Tottenham 2-1 Birmingham

McLeish "gutted" as Blues go down

May 22, 2011

Birmingham boss Alex McLeish declared himself "gutted'' after his team lost their battle against relegation from the Premier League.

Alex McLeish
PA PhotosAlex McLeish was expected to remain in charge of Birmingham in the Championship

McLeish's men were on course for survival when Craig Gardner's goal cancelled out Roman Pavlyuchenko's effort at White Hart Lane - but the Russian netted a second and Blues drop out of the top flight with a 2-1 defeat with Blackpool and West Ham.

McLeish said: "I'm obviously pretty gutted. When we got a goal I thought we'd done it but then there was the Wolves' comeback and their (Tottenham's) late goal.

"You'd expect them to come back - but the way it's happened to us is devastating, losing the battle to avoid relegation. When we got the equaliser I thought things would go for us - but lady luck has avoided us today.''

Asked if news of developments elsewhere were a distraction, McLeish told Sky Sports News: "No, you need to know the other scores to push the lads on and get another goal.''

As for the future, McLeish said: "I've been knocked down today and I'm going to rise to it. It's going to be a pretty horrible couple of days - or summer I suppose - but I've got to work to get Birmingham back to the Premier League. I'll chat with the chairman (Carsen Yeung) in midweek and see where we go from there

"We know to get back (into the Premier League) we have to maintain the quality factor. The players have got to fight on and rise to the next challenge. It's not fatal. They've got to pick themselves up again.''

He added: "It's probably the worst moment of my career because I have been in charge of the team the whole year,'' McLeish said. "They're my lads. I picked them. I built the squad and it's a low for me in my career but it's not a fail. I will bounce back.''

Blues owner Carson Yeung sat in the stands at White Hart Lane wincing with every chance Birmingham missed. McLeish will meet with the Hong Kong businessman this week to discuss his future but the former Scotland manager insists he wants to remain in charge at St Andrew's.

"I have a good contract. As far as I'm aware I will be honouring that,'' McLeish said. "I will chat with the owner during the week and we will see what the game plan is with everybody.''

McLeish now finds himself in the bizarre situation of being in charge of a team who qualified to the Europa League but will be playing in England's second tier next year. The Birmingham boss admits having to rely on other teams' results meant the nature of the club's relegation was hard to take.

"I was in a bit of trance with everything that was going on,'' McLeish said. "It's hard to describe the emotions.''

Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp admitted that he felt mixed emotions at the result. Redknapp was proud of his players for cementing the fifth-place finish, but conceded that seeing a fellow colleague drop down a division was hard to stomach.

"I get on great with their manager. I think he is a top-class fella','' Redknapp said. "The last thing I wanted was to put him down. To be honest with you I didn't know what they were doing pushing (defender Roger) Johnson forward at the end when it was 1-1. I said to Alex, 'Is a draw not good enough for you?' and he said 'No, we need a win because Wolves scored'.

"It was all changing minute by minute. Ian Holloway has gone down and what an amazing job he has done at Blackpool. It's hard on him. How did Wolves stay up when they were 3-0 down?''

Redknapp has never hidden his dislike of the Europa League and admitted that he may field a second-string team in the competition to ensure that the club have the best possible chance of claiming a top-four position next season.

The 64-year-old is relieved, however, to have made the competition through the league and not through the fair play table, which would have seen Spurs have to play their first qualifier on June 30.

He said: "That would have been ridiculous. It kills your Premier League season. It's the last thing you ever want if you are looking to have a push again so that was important that we didn't go into that.''