Former Birmingham City boss Alex McLeish has discussed his famous League Cup win at the club ahead of Aston Villa’s final with Manchester City this weekend.
Blues’ bitter rivals Villa will meet Man City on Sunday in the League Cup final after what has been a good run in the competition for the Premier League strugglers.
Speaking ahead of the final at Wembley this weekend, former Villa and Blues boss McLeish has spoken about his time at both clubs – before discussing his League Cup triumph with the latter.
Birmingham beat Arsenal in the 2011 final thanks to goals from Nikola Zigic and Obafemi Martins, which cancelled out Robin van Persie’s strike.
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McLeish recalled to the Mirror: “When I go back to Birmingham somebody normally recognises me and they say: ‘you gave me the best day of my life’.
“To go and win it was beyond my dreams. We weren’t given a prayer but we actually played extremely well. It has to be one of the proudest moments of my career.
“You couldn’t fault a single player in the team. We prepared so well for that game.
“We split the players up into small groups leading up to the game to emphasise everyone’s jobs against the ball. You can’t always be a genius and invent something new but you can plagiarise.
“I had watched Barcelona against Rubin Kazan in Russia in a 1-1 draw the previous September when Obafemi played in the Champions League.
“I wanted to sort out the Arsenal full-backs and wingers which I felt would go a long way to stopping them. We were so disciplined in our play but when we got the ball we wanted to play and express ourselves.
“At Aston Villa a few weeks before Zigic had missed a really big chance with his head when he shrunk his neck a bit when the keeper came out.
“I showed him it on video before the game in my room at Wembley. But this time the big ‘un went to his tallest and beat the goalie.”
McLeish went on to reveal that he wasn’t impressed when Arsenal equalised on the day, as he felt that the Gunners didn’t cause his side many issues throughout the match.
“Arsenal equalised before the break and I had steam coming out of my ears at half-time. I was fuming but we needed to go in and tell them we start again and not switch off again in defence.
“It took until the last minute to win it when Zigic again caused chaos but I didn’t feel Arsenal were the massive threat they should have been in the second half.”
McLeish’s former club are on a much improved run of form of late, remaining unbeaten in their last 13 games.
The Blues made it 13 games unbeaten on Saturday when they played out an entertaining 2-2 draw against QPR at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium.
What a remarkable day that was for McLeish, who guided Birmingham to an unlikely victory. The Scottish coach will have all eyes on Villa’s trip to Wembley this weekend.
Dean Smith’s side will have their work cut out to recreate the same sort of shock though, coming up against Pep Guardiola’s Man City.
I can’t see anything other than a Manchester City win at Wembley on Sunday.