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Arsenal loanee to miss Blues clash as Robinson opens up on exit

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Double blow

Millwall have been hit with the news they could be without Ryan Leonard for up to the three months.

The 29-year-old will miss this weekend’s visit from Birmingham City and is set to see a specialist next week.

That leaves Lions boss Gary Rowett with a shortage of options on the right side of defence – with Danny McNamara likely to start against Blues.

It has also emerged they will be without Arsenal loan defender Daniel Ballard for a similar period. The 22-year-old has had knee surgery.

Leonard had an operation for ruptured ankle ligaments last season and has made nine starts this term.

Rowett told the South London Press: “Lenny’s had a scan and we think there is a chance there might be what is called a stress response in there, which essentially gets dealt with in the same way as a fracture – in that you have to allow it to heal for six to eight weeks.

“It will be a big blow for us. You just started to see him coming into his own and the flexibility he offers us in terms of multiple positions as well is something we’ve used quite well. He covers two or three positions.

“To not have that player around is obviously difficult for us. But the first bit is to try and get Lenny back to full fitness and back to his best – it’s a tough period for him.”

Millwall will also be without Connor Mahoney, a former Blues loanee who has not played since September 25 due to a hamstring injury.

Saint Andrew

Birmingham City will find out their first opponents in this season’s FA Cup at some stage on Monday evening.

The draw, which has thrown up trips to West Ham and Manchester City in recent seasons, will take place during the final second round match between Boreham Wood and St Albans City.

Most Blues fans will be praying for anything other than a Championship side at home.

However, Josh Andrews is not most Blues fans.

The 20-year-old striker would love nothing more than a Championship side at home – as long as that Championship side is Birmingham City and his temporary home remains Rochdale’s Spotland.

The Blues youngster is currently on loan at the Crown Oil Arena where he has battled through covid and a midseason injury to take some important strides in his embryonic career.

The Solihull-born forward will hope to take another giant step forward on Sunday as League Two Rochdale face Plymouth Argyle for a place in the Third Round hat.

Andrews, as big and as quick as strikers come in League Two, has started Dale’s last four matches and would love nothing more than to confirm his rising star with a goal or two against an Argyle team that seems suddenly vulnerable after their 16-game unbeaten run waned into three successive defeats.

He has four in 12 appearances so far and has impressed Rochdale manager Robbie Stockdale. “His attitude is fantastic, absolutely no problems with that,” the former Middlesbrough defender told BirminghamLive.

“One of the priorities when I took the job this season was recruiting on character as well as ability and touch wood we seem to have got nearly every single one of those right. Josh is fine in that regard.

“He didn’t come to us with any type of pre-season and ended up trying to catch up during the season, which is never easy.

“He started at Northampton, scored a good goal but came off with fatigue with 15-20 minutes to go – and then he had a really bad hamstring – which has kept him out for a while.

“But he will be all the better for playing the games. I think the size of him he needs to constantly be playing. We manage him in training to keep him fit, he doesn’t two certain sessions that some of the other players do.

“Players of his physicality and frame, it’s difficult to run around a training pitch for two hours when some of the little ones are doing it easy.”

Hello again

The 2,000 Birmingham City supporters who make the trek to Millwall on Saturday will find a few familiar faces waiting for them at The Den.

Gary Rowett, the former player and manager whose sacking set in motion a downward spiral from which , five years on, Blues are only now emerging, will be in the opposition dugout.

Maikel Kieftenbeld, unapologetic kicker of Jack Grealish and all-round cult hero, will most likely be on the bench but could well have done enough in training this week to convince Rowett he’s worth a first start in a month.

And while Connor Mahoney, once a loan winger at St Andrew’s, probably won’t be involved – a man who served Blues for eight years will be conspicuous by his presence.

Millwall first team coach Paul Robinson

Paul Robinson, erstwhile defender and club captain who turned a one-month deal into 175 appearances and two roles in the Wast Hills academy, will stand beside Rowett as the pair plot the old club’s downfall.

The 42-year-old returned to football in July, as a first team coach with Millwall, since when he has been part of a backroom staff that have lifted the Lions to tenth in the table.

Like Kieftenbeld this will be his first reunion with employers with whom it ended on a sour note, at a time when the club was in the grip of CEO Xuandong Ren.

In the summer of 2020 Robinson found he couldn’t put up with any more in Kristjaan Speakman’s academy, nor under Ren’s direction – and spent a year with his family.

Now, fully-recharged he is looking forward to Saturday. “It will be nice to see people again, I had a lot of good relationships there,” Robinson told BirminghamLive.

“How do I feel about it now? I love the club, I have always highlighted I will always have an affinity with the club because of the way they treated me. The people I met were superb with me.

“The way it ended, unfortunately it’s ended for them as well now, so that’s karma. I am not too fussed about it because the way you treat people always comes back and haunts you with what you do – and how you do it.”

Red Woods

Gary Rowett admits Birmingham City can feel aggrieved to be travelling to face his Millwall team without suspended midfielder Ryan Woods.

The Lions boss – and former Blues player and manager – has supported Lee Bowyer’ s contention that Woods should not be serving a three match ban.

The 27-year-old was sent off for a professional foul on Coventry City’s Ian Maatsen, a decision that outraged Bowyer at the time and was only exacerbated by the rejection of Blues’ appeal.

That means Woods will miss the trip to The Den, where he spent last season under Rowett, which leaves Blues sweating on the availability of 17-year-old stand-in Jordan James.

Rowett sympathises. “When a player does that we all, as managers, expect the player to do it for the team,” he said.

“But you can also look at those challenges and they look a free-hit. Do they look any different to a bad challenge in the middle of the pitch?

“I’d say all 92 managers would say that is a yellow card and nothing else.”

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