Alex McLeish has conceded he may have to make sacrifices as he bids to build a Birmingham City squad capable of making an instant return to the Premier League.
Midfielders Olivier Kapo, Fabrice Muamba and Sebastian Larsson, who was in the spotlight last night for Sweden in the European Championships, have all been attracting attention from potential suitors and while McLeish has been told he will not have to sell any of his stars, the Blues boss is aware of the financial realism that the sale of one of his prize assets could allow him to recruit two additional players to his 20-strong current squad.
The three midfielders, plus striker James McFadden, are all thought to want to avoid a season in the Championship but McLeish said everyone in the club wanted Premier League football and were all striving for an instant return.
McLeish said: “I will need to make sacrifices somewhere along the line if I am going to create my own team. Team building can’t happen over night, it takes a bit of time. That goes for the support staff as well as the playing staff because we have just lost our physio and fitness coach. We have to find replacements.
“I have heard nothing from any of the players with regards leaving the club but somewhere along the line we will probably have to make a sacrifice or two, but only if the deal suits us and enables us to go forward.
“The board has already said we don’t have to sell anyone but we have to be creative, there is no doubt about that. Mikael Forssell’s wages have been freed up now, and if someone else goes there will be transfer money there as well.
“At the end of the day we have to balance books and I don’t want 30 odd players, especially with the situation with substitutes, which is very difficult to leave people out. It does affect morale when you have a big squad and you can’t fit them all in.
“We all want to play in the Premier League, me included. I think we have to be patient and see what happens. Everyone wants everything done within the first couple of weeks of the season finishing but I don’t think it works like that. There will probably be more business done in July and certainly in August.”
There may not be the massive turnover of playing staff expected at St Andrew’s this summer. McLeish is only likely to allow one or possibly two to leave and there may not be much more movement the other way with McLeish stating he only requires three more permanent signings and will bolster his squad with loan deals. McLeish indicated he may also be looking to blood a few of the club’s emerging young talent as well during the coming campaign.
“Twenty three is probably a decent squad size if you look at how successful managers worked in the Championship last year in terms of their numbers,” said the Blues boss.
“At the moment we’ve got 20 senior players, so we want to add two or three more to take it up to 23.
“I realise it’s almost impossible to get 23 world-class players at any club unless you’re a Manchester United or Arsenal, but we’d like to have a good nucleus, encourage some of the young players coming through and also look at the possibility of loans.”
With such a modest sized squad, keeping the players fit and healthy during a marathon Championship season will be a priority and McLeish said the players will be in peak condition by the time the season begins