Alex McLeish 'devastated' by Birmingham City relegation

Birmingham boss Alex McLeish admitted he was "devastated" at his side's relegation to the Championship but is determined to face the next challenge.

Sunday's 2-1 defeat at Tottenham, coupled with results elsewhere, ended City's two-year stay in the top flight.

"We are devastated and I am devastated for the fans," said McLeish.

"But we have had many memorable games this season and we have now got to go on to another challenge. You cannot bury your head in the sand."

McLeish's side went into the final round of games knowing a victory would in all likelihood ensure their survival at the expense of one of the other four teams competing to avoid the drop - Wigan, Blackpool, Wolves and Blackburn.

At one stage late in the day, after Craig Gardner had equalised Roman Pavlyuchenko's opener for Spurs, it appeared as though City would escape but Wigan's 1-0 win at Stoke and a second Wolves goal in their 3-2 home defeat by Blackburn put the Midlanders into the bottom three on goals scored.

Pavlyuchenko's second strike with the last kick of the game sealed City's fate.

It is a crushing conclusion to a season that saw them lift their first major silverware in 48 years, courtesy of a 2-1 win over Arsenal in the Carling Cup final - a victory that means they will be playing European football next season as a Championship club.

"It is difficult [to stomach] the way things unfolded, but that has been the drama of this league this season," McLeish added. "It has been incredible. With 39 points, you would normally be safe.

"It was always going to be difficult for the teams down there because the quality in the lower half of the table was amazing."

City's plan centred around containing a dangerous Tottenham side, who were looking to secure Europa League football next season through a fifth-place finish, and then trying to hit them on the break.

McLeish admitted it was the same approach that had served them well in February's Carling Cup final success.

"By-and-large it worked," stated McLeish. "It was a shame to lose a goal so early in the second half because then for a five-minute spell I thought the players began to chase the game and leave holes where people like [Luka] Modric can pick you off.

"I thought the performance was great today but it wasn't today that cost us our Premier League status.

"We will look back and there will be loads of games when we will say we blew it. Ultimately we get above the point-a-game margin and it is still not enough.

"I always think that players have got to take care of games at every stage of the season.

"In the early part of the season, we were leading in games and got pulled back - at Bolton, at West Brom - but you've got to remind the players you can't leave it all until later on, you have got to do it now."

McLeish pointed to the number of injuries his side have suffered this season as a reason for their plight. Notably, they have had to cope for most of the campaign without regular centre-back Scott Dann, while top-scorer Gardner has missed 12 games through suspension and injury.

"There are mitigating circumstances," he added. "We've had an horrendous season injury-wise.

"I don't want to make excuses, every team has them, but people called me lucky for winning the Carling Cup. Well, I don't feel very lucky now with the personnel we've had missing.

"The players were out on their feet today. They have given us every single ounce they possibly could over the past few weeks, couple of months, but there have been two or three running on empty."

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