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Damien may yet get McLeish vote

By Stuart McKinley

Northern Ireland midfielder Damien Johnson is closing in on a first-team return with Birmingham City.

And the 29-year-old may even be back in the line-up for new manager Alex McLeish's first game in charge of the club, against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.

Johnson played the full 90 minutes of Monday night's reserve game against Chelsea, which Brum won 2-0 - although his return was overshadowed by Michael Ballack's first game for the Londonders since ankle surgery in the spring.

The former Blackburn Rovers man has yet to play in a Premier League game this season and missed all six of Northern Ireland's Euro 2008 qualifiers since August after suffering hamstring injuries in both legs, with his only appearance coming in a Carling Cup tie against Blackburn.

Now, after undergoing a course of injections in an attempt to cure the problems, Johnson's nightmare appears to be over.

And with McLeish coming in to replace Steve Bruce his return couldn't have come at a better time.

Goalkeeper Maik Taylor is also in line to face Spurs after missing last weekend's game against Portsmouth.

Taylor is expected to reclaim the number one spot after Richard Kingson's horrendous blunder in the 2-0 defeat.

Belfast Telegraph

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