Birmingham Enter Critical Part Of Their Season


Hugh Larkin

Hugh Larkin has a definite policy to support underdogs. Can be relied upon to support any team against Real Madrid and hopes one day to see Walsall as the top West Midland side....
[full biography]
13/11/2007 10:00:00.
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After five defeats in six Premiership matches- the only win being over sliding Wigan- Birmingham City are facing a critical seven game run up to their trip to Old Trafford on New Yearís Day.

After the visit of Portsmouth immediately following the international break, the next six fixtures are all against teams sitting in the bottom half of the table. From 21 points on offer the Blues really need at least double figures to prevent a slide into relegation trouble.

A trip to Bolton and home games against Fulham and Middlesbrough in successive weeks are especially critical. Itís vital that Steve Bruceís side start finding the art of turning narrow defeats into games where they take something.

Since forcing an excellent point at Anfield in late September, the Blues have had single goal losses to Blackburn, Manchester United, Manchester City and Aston Villa, plus a 3-1 defeat at Everton which hardly reflected the game as a whole.

All these matches have been immensely frustrating because in many respects the team isnít playing badly. Steve Bruce has bemoaned the teamís luck several times but the pattern is worrying one.

The derby game with Villa was a typical case in point; Birmingham had the better of the game for long periods but failed to capitalise and one moment of quality plus, another of poor defending gave their bitter rivals the three points.

This Birmingham side certainly seems to have more potential than the two previous ones built by Bruce. His first group in 2002 were very solid but lacking in flair but his second creation had too many players who were past their best or failed to do themselves justice.

His current squad appears to have potential and imagination. To the talents of Larsson, McSheffrey, Muamba and Forssell, the manager has added Daniel De Ridder and Olivier Kapo, both of whom have shown some genuine class, plus Scottish cap Gary OíConnor

At the back Liam Ridgewell has come in as an energetic young leader, Johan Djourou is another sought-after loan signing from Arsenal and Rafael Schmitz shows promise. Maik Taylor is still a quality keeper.

This collection of players appears well capable of keeping their collective head above water in the Premiership but infuriatingly, cannot put together a consistent performance over the 90 minutes. At times the team appears ready to break loose and give some other side a bit of a hiding.

Steve Bruce has shown himself to be very imaginative in putting together Premiership squads ever since he went out to get Cristoph Dugarry in the 2002/03 campaign. His attempt to push the Blues on to Europe foundered when many of his buys were under par but last year he hit the jackpot with just about all of his signings.

Now with the threat of dismissal by a potential new owner hanging over him, the jury is out on his squad building again. The next seven games is a relatively friendly section of the fixture list so there can be no excuses.

There have been glimpses of real potential over the first third of the season, so if they fail over the next two months questions will fall on the managerís methods and ability to motivate. Birmingham could enter the New Year in a more than comfortable mid table position but if they donít, the pressure on Steve Bruce will be immense.

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