Birmingham defender Steven Caldwell believes there are a number of reasons a player and friend he is charged with stopping on Thursday night failed to make it in the English game.

The Blues face last season's beaten Europa League finalists Braga at St Andrew's in the first game of their Group H campaign, with Hugo Viana one of the mainstays of their side. Viana shot to prominence when former Newcastle manager Sir Bobby Robson signed the midfielder in June 2002 for £8.5million at the tender age of just 19.

Caldwell, who played alongside Viana in the Magpies side at that time, said: "Newcastle is a very strange club to play for, a magnificent club, and it's probably still my team. I love the place."

As a Portugal Under-21 international, and very highly rated, it was believed Viana would be a resounding success. However, Viana managed just 28 starts and four goals in two seasons before returning to Sporting on a year-long loan in 2004 and a move to Valencia a year later.

He added: "But there is pressure in playing for a team like that. Everywhere you go people are in your face. I would assume that would be difficult for a 19-year-old boy from Portugal coming in with such a big price tag and a lot of pressure to perform.

"It would also have been a type of football he would not have been used to, with a different pace and different pressures that come with it. I felt he took a bit of time to get used to that, that it didn't quite suit him as much as the Portuguese game.

"Because Bobby just wanted to get him into the team, he would play him wide left, but Hugo would be the first to tell you he is not a wide-left player. He is more of a central player, getting on the ball, receiving it from the back four and spraying passes.

"So he probably didn't get the opportunities he thought he would, and he didn't quite establish himself as a regular in the side. But I got on well with him and I'm looking forward to seeing him. I remember a lot about him. He was quite friendly, a lovely boy."

After defeating another Portuguese side in CD Nacional in the play-off phase to make the group stage, City step up a level in taking on Braga. Crucially, for a team with designs on an immediate return to the Barclays Premier League following relegation in May, the six games to come represent a tough assignment and distraction.

Caldwell, though, is adamant Blues are determined to succeed, and will not just face the fixtures in a half-hearted manner. "Anybody who saw the games with Nacional could see the desire of the players to get through to the group stage," said Caldwell.

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Topics:
Europa League
Football
Steven Caldwell
Championship
Chelsea
Premier League
Newcastle United
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