McLeish backs Rafa

Image: McLeish: Benitez backing

Birmingham boss Alex McLeish says Liverpool's Rafa Benitez would walk into another job if he left the club.

Blues chief talks up Benitez's future prospects

Birmingham manager Alex McLeish says Liverpool counterpart Rafa Benitez would walk into another job should he leave the club in the close season. Speculation is rife that Benitez's days at Liverpool are numbered, with the club struggling in their battle to win a top four spot after a disappointing season. A damaging defeat in Thursday's Europa League encounter at Benfica added to the Reds' woes, however they have the chance to put pressure on Tottenham - current occupiers of the last UEFA Champions League place - by beating McLeish's team at St Andrews on Sunday. And the 51-year-old hailed the qualities of Spaniard Benitez, insisting the Champions League winner has the credentials to manage another big name side. McLeish said: "He has been around. He is an experienced manager. He has managed Valencia at the top level. They had fantastic times under Benitez.

Calibre and credentials

"Now he is at a top club at Liverpool and been there a few years and, if he is not mentally tough, then I would be very surprised. He is under pressure but we are all under pressure. I am under pressure in a different way. "Rafa has got to deal with that but, for a man of his calibre and managerial credentials, if it doesn't work out for him at Liverpool then there won't be a shortage of clubs looking to employ his services. "But it looks like he has got Liverpool back to winning ways although hopefully we can put a spoke in their wheels and make sure they don't win here." Birmingham welcome Liverpool to the Midlands confident they can take points from the Merseysiders, having already picked up a shock draw in the reverse fixture earlier in the season. The Blues are safe from the threat of relegation following a barnstorming unbeaten run that stretched from October to the end of January, however McLeish admitted the biggest challenge awaiting his side has yet to come.
Huge challenge
Newly promoted teams that beat the drop are said to suffer from 'second season syndrome' in the following campaign, and it is a diagnosis the former Scotland manager wants to avoid in the 2010-11 adventure. He continued: "It will be a big challenge for us, the second season, a huge challenge, and my message to the players when they come back for pre-season training is 'do it again.' "You've got to do it again, you can't just be a one-season wonder and then fade into obscurity. "That is my challenge to all the players and I think they've got the mentality in the dressing room to be thinking that way as well. "It is a credit to them, that teams are now thinking differently tactically against us."

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