Birmingham City manager Alex McLeish has hinted that new arrival Stephen Carr could start tonight’s match at Crystal Palace after the Scotsman vowed to shuffle his pack.
The Blues completed the short-term signing of the former Newcastle United right-back Carr yesterday, just two-and-a-half months after the 32-year-old initially retired from the game.
If Carr, who has arrived on a one-month deal, is given the nod at Selhurst Park then, putting it bluntly, he will be thrown in at the deep end. The former Republic of Ireland international hasn’t played a competitive fixture for almost 12 months and is unlikely to be in tip-top condition.
However, McLeish, who is confident in Carr’s physical shape having trialled him over the last two weeks, will be eager to show the rest of his under-achieving Birmingham side that their places in the team are under threat if they don’t pull their weight.
“We’re obviously still assessing Stephen’s fitness, but we feel he’s pretty close to playing a game,” said McLeish. “I know it’s not absolutely 100 per cent ideal but he’s got the experience and the know how to step in if we choose to use him in this game.
“He’s got the pedigree, there’s no doubt about that. Spurs and Newcastle United, playing with the Republic.
“We just have to assess whether he has the fitness and whether it can be further improved. Then, hopefully, if he does that with flying colours we can look to the end of the season for an extended deal.”
Just how big of a pack McLeish has to shuffle is questionable but the Scotsman knows that something has to be done to halt the run of form that is hardly promotion winning.
A return to the side for fringe players like Franck Queudrue and Gary McSheffrey in south London tonight is unlikely but Martin Taylor’s place in defence will be in danger after a lacklustre display at Coventry and that is sure to leave Radhi Jaidi on alert.
Meanwhile if Carr does start, that will be no slight on Sebastian Larsson who has certainly not disgraced himself in the unfamiliar position of right-back
“I’ve got to remember we’ve forced ourself into second place. We still have it in our own hands,” added McLeish. “Is it a time for me to panic and make wholesale changes? I feel I have got to keep calm.
“It’s possible we will look at using the squad because of the three games in a week. That’s normal.
“But sometimes you’ve got to shake it up as well because the performance was just not to the level I would like it to be, nor the fans would like it to be. They made their feelings known to me and the players at the end of the game, therefore, we need a performance.
“Some of players need to raise their level significantly. It’s definitely not a time to panic, and I’ve said that right from the very first game of the season.
“Keeping your nerve and showing your character will be vital in this particular league. It’s some fight, but I think the nerves have been there from the very first game and they won’t disappear until the very last one.”
Birmingham captain Lee Carsley, who was substituted at the Ricoh with a neck strain, should be fit for tonight’s game.