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Birmingham City can sign next Keith Fahey with Champions League experience and business degree

Birmingham Mail logo Birmingham Mail 19/01/2022 Ste McGovern
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When reports emerged this week that Birmingham City were interested in signing Jamie McGrath from St. Mirren in the January transfer window, comparisons with a certain other Irish midfielder were only natural.

The 25-year-old's contract with the Scottish outfit runs out in the summer and he is determined to make the move to England either this month or at the end of the season when he could leave on a Bosman.

Jim Goodwin, McGrath's manager at St. Mirren, suggested this week that they could "pretty quickly... get him moved on" after he was left out of the matchday squad against Dundee United on Tuesday night.

That will give Blues hope of completing a deal before the end of the month rather than wait until the summer, and they could really do with him for the second half of the campaign.

Lee Bowyer has been shorn of Riley McGree's influence in the attacking third following the end of his loan spell, while Tahith Chong is still recovering from a long-term injury, so McGrath would arrive at the perfect time to fill the creative void the pair have left behind.

The Irishman has been very effective as an attacking midfielder for the Buddies, but he is also comfortable playing in the centre of the park or just off the left.

If McGrath does end up at St. Andrew's he will have taken a similar path to the one and only Keith Fahey, albeit more of circuitous route to his compatriot.

Whereas Fahey was plucked straight from St. Patrick's Athletic in 2009, McGrath joined Dundalk four years ago before sailing across the Irish Sea to sign a two-and-a-half-year deal with St. Mirren in 2020.

It would be a similar progression to the one that Wes Hoolahan made in his career, moving from Dublin outfit Shelbourne to Livingston before settling at Norwich City for a decade via Blackpool. If he can have half the impact "Wessi" made at Carrow Road, Blues will do well to get him signed up.

'A top lad'

McGrath spent two years with St. Pat's, during which time he also got a degree in Business and Management at Maynooth University, before moving on to Dundalk FC where he would win back-to-back league titles and play in the Uefa Champions League.

Of all the players who played a role in Dundalk's dominance in recent years, not many would have put McGrath at the top of their list to play a central role in the Ireland team's future, but that's what appears to be happening after two stellar years in Paisley.

McGrath picked up the 2020/21 St. Mirren Player of the Year award after scoring 17 goals in all competitions last season, two of which came during a stunning upset win over Rangers to book their place in the Scottish League Cup semi-finals, where they lost out to Livingston.

Although McGrath has scored a creditable 19 goals in 65 appearances in Scotland, it's worth noting that a sizeable chunk of these are from the penalty spot - something he has worked extremely hard on to perfect - but that shouldn't take away from his ability.

After all, there's a reason why St. Mirren want to make him the best paid player in the history of the club after rejecting an attempt from Hibernian to sign him last summer.

Despite accusations of not being able to handle the pressure of playing for a club like Aberdeen this week, his teammate Ryan Flynn has previously said that he's "got a good head on his shoulders" and believe he has Premier League quality.

“People are asking if he could play in the English Premier League and I honestly don’t see why not," Flynn told our sister publication, RenfrewshireLive , last November.

“I think the way he plays the game, for us and for Ireland, he just suits it and thrives in it. He actually seems to thrive more the bigger the game is. I think he’ll go really far. He’s not just a great player, he’s a top lad as well.”

McGrath has already proved that in some ways with the Republic of Ireland, earning six caps under Stephen Kenny, who managed the Meath native at Dundalk.

When Portugal came to town last November for the penultimate World Cup qualifier of the group, Kenny had no hesitation in starting the 25-year-old as part of a front three after an outstanding performance against Qatar a month earlier.

Although he was taken off at the hour mark having not played his best stuff, McGrath was still very composed on the ball and ran himself into the ground as Ireland saw out a goalless draw with a side containing the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes and Joao Cancelo.

Would Jamie McGrath make a good signing? Let us know down below!

The signs are there that he could make an impact in the Championship for Birmingham City, but there's one thing about McGrath that they won't like at all: he idolised Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard as a child.

“I had a wall full of Steven Gerrard photos growing up, he was my idol since I was about four or five,” McGrath admitted to The42 when the Liverpool icon was still in charge of Rangers.

“Playing against a team managed by Stevie G is only a perk. Inside I might be dying to get a photo but I’m not there as a fan. It’s funny to think he might be discussing me now when he’d doing opposition analysis but you can’t be overawed by that.

“If you let that swallow you up and get the better of you, you won’t be able to perform. And I want to show what I can do here.”

With any luck he'll be showing Blues fans what he can do in due course.

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