McLeish hails ‘awesome achievement’

Alex McLeish hailed Birmingham’s “awesome achievement” after their

win at Stoke, while Tony Pulis was left to bemoan a rejected

penalty appeal.

Not since 1908 have Birmingham enjoyed an 11-game stretch in

the top flight without defeat, yet 101 years on that is the mark

the current Blues side have achieved.

Cameron Jerome’s bundled 50th-minute effort was enough for a

1-0 win over Stoke at a bitterly cold Britannia Stadium, aided by

two stunning saves from Joe Hart. “With every week, every victory,

every good performance, then the expectations rise, and the players

have met them head on,” said McLeish.

“There’s a big danger the players will become tired if I keep

naming an unchanged side (now eight games in a row).

“You do worry about players’ fatigue, but when the

psychological side of things is as powerful as it is in our

dressing room at the moment, you don’t feel tiredness.

“I was amazed at the way they knocked it about, their

mobility was excellent, and they didn’t look tired just 48 hours

after playing against the league leaders (Chelsea, which ended

0-0).

“The run we’re on at the moment is an awesome achievement

from the players, and they were certainly that again today.

“When we finally managed to get the breakthrough, funnily

enough it was from a set-piece after withstanding a barrage of long

throws, corners and free-kicks from Stoke, but again the boys rose

to the challenge.

“Joe, when he was called upon, made a couple of cracking

saves. I don’t think he had much to do before that thanks to the

four in front of him, and the organisation of the midfield.”

The Blues are now riding high in seventh with 32 points from

their 20 games, and it is almost certain that unlike the Blues team

of 1908 that went 11 unbeaten yet were relegated, such a fate will

not befall this side.

The magical 40-point barrier, however, is still the target

for McLeish, who added: “The sooner we get around about there then

the better.

“It’s a cut-off point in terms of relegation, but you never

know in this league which is so competitive. I think Colin Todd,

when he was at Bolton, went down with 39 points one year.

“We’re obviously talking about better things, but we still

want to ensure our Premier League security, and we’ve gathered

ourselves the most fantastic chance to achieve that.”

Pulis, meanwhile, could not understand why his side were not

awarded a second-half penalty when Robert Huth was clearly tugged

to the ground by Stephen Carr. He said: “Martin (Atkinson) is

looking at it, and I just don’t know why he doesn’t give it.

“We’ve a problem here. There’s a preconceived idea that the

crowd is so fanatical, and so much behind the team.

“They (referees) almost come in with a point to prove, that

they won’t be swayed by the crowd.

“It’s not the first time it’s happened at this football club

where we haven’t got what we deserved.

“I think referees are coming here to prove they are strong

enough not to react to the crowd.

“But you look at it. It’s as blatant a penalty as you will

see, and he is five yards away from it.”

Stoke have lost their last three games and four of the last

five but Pulis believes they should easily have won this latest

one. He added: “We’re disappointed, I think we’d have been

disappointed if we’d have drawn the game.

“I think Birmingham have defended ever so well again and the

keeper’s made three inspirational saves.

“But that’s the way it’s going for us, we’ve played very well

lately, just haven’t had the breaks.

“I’ve been in management quite a few years and I’ve had a few

runs like this where it doesn’t happen for you but the good thing

is, is that the players are really, really still having a go and

sticking at it and we need that, we need to continue.”