McLeish: Final places up for grabs

The Blues manager will make several changes for Saturday’s FA Cup

fifth-round tie at home to Sheffield Wednesday. It is a last chance

for some of his fringe players to stake a claim to play at Wembley

but McLeish will be ruthless in deciding who will face Arsenal. The

former Rangers boss said: “I’m not going to the cup final to be

sympathetic to people. “I’m not going to be thinking ‘I need to

play him because he did well in that round’. “I’ve got to pick a

team I think will win the cup and it’s up for grabs, places are up

for grabs.” McLeish added: “Of course, tomorrow will provide an

edge for players coming into the side. “But there is great pride in

this squad, regardless of the fact the Carling Cup final is being

played next week. “They have that pride that they want to win

whichever game they participate in – and that includes ones in

training. “There hasn’t been a different approach from people

because we are in a cup final. “We demand an intensity in training,

demand they train the way they play, and that’s still evident on

the training field.” McLeish made nine changes from his first

choice line-up for the win over Coventry in the last round of the

FA Cup and knows he has to rest several key players before the

Carling Cup final. He said: “Some of them the other night against

Newcastle were sluggish and a bit flat. “Mentally and physically

we’ve been through a lot in the last month. We’ve had tough away

games. But we still take the FA Cup very seriously. It is a home

game. We are obliged to do it for our fans. “They are paying good

money to come to St Andrew’s. You couldn’t ask for better, getting

a home tie in the FA Cup, and we want to take advantage of that.

“It is against a huge club in Sheffield Wednesday, Gary Megson has

taken over, and they will be looking for a scalp. “It is what the

romance of the FA Cup is all about but we don’t want to spoil the

fact we’ve got home advantage. We want to go through and we will be

putting out quality players.” On-loan Blues striker Obafemi Martins

is expected to get a final chance to show he should start against

the Gunners. But McLeish knows his players have to provide better

service for the former Newcastle player in terms of setting up

chances. He said: “Oba has still a sharpness about him but we’ve

got to give better service to him as well. “He is also a player who

can engineer things for himself in the final third. “We just need

to get into better scoring situations and seeing him unleashing the

power that he has with both feet and head. We’ve got to get the

right kind of delivery into the box.”