Alex McLeish could have £40m to spend

By Online Editorial

St Andrews

Ralph Ellis tries to get to the bottom of what’s going on at Birmingham City where Carson Yeung has promised as much as £40m for Alex McLeish to spend on players in the near future.

It was the Beatles who wrote “Money Can’t Buy Me Love.” Then again they also produced the very best cover version of Motown’s first hit: “Money (that’s what I want)”. I suspect that Birmingham manager Alex McLeish, who’s a big Beatles fan, might be humming the second tune at the moment.

“The best things in life are free, but you can keep them for the birds and bees, I want money,” is how the lyrics start. And it looks like his wish will be granted with somewhere between £20million and £40million in his transfer kitty come January.

Birmingham’s new Chinese owners took possession of the keys to St Andrews yesterday and arrived with a fanfare of big promises about what they hope to do with the club.

Carson Yeung, the Hong Kong businessman who has fronted the takeover from David Sullivan and the Gold brothers, did all the big talking and on the face of it his promises seem no more real than the nonsense that Sulamain Al-Fahim was spouting on the South Coast at Portsmouth a few weeks ago.

Promises of huge amounts of cash are just that – promises – until the money is on the table.

Birmingham are still third favourites for relegation despite all the big talk. And it has to be said that Yeung’s appearance on TV and his limited grasp of English made him look a comic book character and not one to be taken too seriously.

The most memorable line was when he was asked if McLeish’s position was safe and replied: “Not at all”. The question had been badly translated. He’d actually been asked if the manager’s job was under pressure!

At the press conference at St Andrew’s yesterday Yeung was less than convincing, but the team around him cut a different story. I suspect the real force will be the new chairman Vico Hui, a 43-year-old with huge experience in a variety of big Chinese companies developing new power sources.

He was an impressive figure, and talked in great detail about the business plan to exploit the wealth of the Chinese people by making Birmingham their club. Their aims are based on the phenomenal impact that basketball has made in the world’s most populated country. The NBA has inspired an enterprise that has mushroomed into a £1.5 billion business in the Far East, and the aim is to copy that model.

Central to the plan, quite obviously, is to keep Birmingham in the Premier League this season and that means you can believe McLeish WILL get significant finance. What’s more, because of the future direction the club can take, he WILL be able to convince decent players to join in January providing Blues are still in touch with the survival race.

At the moment they are seventh from bottom – or only out of the relegation zone on goal difference depending on your point of view. And a trip to Arsenal tomorrow, where they are as long as 24.0 to win while the Gunners are 1.18, is hardly likely to improve things in the short term.

But they are good enough to scratch out a few more results to see them past Christmas, and then McLeish is canny enough to use his new funds wisely.

Five things you might not know about Alex McLeish:

1. Born in Barrhead, eight miles South West of Glasgow, in 1959, he started training as an accountant before playing full time for Aberdeen.

2. Star centre half in the Aberdeen side that won the European Cup Winners’ Cup under Sir Alex Ferguson, he turned down an offer to follow Fergie to play for Manchester United

3. His 77 appearances for Scotland make him the country’s third most capped player behind Jim Leighton (91) and Kenny Dalglish (102)

4. In his first season as a manager in 1994 he broke up the Old Firm domination, taking Motherwell ahead of Celtic and into second place behind Rangers

5. He is statistically the best Scotland manager in history with a win percentage of 70 per cent

Reproduced with permission from © The Sporting Exchange Limited


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