Half Term Report; Birmingham City

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Stephen Orford


Due to the mild irritation of his disability Stephen Orford has never kicked a football in his life. However, he is a serious asset to any editor looking to comply with equal opportunities legislation....
[full biography]
28/12/2007 10:00:00.
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A protracted take-over saga and change of manager have seen Birmingham City make more headlines off the field than on it so far in 2007/08.

Blues’ immediate Premier League prospects lies in the hands of Alex McLeish, after the former Rangers and Scotland manager replaced Steve Bruce in November. Bruce’s future had been the subject of speculation for months after the club held talks with Hong Kong businessman Carson Yeung over a possible buy-out. Reports suggested that Yeung would have wanted a bigger name than Bruce had he taken control at St.Andrews, forcing the former Manchester United captain to re-think his future. In the event Yeung’s takeover never materialised, yet current owners David Sullivan and David Gold agreed to let Bruce re-join Dave Whelan at Wigan Athletic.

When Bruce left on November 23 he did so having collected just 11 points from 13 games in 2007/08. McLeish has added another seven to the tally from his five games in charge (Eric Black was in temporary charge for the 2-0 defeat to Portsmouth on November 24), but Blues still find themselves in the relegation shake-up. A 3-0 win over Middlesbrough on Boxing Day was a most welcome one, but City remain only four points clear of the drop zone. McLeish needs to instil some consistency into his charges if they are to settle in the safety of mid-table come season’s end.

He started well enough, with a rousing 3-2 victory at Tottenham Hotspur in his first game in charge, but since then had gained only one more point from three games before the pummelling of Middlesbrough. In all their have been 11 league defeats for Brum this season, the worst of which was probably the 3-0 walloping by Bolton Wanderers just five days ago. Other than that there have been several hard luck stories, with one-goal defeats at Newcastle United, Manchester City, Blackburn Rovers and Chelsea aswell as at home to nasty neighbours Aston Villa, Manchester United and West Ham United.

Like many teams groping around in the darkness that is the wrong end of the table, defending has been a problem. Thirty balls have found their way into the Birmingham net past either Colin Doyle or Maik Taylor , that despite Bruce’s attempts to shore up the defence in the summer with the signings of Franck Queudrue from Middlesbrough and Rahdi Jaidi from Bolton Wanderers, aswell as the loan deals secured for Arsenal starlet Johan Djourou and Rafael Schmitz from Lille in France. Look for McLeish to try to strengthen his hand in this department in January, with Schmitz in particular resembling the proverbial fish in a tree at times.

Offensively Birmingham are less than inspiring, but at the same time one might think they have enough to survive. Their total league tally of 21 is among the worst outside the bottom three, but on further inspection there is some hope. Cameron Jerome and Olivier Kapo have each contributed a respectable five league goals so far, while Mikael Forssell’s return to form and fitness could be key. The former Chelsea man scored in the win over Middlesbrough and has four goals from just eight appearances. Aiding and abetting Forssell over the second half of the season is a challenge that Gary McSheffery might relish, as he looks the most creative spark from the midfield. Former Arsenal pair Sebastian Larsson and Fabrice Muamba are maturing, but McLeish may need to bring in re-enforcements in the meantime. Both Everton’s James McFadden and Rangers’ Kris Boyd have been lazily linked by the press, presumably on the basis of having starred under McLeish for Scotland.

Despite enjoying a lengthy spell in the top flight under Bruce, it must be remembered that this is Blues’ first season back in the big time after their 2005/06 relegation. That said consolidation must be the priority for McLeish, who is well versed in the art of steady improvement on the evidence of what he achieved at the SFA. In the final analysis there are certainly three or more worse teams in the division than the St.Andrews side, but that is not to say that they can breathe easily just yet.

By Stephen Orford
27 December 2007

Squarefootball Target SURVIVAL; Rating: C
Premier League Half Term Grades


Latest article feedback

rick davies:

Your summing up seems "spot on", Time is essential for Alex McLeish, to form a decent squad, whose skills he can hone, and effectevly drill into them, to follow his tactics, whilst adaptable enough to switch when neccesary. 

8/10


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