McLeish: We must keep our discipline

Blues players lost their cool when beaten 1-0 by Villa in the

corresponding fixture last season via a controversial penalty.

Centre-back Roger Johnson was fined £5,000 by the Football

Association for remarks about the match officials and skipper

Stephen Carr was given a one-match ban for gestures made towards

Villa fans after the final whistle. McLeish admitted: “We lost our

discipline, we crowded around the referee so these are lessons

we’ve got to take forward. “If decisions go against us again, we’ve

got to learn from that and we don’t want a reputation for that. “I

spoke to the players at the start of the season about discipline.

“We had seven bookings up at Bolton in our last game of last season

and there was a lot of whingeing and shouting at the referee in

that game. “I said to them ‘we’ve got to cut that out.’ There is a

way to speak to people and I’m sure the players have learnt from

that. “It will be vital on Sunday. We have to respect the

officials.” McLeish’s first taste of the Villa derby ended in a 5-1

defeat for City and the reaction of fans in the aftermath made him

aware of its importance to supporters. He said: “I went to a

question-and-answer session a week after the 5-1 game and it was a

bit risque. “The questions weren’t vetted, there were no holds

barred and there were a few things I didn’t like that were said at

me. “But it was good information and made me realise the fever

pitch of the derby here in the midlands. “The result is the only

thing that counts. It’s black and white. If you win you are great,

if you lose, you are rotten. “But the last two Villa derbies we’ve

lost we’ve not been rotten. We’ve been excellent and we have taken

Villa right to the wire and we were desperately unlucky not to get

something from the last encounter.” McLeish is a close friend of

Houllier and studied his training methods when the Frenchman was in

charge of Lyon after leaving Liverpool. He said: “I know Gerard

very well. I spent some time with him when he was manager of Lyon

when I had a sabbatical from the game before taking charge of

Scotland. “Gerard was an absolutely excellent host and I got a lot

of great education when I worked with him that week. “I phoned him,

I said I’d like to come and see your training and he was excellent.

“With anyone I’ve visited, it is more about reassurance rather than

‘I’ve learnt something new there’ because you know the way you do

things yourself. “Gerard doesn’t deviate too much from the way I do

things. “At the end of the day, he had a different quality of

player. Lyon were winning two or three titles in a row in Gerard’s

time. “I remember him saying you are always worried and anxious

about the outcome of a game but you are less anxious and worried

when you know you’ve got a good team – and he had a right good

team. “That is the key, getting players out on the pitch you can

trust.” McLeish accepts Birmingham still have work to do to match

Villa in terms of financial status but may have closed the gap on

the pitch. He said: “There was evidence of that in the way we

played against them last year. “In terms of the financial

disparity, they are still light years ahead of us in what they’ve

invested in their team in comparison to us. “Whether there is a

massive disparity in technical ability or quality, you would have

to question that because of the way we played. “But this is a new

season.”