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Why Birmingham need to keep Alex McLeish

There are reports today that talks over a new contract for Birmingham boss Alex McLeish have broken down, with some media outlets speculating he may leave the club unless a solution is found quickly, while bookmakers have cut his odds on taking the Aston Villa job to 12/1.

Alex McLeish has plenty to ponder amid rumoured interest from Aston Villa

Both McLeish and Birmingham’s board need to come to a solution as the club enters its most exciting season for decades. The deadline day signing of Alex Hleb from Barcelona is the type of move the fans could only dream of years ago, but they are now living the dream as Birmingham look to improve on last year’s impressive ninth-place finish, with the team currently unbeaten after three games.

McLeish’s career as a manager:
McLeish has had an up-and-down career as a manager. Reasonably successful spells at Motherwell, whom he led to second in the Scottish Premiership in his first year, and Hibernian, with whom he won the first division, were followed by winning two titles and five cups with Rangers over five years. After almost pipping Italy to qualification for Euro 2008 as Scotland manager, McLeish joined Birmingham who were relegated in his first season. However they rejoined the league at the first attempt and got their highest-placed finish for 50 years in the 2009-2010 season.

While McLeish has publicly ridiculed the idea of Birmingham finishing with a European spot at the end of the year, he must feel that with the squad of players he has along with some formidable signings in Hleb, goalkeeper Ben Foster, Matt Derbyshire and Nikola Zigic, that at the very least a trip to Wembley through a cup competition is achievable this year.

However most exciting for McLeish, he is still a young manager, with a big future in the game. He has achieved highs and lows in all his managerial stints to date since retiring from professional football and at the age of 51 and the job he is doing at Birmingham, will feel he has a shot at a so-called ‘big club’ in the next few years.

Endorsements from Arsene Wenger and Alex Ferguson helped the club to get a work permit to sign Hleb but were another indication of the esteem in which the Scot is held by his peers. An unbeaten start to the season and a few classy reinforements have shown that Birmingham will prove a difficult challenge to any team this year.

However contract talks have become an issue, with suggestions they had broken down being reported today. Birmingham have moved to deny those rumours after media outlets claimed McLeish was furious at a jibe by vice chairman Peter Pannu that he was asking for too much money and was “no Mourinho.”

However Mr Pannu has rejected those allegations and said today he believes McLeish will sign and could do so within a week. Birmingham fans took time to warm to McLeish, booing him and the team off on several occasions in his first term as manager. However the fans will have good reason to vent their frustration should the Scot’s contract talks continue to prove difficult. Not least as Birmingham have their trickiest tie of the season so far to come in 10 days time against Liverpool.

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