McLeish wants cool heads in derby

But the former Rangers boss has warned of the need for his Blues

players to “control their emotions” in Sunday’s noon showdown at

Villa Park. Blues manager McLeish admits himself and his players

“reacted badly” after Villa triumphed via a controversial penalty

in the corresponding fixture last season. Central defender Roger

Johnson, who was alleged to have brought down Gabriel Agbonlahor,

was fined by the Football Association after criticising referee

Martin Atkinson, while full-back Stephen Carr was handed a

one-match ban for gestures towards Villa fans. McLeish admitted

ahead of Sunday’s Premier League clash: “The derby compares

absolutely favourably to the Rangers-Celtic derbies. “I

underestimated it in the beginning and the fans really love each

other down here don’t they? “It’s a little bit similar to Glasgow.

In Glasgow it divides the whole city. “The Birmingham derby is

quite tasty as well. It’s very much a derby that is up there with

the best of them. “We got a thumping in my first derby at Villa

Park (5-1) a couple of years ago. “I went a little bit bold in that

game, I played too many attackers in the game. The backlash from

the fans made me realise this was an enormous derby.” McLeish

continued: “It will be important to control emotions. That is so

vital. “We had a decision which went against us in the last game at

Villa Park despite a marvellous performance and we reacted to that

at the time. It was human emotions. “It is difficult for anyone to

say you shouldn’t do that until you’ve been in that man’s shoes.

“The players reacted badly, I reacted badly and we look back and it

is something we’ve got to learn from. “We know we’ve got to keep

our emotions in check despite things that might not go for you.

Again that shouldn’t take away the focus of what we are trying to

do in a game.” Birmingham will be bidding to halt a run of six

successive defeats against their local rivals – but McLeish will be

content if his side produce the same level of performance as in the

last two meetings with Villa, which ended in 1-0 defeats. He said:

“I’ve got to say the results don’t tell the whole story because

we’ve played excellent the last two games and we will want to

produce another great performance on Sunday. “It may not go for you

but as long as the players give everything and give good

performances, what more can you ask? “You have to be realistic in

life. We can’t guarantee anything but what we will guarantee is

that we will go and give a good performance. “If we play great and

we lose, that can happen in football. We might play badly and win.

“We hope this time we can take one or two of the chances we created

last time at Villa Park. “It really is down to the players on the

day to have the bottle when they go over the white line and show

they are capable of winning a game like this.” Birmingham playmaker

Alexander Hleb has recovered from the knee injury which kept him

out of the midweek Carling Cup success over Brentford – but Cameron

Jerome, Jean Beausejour and James McFadden remain long-term