because of injuries but both should be fit for the trip to Carrow Road on Saturday.
“McFadden couldn’t travel, he had a groin strain, but we believe he will be okay for the weekend,” McLeish confirmed. “Larsson has a little niggle in his Achilles, which he has had for a couple of weeks and, again, we’re hoping rest will help it.
“I would like to have rested Lee Carsley but the problem with the performance meant that he had to stay on, and I had to make substitutions in other areas.
“Maybe we’ve lost the momentum we’ve had a little bit because of chopping and changing, but with every game we play, there’s opportunities.
“In terms of players we were missing, they were obviously regular starters, but, at the same time, these guys who played on Tuesday night could be regular starters and it’s about giving the manager a problem, about saying ‘boss you are going to find it hard to leave me out’.”