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October 17, 2009

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Yeung vows big Brums transfer kitty

NEW Birmingham owner Carson Yeung pledged on Thursday to invest up to 40 million pounds (US$65 million) on strengthening the squad in the January transfer window.

With promoted Birmingham 14th in the standings and struggling with injuries, Yeung recognizes that staying in the top flight is the priority and will provide manager Alex McLeish with the funds to try and achieve that.

However, the businessman from China Hong Kong said that he expects his investment to produce a trophy by 2012.

"This season we want to stay in the Premier League, and next season be stronger with new players and get better results on the pitch," said Yeung, who was presented at the central England club. "I will support Alex and let him buy the best players to make the team stronger.

"I hope to win a trophy in two more years. I will invest step by step to ensure the team lifts a cup, and make the stadium excellent."

Yeung said Alex McLeish will have "20 million to 40 million pounds" to spend on new players and their salaries. He also guaranteed the manager the same amount "and maybe more in the summer" to rebuild a team that hasn't won a major title since the 1963 League Cup.

Birmingham, European Fairs Cup runners-up in 1960 and 1961, has long lived in the shadow of city neighbor Aston Villa whom it beat in the 1963 League Cup final.

"It's a long, long target but we hope Birmingham can become one of the best clubs in Europe. Let's take it step by step, but why not?," the new owner said.

McLeish, who is focusing on Saturday's Premier League match at Arsenal, cautioned against expecting Birmingham to now sign top-level international players.

"We still have to realize we are not a Manchester United, Manchester City or Liverpool," the former Scotland coach said. "We will still target a certain type of player.

"We are not going to target an Emmanuel Adebayor (a Man City striker), but there are players out there I know will enhance my first 11 that we will try to attract."

Yeung completed his 81.5 million pound takeover last week to make Birmingham the 10th Premier League club under foreign ownership, having increased his stake to 29.9 percent in 2007 through investment company Grandtop International Holdings.

The 49-year-old Yeung hopes China will help to provide the money that transforms Birmingham.

"We believe there is a major opportunity to build Birmingham's fan base in China and to generate new sources of revenue for the club," said Yeung, who was chairman of Hong Kong Rangers Football Club in 2005-06.

"We can also play a match against China's national team."


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