Hero status beckons in Brum derby, says McLeish

April 18, 2008

Alex McLeish has challenged his Birmingham City players to 'become heroes overnight' by triumphing over Aston Villa in Sunday's crunch derby at Villa Park.

Blues will be underdogs when they tackle Martin O'Neill's side, who are still refusing to give up hope of securing a European spot after back to back wins against Bolton and Derby which have yielded 10 goals.

But McLeish is expecting another committed performance from his side and wants to transfer some of their formidable home form away from St Andrews.

The former Scotland boss said: 'We are not favourites but, in approaching this game, I don't think we will move too far from the template we put down to the players when I first arrived here.

'It is a derby game, they will be up for it, and Villa on paper should win. They have been in scintillating form and their confidence will have rocketed after two performances laced with goals.

'It is a tough game for us but I also say it is the occasion where people can become heroes overnight.'

McLeish, whose side are just two points above Bolton, added: 'We have to give everything and I am sure Roy Hodgson at Fulham and Gary Megson at Bolton will be saying the same thing as me to their players.

'But last weekend I saw a brilliant performance against a very good Everton team. It was only the finishing touch that let us down and some terrific stops by Tim Howard.

'Now we have to try and repeat that type of showing at Villa Park. I don't think that we are a brilliant passing team but we do play good tempo football.

'I know there have been a few draws but the performances have been good by and large.

'We are not scared by the challenges ahead. We have just got to be ready for the next challenge which is Aston Villa and then we will look at the one after that.'

McLeish will check on the fitness of midfielder Sebastian Larsson (knee) and striker Mikael Forssell (ankle) before finalising his line-up.

But the pace of Cameron Jerome, in a wide right midfield role, and the hustle and bustle upfront of Garry O'Connor created a favourable impression when they replaced the duo against Everton.

Skipper Damien Johnson is still ruled out as he serves the second of a three-game ban for his red card at Wigan.