LONDON, Feb 28 (AFP) – Birmingham manager Alex McLeish has hailed the "best ever" win of his career after the Blues stunned Arsenal 2-1 to win the club's first trophy in 48 years.
McLeish, who won seven trophies during his spell as manager of Scottish giants Rangers, said guiding Birmingham to the League Cup on Sunday trumped everything he had achieved north of the border.
|AFP - Birmingham City's coach Alex McLeish holds the trophy after the Carling Cup final between Arsenal and Birmingham at the Wembley Stadium in London on Sunday.|
"At Rangers I was expected to win trophies, but to come to England, my first trophy attempt, and to win against the might of Arsenal is a dream come true for everybody connected to the club," McLeish said.
"Nobody gave us a prayer -- we were massive underdogs. But sometimes the bookies don't get it right and we proved that today with phenomenal belief, phenomenal courage and some good football," he added.
Birmingham's victory via a last-minute Obafemi Martins goal guarantees the Midlands club a place in European football next season.
"I'd forgotten about that," McLeish said when reminded that he would be leading Birmingham into Europe.
"To go to into Europe is not without its problems in terms of having a squad strong enough to deal with that, but we're proud to be competing in Europe.
"We just have to develop the squad further. But we've also got the little matter of making sure we retain Premier League status first."
McLeish has been desperate for Birmingham's Hong Kong-based owner Carson Yeung to bankroll a foray into the transfer market.
However he was happy that he was able to deliver the League Cup to Yeung, who was watching from the stands at Wembley on his 51st birthday.
"I'm very pleased for Carson," McLeish said. "It's a fantastic birthday present for him. He must think it's easy being owner of a football club.
"Ninth position last year and now a Cup. But he knows we've got some battles ahead, which are equally important if not more important."
McLeish revealed that Birmingham had not even made plans for a victory celebration on Sunday, keeping the champagne on ice until after next weekend's Premier League showdown with West Bromwich Albion.
"We reserved next weekend for some celebrations," McLeish said. "But we've got West Brom so I hope it's not a case of after the Lord Mayors show because the West Brom game is vital for us. That's another cup final.
McLeish meanwhile said Birmingham had struggled to maintain their composure after a shocking officicating error in the second minute of Sunday's final that could have been costly to his team.
Birmingham should have been awarded a penalty and seen Arsenal reduced to 10 men after goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny hauled down Lee Bowyer in the box only for play to be called back for offside. Replays showed that Arsenal defender Bacary Sagna was playing Bowyer yard onside.
"We thought that it was something the officials shouldn't have missed," McLeish said. "They didn't get it right. We all threw a strop and we threatened to lose our focus, the players and myself.
"But we gathered the team at half-time and said we must retain our composure, and lay off the moaning at the officials because it had happened, it was past."