Scott Dann and Roger Johnson: Say hello to Birmingham's odd couple

Alex McLeish took a gamble when he plucked two centre backs from the Championship to shore up Birmingham’s defence.

But, 18 months on, Roger Johnson and Scott Dann have gelled so well they have even been mentioned as a possible England partnership.

Off the pitch they are the odd couple. Johnson is a brash Londoner with a high-profile WAG — wife Melissa — who treated himself to a Bentley after his £5million move from Cardiff.

Dann is the quietly-spoken Scouser who had already captained Walsall and Coventry before McLeish paid £3.5m for him.

One of only two all-English central defensive pairings in the top flight — the other being West Ham’s Matthew Upson and James Tomkins — they already have six clean
sheets in the League this season.

Ahead of tonight’s Carling Cup quarter-final derby against Aston Villa, Neil Moxley finds out how opposites attract for boss McLeish.

On the defensive: Scott Dann
On the defensive: Roger Johnson

On the defensive: Birmingham's Premier League form plummets without Scott Dann (left) and Roger Johnson at the heart of their defence. If the centre backs play together, the side concede 25 per cent fewer goals, score 40 per cent more goals, and take on average 0.45 more points every game.

Dann on Johnson

When we were both signed last season, I looked at Roger and could see that he wanted to do well in the Premier League.

Roger is full of that real passion for the game. We both wanted to make the point that we could play in this division.

The people around us have helped. Stephen Carr, Liam Ridgewell, Joe Hart and now Ben Foster had all played at this level.

I don’t think you can underestimate the importance of that experience.

Roger’s not afraid to voice his opinion if he believes something needs to be said. Does he like the sound of his own voice? You said that, not me!

People ask why the partnership works. I think the variety between us is a good thing. We are different types of centre halves. I try to get the ball down and pass it, Roger’s
quite aggressive. He attacks the ball more.

We have taken to each other as players because of our differences. Maybe if we were too similar, the manager would be trying to change one of us into something we’re not comfortable with.

It shows in all good defensive partnerships over the world. Two centre halves normally are a bit different from one another and tend to work as a partnership really well because of that.

And I know he looks after my back and I’d like to think I look after his.

Ever-watchful: Dann checks the progress of Manchester City's Carlos Tevez

Ever-watchful: Dann checks the progress of Manchester City's Carlos Tevez

Johnson on Dann

I think there are more likenesses on the pitch than Scott and I are given credit for. We both love defending. Neither of us mind putting our head on the line.

We don’t mind doing the dirty stuff. We talk to each other all the time and it just seems to work. The manager is always stressing the importance of clean sheets and
we take a pride in it.

I can’t tell you how good it felt to be in the dressing room after the Chelsea game when we won 1-0. We were buzzing. We had really been tested and we came through it.

We loved it. Of course, we don’t want to make these last-ditch tackles but it’s what we do. I think Scott is the same as me in that respect.

It’s fair to say he’s a bit quieter than me, but when he goes, he goes. He’s not as shy as he appears in public. If something needs saying on a match day, then it gets said — if he can scream above me.

The bottom line is that I’m very, very fond of having Scott as a defensive partner and I’d hope he feels the same way about me.

Buzzing: Johnson makes a last-ditch takle on Chelsea's Ramires

Buzzing: Johnson makes a last-ditch takle on Chelsea's Ramires

McLeish on Johnson and Dann

We are a little unfashionable and that’s probably a factor in why our centre halves haven’t had the nod from Mr Capello. The two boys have been magnificent for me.

Roger, at 27, is a wee bit ahead of Scott in terms of his performances. But young Scott (23) is turning heads, no doubt about that. I think Roger deserves to have a shout with those other guys who are being touted for England.

Backing: McLeish has praised his defensive duo

Backing: McLeish has praised his defensive duo

He keeps coming to me and saying: ‘What have I got to do, gaffer?’ But you can’t let your guard down if it doesn’t happen. His first thought has got to be to get into my team.

He’s the type of guy you would want in the trenches alongside you. It’s got to be pretty serious for Roger to ever come off the field, believe me.

He has been very consistent, as has Scott. When the rest of the team may not be playing well, you need them to be at the top of their game.

I think Scott has kicked on this year. There’s no doubt he has great potential. He’s a natural right-footer and has had to improve on his left.

Roger is the big talker — a bit like I was as a player. Scott is more reserved but he can make his point.

Sometimes you just know that if Roger can’t get there, then Scott will. I think that chemistry has developed during the past 18 months.

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