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Birmingham City confident Brandon Khela can come of age in Ross County’s survival battle

Teenage midfielder Khela joined the Staggies on loan from Birmingham in January.

Brandon Khela in action against Celtic. Image: PA
Brandon Khela in action against Celtic. Image: PA

Age will come as no barrier in Brandon Khela’s efforts to make a significant impact in Ross County’s fight to stay in the Premiership.

Midfielder Khela joined the Staggies on loan from Birmingham City in January, marking the teenager’s first temporary move.

He has been attached to the Blues since the age of eight, progressing from pre-academy all the way through to the fringes of the first team.

Ross County midfielder Brandon Khela. Image: SNS

With just two substitute appearances to his name with Birmingham, Khela was pitched straight into the Staggies’ side by Derek Adams after the winter break.

He made his County debut when he started in a narrow 1-0 defeat to Celtic at Parkhead, before once again being selected in a 2-2 draw against Livingston three days later.

All four of his outings since then have come from the bench, with Don Cowie now in interim charge following Adams’ resignation last month.

Khela played the final 21 minutes in Saturday’s 2-0 defeat to Hibernian at Easter Road, and immediately brought energy and dynamism to the Staggies’ midfield.

He was involved in setting up a fine chance for Eamonn Brophy to level the scoring at a point when Hibs led by a solitary goal.

Following the match, Cowie revealed he has been impressed by Khela’s recent showings in training – and was highly encouraged by the way the 19-year-old translated that on to the pitch.

Ross County interim boss Don Cowie. Image: SNS

Cowie said: “He was a real positive. I thought he was very bright when he came on against Hibs.

“He’s not had too much game time but we’re seeing enough in training to suggest he should be on the park.

“That’s why I was pretty keen to get him on and he didn’t disappoint.”

Khela aiming to impose himself on Staggies’ survival fight

County face a fight to retain their Premiership status, with the Dingwall side currently occupying the relegation play-off position.

Although they have a six-point cushion above bottom side Livingston, they trail 10th-placed Aberdeen by four points – with the Staggies approaching a difficult run of fixtures which starts with the return visit of Hibs to Victoria Park on Wednesday.

While the experience of a relegation scrap is new to Khela, Birmingham’s head of academy coaching James Brayne insists the youngster will be intent on making a strong contribution in the 10 matches which lie ahead.

Brandon Khela in action against Livingston. Image: SNS

Brayne said: “It will be a steep learning curve for him – but at the same time he’s a boy that relishes any challenge that’s laid in front of him.

“Knowing Brandon, I know his mindset will be about wanting to get into the team and trying to add value to the group.

“That’s the kind of character he is. He certainly won’t shirk away from it, he will be doing everything he can to get himself in the squad, starting games, and doing as much as he can to help the team.

“The biggest compliment I can pay Brandon is that his attitude and application to everything I ask him to do is exemplary.

Ross County’s Brandon Khela. Image: SNS

“It’s obviously an experience he has never had before. That’s why loan opportunities are so valuable to players when they become available.

“At the same time, knowing the kind of character he is, I know he will want to do his best for the playing squad and the group.

“He’s certainly a player that’s got more capacity and ability to kick on within the men’s game.”

Blues have high hopes for young midfielder

Birmingham have high hopes for Khela, having tied him down on a deal until 2027 shortly before he made the switch to Scotland.

Brandon Khela in action for Birmingham City. Image: Shutterstock.

In signing his maiden professional deal in 2022, Khela became the first British South Asian to sign a professional contract with the St Andrew’s club.

Brayne says the opportunity for him to play regular first team football with County came at exactly the right time in his development.

He added: “Last year Brandon played under-18s football, but was predominantly with the under-21s.

“Coming into his first year as a professional, we knew he was going to have to step up and be around that first team group.

“It was really good for him to go away on the pre-season tour. He made his debut in the League Cup, and then made his league debut.

“The challenge point for Brandon this year was about playing men’s football, and trying to obtain some minutes in a league.

“The fact he was able to make his debut for us was brilliant, but the opportunity to go to Ross County and further his development was really important.

“He made his debut at Celtic Park which is an amazing experience, and something that can’t be replicated in the academy game.

Ross County’s Brandon Khela. Image: SNS

“For him to move away and get that exposure is testimony to the kind of character he is.”

Bellingham story can inspire Khela

Birmingham’s youth academy was ranked as the most productive of all 72 English Football League clubs in the latest three-season assessment which took place in 2022.

The English Championship outfit have drawn widespread praise for their development of England midfielder Jude Bellingham, who now plays for Real Madrid after being sold by Blues to Borussia Dortmund as a 17-year-old for £25 million in 2020.

Jude Bellingham in action for Real Madrid. Image: Shutterstock.

Brayne says Birmingham’s track record can serve as huge inspiration to the likes of Khela who is aspiring to make the grade.

Brayne added: “The one thing that any boy at Birmingham can experience is that aspirational and inspirational football learning environment.

“You come into a building where there’s a boy, Jude Bellingham, that’s now playing for Real Madrid who has come through the programme.

“His brother, Jobe Bellingham, is playing at Sunderland at the minute, and has obtained over 60 appearances in the Championship so early in his career.

“There are players like Jordan James who is now a Welsh international, and is scoring for us every week.

“For the young kids that are entering the building, it’s a place where they can look up to players and see there is the potential for them to get a career in the professional game.

“That’s something that all the kids are really grateful for.”