POSITIVES may have been few and far between for Birmingham City manager Alex McLeish recently but at least James McFadden’s form has been cause for optimism.
The Scotsman watched his compatriot sweep home his second goal of the season at Nottingham Forest on Saturday and McLeish is hoping the strike will spark a goalscoring rush missing since another striker from north of the border, Garry O’Connor, was forced out with a groin injury. Ever since McLeish pulled off a coup in bringing McFadden to St Andrew’s from Premier League stalwarts Everton, the talented forward has been hailed as one of Birmingham’s ‘superstars’ along with Sweden international Seb Larsson.
The duo are Premier League players in the Championship but so far the latter has not produced the magic he is capable of.
Even with Scotland and Everton, McFadden produced sporadically and frustrates with his inconsistency.
There is no doubting when he is on form there is nobody better in the division and McLeish believes he is slowly starting to see the best of the 25-year-old Glaswegian.
“James has looked brighter over the last couple of games, he’s looking much sharper as he looked a little bit sluggish during the early part of the season but he’s definitely looking more like himself again,” said McLeish. However with the demands of being a top player comes the responsibility of representing your country.
Although you’d be hard pressed to find anyone more Scottish than McLeish, the former manager of the Tartan Army admits McFadden’s exertion with his national team contributed to his slow start at St Andrew’s.
McFadden has already played four internationals for Scotland this season and trips to Macedonia and Iceland in September proved a drain on the Motherwell academy graduate.
Following those World Cup qualifying trips, McLeish was forced to abandon plans to give McFadden a much-needed rest when Mehdi Nafti was sent-off against Doncaster Rovers and a tactical reshuffle saw the striker introduced.
McLeish may grumble behind closed doors but he more than anyone knows that you just have to get used to waiting with baited breath whenever a block of international fixtures comes up.
Another one of those nervy waits is just around the corner for McLeish as McFadden has been called up to the Scotland squad for their friendly with Diego Maradona’s Argentina next Wednesday.
“I think going away with Scotland and playing in those two games against Macedonia and Iceland definitely took a little bit out of James,” added McLeish. “I’m going over old ground here but he then had to play 70 minutes in a game where I was going to rest him because Mehdi Nafti was sent off so we needed his nous on the field. So he came on and helped us to win that day in what was a difficult game against Doncaster.
“That further added to the fatigue and then what happens is that you risk injury, in fact he picked up a groin strain and that’s what happens if players are pushed too far.”