Darren Carter could be forgiven for taking the odd envious glance across the city at the way things are shaping up at his former footballing home, St Andrew's.

But the West Bromwich Albion midfielder is convinced that, despite this week making their ninth signing of the summer in £4 million man Gary McSheffrey, his old club Birmingham City are not going to have things all their own way in this season's Championship title battle.

Albion, by contrast, have pulled in just two new faces in Chris Perry and John Hart-son. There could be another to come in Tomasz Radzinski, the Fulham striker who has emerged as manager Bryan Robson's new No 1 target.

But, Tomasz Kuszczak apart, Albion have so far hung onto their key players and Carter admits: "Keeping hold of someone like Curtis Davies has been like making a £4 million signing of our own.

"If you're spending the sort of money Blues have, it's obvious you've got intentions but we've made our intentions clear too. We want to go up as champions. We're not going to settle for second best, which we've shown by hanging onto our best players.

"There were a lot of stories about Curtis, Nathan Ellington and Zoltan Gera but, with them staying, our squad is now looking a lot more settled. When you get relegated, you know there's going to be spec-ulation about people like Curtis and the club have done well to keep hold of him, but we know now that we've got the squad to do it.

"Blues are going to be strong but, looking at the table, there's a lot of strong teams who've gone out and strengthened and it won't just be Blues. It could be six, seven or eight teams involved."

As well as the Millennium Stadium shoot-out clinching penalty that famously fired Blues to the Premiership five years ago, Carter earned a Championship medal with Mick McCarthy's Sunderland two seasons ago after an autumn loan spell but he believes that this current Albion squad is better than either of them.

"From the two squads I've been with who've gone up," he said, "the one here is a lot stronger. With all the experience in the team, it's stronger than Blues and Sunderland, who had a lot of younger players.

"We know there are big games every week and that other teams are gunning for us as a big scalp but we've got players with bags of experience who've done it at the highest level and that will help us along the way.

"The three games we've have had so far have opened up people's eyes as to what it's going to be like

"There was more time on the ball in the Premiership and we know that Colchester this Saturday are going to come and be physical against us, just like Hull were on the opening day.

"But, while we want to go out and win every game, in this division, sometimes you have to dig in and battle and we've done that."

Although Carter has so far been used only from the bench, after a disappointing first season at The Hawthorns, in which he started just 11 league games, he is out to improve on that.

"Last season just didn't pan out for me," he said. "But the gaffer knows I'm itching to play."

Also itching to play this weekend is Ellington, despite having limped off with ham-string trouble in Albion's last two games.

"He's had a few days off and treatment," said Robson. "And he's now come through training and we just hope there is no further stiffness. If he gets a reaction, we won't risk him. If he doesn't then he's all right for Saturday. "As regards new signings, we've got bids in and are waiting for replies. And, within the next two days, I'm hoping for some good news for the Albion fans."

* Portsmouth have made Kanu their fifth summer signing after the striker agreed to a one-year-deal at Fratton Park.

The 31-year-old Nigerian will bolster the Pompey strikeforce after leaving The Hawthorns in the summer.