Birmingham City manager Alex McLeish has revealed his determination to bring English players to the club during the summer transfer window.
Scott Dann, Roger Johnson and Joe Hart are a trio of Englishmen who have already pledged themselves to Birmingham’s forthcoming Premier League campaign and Lee Bowyer will soon make it an Anglican quartet.
By adopting a transfer policy similar to his Second City managerial rival, Aston Villa’s Martin O’Neill, McLeish is obviously eager to boost his squad with players who have an in-depth understanding of the English game.
However, while it is an ideal philosophy, especially with regulations on the horizon that will limit the number of foreign imports in teams, in reality it is far too expensive for a club like Birmingham. It is a sad truth that clubs pay over the odds for English-bred talent nowadays.
Which is why McLeish hasn’t been able to entirely stick to his English oath this summer; an Irishman, Stephen Carr and two Ecuadorians, Christian Benitez and Giovanny Espinoza, have also arrived.
Defenders Carr and Espinoza cost next to nothing in footballing terms, while a player as highly-rated as striker Benitez would have surely attracted a price tag of over £10 million if he had been English, whereas the Blues signed him for an initial £6.2 million.
That is why McLeish takes greater delight from his board’s backing to the tune of a combined fee rising to £9 million for Dann and Johnson, as it helped bolster his squad with his desired nationality.
“My main aim was to bring English players to the club and if I had gone for the Premier League status players then the prices go beyond our reach,” admitted McLeish.
“So we pushed the boat out a wee bit and got a couple of young players who have done very well in the Championship. They don’t have Premier League experience, although they have played against Premier League teams, so that’s a huge challenge to them as well, to improve.
“I know the type of characters they are, I know about Johnson, I’ve spoken to Scott Dann. I’ve also spoken to people that have worked with Scott and I’ve been told that he’s got a very good mentality and that is the type we want to try and attract here to Birmingham.
“Young, fresh legs and I’m really looking forward to working with them.”
Although he is English-born, inexperienced winger Robin Shroot, who arrived from non-league football last January, was always unlikely to be thrown into Premier League action for Birmingham next season.
The 21-year-old has now been sent out on a season-long loan to League Two new-boys Burton Albion, who are managed by former Birmingham striker and husband of MD Karren Brady, Paul Peschisolido.
Meanwhile, Birmingham are continuing to tie their young talent down to professional contracts following yesterday’s announcement that Sheldon-raised left-back Shaun Timmins has put pen-to-paper on a one-year deal.
n?In a bid to ease the financial burden, Birmingham are offering their 2009/10 season tickets to all supporters with a 0 per cent finance deal.
The offer, which ends on July 31, will allow fans to spread payments over four months with no added interest.