Hleb slams McLeish 'long ball' Birmingham tactics

The Belarus midfielder has described how he got "little pleasure" out of the physical English game and expressed his regret at his behaviour while playing for Barcelona
Krylya Sovetov midfielder Alex Hleb has slammed Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish's "long ball" tactics and insisted he "can get little pleasure" out of the English style of play.

Hleb played under McLeish at Birmingham City during the 2010-11 season while on loan from Barcelona, having struggled to establish himself in the first team at Camp Nou.

The Belarus international described McLeish as "not a bad bloke" but launched a scathing criticism of his tactical preparation during a campaign in which Birmingham were relegated from the Premier League.

"At Birmingham, the team played the long-ball game, practically bypassing midfield," Hleb told Russian website RIA Novosti.

"To get into the game you had to play up front or linger at the back with the defenders to get hold of the ball, which more often than not flew right past me.

"The day before a game he would come onto the pitch and show us what to do: 'You stand here, the goalkeeper will give you the ball here, kick it as far as you can and don't pass to anyone nearby. And we all run.'"

Hleb spent time out on loan with three clubs while at Barcelona and has admitted that he regrets the way he reacted to the lack of opportunities he was afforded in Spain.

"I shouldn't have left Barcelona," Hleb conceded. "Now I would do everything differently. I should have fought to the end for a place in the Barca lineup.

"I was offended like a little kid [when not selected]. And I showed it: sometimes I would run less in training, sometimes I would pose.

"The coach would tell me to do one thing, and I'd do something else in defiance. It was like kindergarten, I find it ridiculous now."

The 30-year-old described how he began to get carried away with his own form having earned a move to Barcelona after an impressive spell with Arsenal, rather than focusing on the success of the team.

"Now I understand that it was my fault, because I provoked the conflict deliberately, by my own stupidity," Hleb added.

"I played every other game, I wanted to play more. After Arsenal, my ambitions were sky-high, and I always asked why I was being left on the bench after playing well.

"I didn't completely comprehend that this was the world's best club. I wanted to be a permanent part of the side. [Lionel] Messi is one thing, but what about everyone else? These were the thoughts that ruined me."