Alex McLeish claims winning the Carling Cup has taken its toll on his relegation-threatened Birmingham side.
And the former Rangers manager has urged his men to move on from the triumph and drag themselves away from trouble at the bottom of the English Premier League table.
Birmingham stunned Arsenal 2-1 to win the Cup in February but have won just two league games since, leaving them just two points off the relegation zone.
They face Chelsea on Wednesday looking to do the double over Carlo Ancelotti’s men, following their 1-0 win in November.
And McLeish reckons his side need to learn to cope with the tag of being Carling Cup winners.
“If I lose five or six players the week after the Carling Cup final, that becomes tough,” McLeish said.
“You could still be wearing the Birmingham shirt but you are not as strong and the expectation levels are there because we’ve won the Carling Cup.”
“If I put 11 young boys on the field we are (still) expected to win because we won the Carling Cup.”
”These are the mitigating circumstances. We did also suffer a little bit mentally, no doubt about it, after winning the Carling Cup. Not many players are used to winning trophies and you kind of feel ‘let’s go on our holidays now’.”
McLeish, meanwhile, has praised Sebastian Larsson for his commitment to Birmingham’s cause after it appeared he was leaving in January.
The Swedish midfielder looked set to depart and although his contract expires at the end of the season, McLeish still hopes Larsson may stay.
McLeish said: “We were close to losing Seb in January but I didn’t want him to go. That boy has restored my faith in players because I have seen players before on a Bosman put their tools away.”
“We could still keep him.”
Chilean winger Jean Beausejour returns for Birmingham on Wednesday and – apart from long-term absentees James McFadden and Scott Dann – only Obafemi Martins, Nikola Zigic and Martin Jiranek remain sidelined.
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