Football

Ferguson back for Birmingham

Ferguson back for Birmingham (©PAphotos)
Ferguson back for Birmingham (©PAphotos).

Birmingham midfielder Barry Ferguson will return after suspension for the Barclays Premier League clash with Fulham at St Andrew's.

The former Scottish international missed the 2-2 draw with Liverpool at Anfield after serving a one-game ban for his sending-off against Manchester City.

Winger Keith Fahey is also in contention again after recovering from an ankle problem as Alex McLeish's side look to extend their unbeaten run to four games.

But striker Garry O'Connor, midfielder Teemu Tainio, central defender Martin Taylor and left-back David Murphy are still sidelined through injury.

McLeish believes Blues have set a standard which needs to be maintained in their last three games and has warned against complacency.

He said: "We have intensified training this week and we are looking for the players to get back to the same kind of tempo, the same kind of performance level of recent weeks.

"They have set the standards now and we will be demanding that type of performance from them every single week and they are capable of doing it.

"They have improved but, if they get complacent, they know what happens so it is up to the coaches and myself and the leaders in the team to keep on top of people and make sure that no-one is slacking."

McLeish has massive respect for Fulham boss Roy Hodgson and the "wonderful job" he has performed at Craven Cottage, but knows the expectancy levels will be higher for his team than against the 'bigger' teams in the Premier League.

He said: "It is a different pressure because when you play the likes of Man Utd, Liverpool, Arsenal, Spurs away you are maybe thinking we have nothing to lose and, if we lose the game, we won't get criticised too much.

"But now the likes of games against Fulham are the games we are judged on. The players have got to step up again and show they have the mentality to handle that.

"They can't all of a sudden get apprehensive about playing a home game and a team outside the top five or six.

"We've got to be going hammer and tongs, throwing everything at the opposition, particularly with it being at St Andrew's, and then I think we've got the ability to upset anyone at our place.

"It is quite simply one of these games where we have got to take advantage of playing at St Andrew's."

Fulham will once again be without Andrew Johnson and captain Danny Murphy.

Both had been rested for the Cottagers' 1-1 draw with Wigan but Johnson (groin) and Murphy (knee) have failed to recover and Diomansay Kamara also misses out with an ankle injury.

Simon Davies could make his first appearance for two months after recovering from a foot injury while all Roy Hodgson's international players, including the Republic of Ireland's Damien Duff and Stephen Kelly, are fit.

Roy Hodgson is sure Duff will bounce back from his World Cup heartbreak.

The Fulham winger played all 120 minutes of the Republic of Ireland's 1-1 draw with France on Wednesday, a result that denied Giovanni Trapattoni's side a place in next year's World Cup finals.

Hodgson admitted Duff was disappointed when he returned to Fulham's training ground on Thursday but is adamant the 30-year-old has enough experience to take the defeat in his stride.

"He wasn't down in training. I spoke to him yesterday when he got back and on that occasion he was feeling very down about the whole affair, which is quite normal," the Fulham boss said.

"The thing about Damien is that when he gets on the field and that ball's there in front of him he has that wonderful ability to put other problems out of his mind.

"He has been through many a European and World Cup qualifying campaign so it's not the first time he has been thwarted at late notice. He knows he's getting on at 30 years of age and I'm sure he saw this as an excellent opportunity to grasp the chance but it was denied to him.

"It will take a long time for the pain to pass because he was so close to a World Cup and he didn't get there thanks to a clearly incorrect refereeing decision.

"Damien has played 70-odd international matches and to be so close, when he came back he was really badly affected by it."

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Topics:
Tottenham Hotspur
Arsenal
Fulham
Internationals
Football
Manchester City
Premier League
Keith Fahey
Alex
Manchester United
Simon Davies
Martin Taylor
Teemu Tainio
Wigan Athletic
Barnsley
Andrew Johnson
Garry O'Connor
Damien Duff
Stephen Kelly
Birmingham
Barry Ferguson
Liverpool
David Murphy

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