Alex McLeish has hailed the "massive impact" on Birmingham of Barry Ferguson who has rebuilt his career after ending his spell in Scotland in disgrace.
Ferguson was stripped of the Scotland captaincy and told he would no longer be considered for international selection after well-publicised breaches of discipline two years ago. But McLeish showed faith in the player he had already managed at international and club level by bringing him to St Andrew's during the summer of 2009 for around £1million.
It has proved to be an inspired signing, and McLeish said: "He has been superb for us and his experience will be important. It's amazing he's played so many games and he's hardly ever injured. His playing record is remarkable over the years. He's got amazing toughness."
He added: "That last season with Rangers, the relationship between Barry and the fans was maybe diminishing a wee bit.
"It was probably right for Barry to leave because you don't want to leave on bad terms.
"The fans thought Barry was on the wane or he was finished but he's proved since he's come to England that he's got plenty of fire, ability and still has the legs."
The close bond between manager and player was evident after the semi-final win over West Ham at St Andrew's when they embraced on the pitch after City's remarkable comeback.
McLeish said: "I didn't walk towards the tunnel to coincide with Barry. It was almost fate with two guys who had been there before - getting to finals.
"There was a kind of a look of recognition about what we'd just done and a feeling we'd been there before."
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