Just thinking about Blues over the last 9, 10 even 11 months just makes me puff my cheeks, roll my eyes and sort of shrug.
I know as Blues fans we’ve all seen ups and downs. From the Kumar’s to Leyland Daf cup winners; from the Carson era to winning the League cup and a subsequent Europa League campaign right through to Zola’s reign in charge there have definitely been joys and sorrows. But what I can never remember is feeling despondent about my club.
But that is how I feel now. I just don’t love them like I use to. Regardless of what was happening off the field, Birmingham teams always seemed to have one redeeming quality – spirit. From the start of the Zola era that has been completely wiped from all existence.
It was the one thing I thought Steve Cotterill could bring to the fold – spirit, fight, desire and togetherness. But after 7 games I just don’t see it. If we go a goal down there is a sense of “please don’t let this be another hammering, maybe we can get a goal back”. That never use to be the case, the response was “get stuck into ‘em” and Keep Right On would inspire the lads to fight back. Now, it seems as though Keep Right On serves to remind the players that the game isn’t over as heads drop. The attitude is just off.
I wasn’t one of the 399 weary souls to brave the journey up to the Riverside on a miserable Wednesday evening. To those people I say you have my upmost respect and admiration for your unwavering, partisan support. But consequently, I cannot comment on the match itself – just the comments from those that went.
There seems to be two overriding feelings from the game judging by what the supporters were saying. We weren’t actually horrendous, Boro were just better and Assombalonga was merely the difference. Others believed we were truly awful and void of any guts and were second best for the whole 90 minutes.
I even saw a Boro fan who claimed that we were the worst side he’d seen at the Riverside this season. Bodes well.
I read a comment from a Blues fan saying “it wasn’t quite our day, onto the next one and look for a result” – whilst a lovely sentiment, it has been a rhetoric used far too often over the last 12 months to be considered a one-off. How many times can you say “it wasn’t our day”? Zola seemed to use it in all but 2 of his games in charge.
It’s apparent from Cotterill’s first 7 games he’s not one for making changes to find a formula. He’s clearly a manager that, based on what he sees in training has a strong idea as to what he believes is his strongest XI and will stick to playing those eleven the same way each and every game. Whilst this is an each to their own idea I’m still left baffled:
- I found his substitutions incredibly strange against Boro, bringing on two wingers for a central midfielder and a striker. Two wingers that have either had limited game time and struggling for form.
- How Jerome Boga isn’t getting more game time and even starting is curious and frustrating. He’s clearly exceptionally talented, quick and on loan with us to gain first team experience – so give it to him.
- Is David Davis captain material? Sure he might want it, but is he really a leader?
- Why keep playing Jutkiewicz when we’re not the sort of team to pump crosses in? he rarely scores and when he does it’s usually with his head, so if he’s playing get crosses into him.
I honestly think the weight of the task in hand is started to grind Cotterill down. He missed post match interviews the game before last and last night his answers were short and sweet, like a man who didn’t want to be there.
The Luton fan I work with took great delight in informing me yesterday that Luton had scored more goals in their last 2 games than Blues have all season. Brilliant.
But it does highlight a massive point about Blues. Goals. We lack them, we need them, we can’t seem to buy them. So what needs to change to make this happen?
Steve won’t like this, but I believe a re-jig of the personnel is required. Move to a compact 4-4-2, use some width and have two exciting players playing out wide to create some mayhem. Get Kieftenbeld to run from box to box, joining attacks and breaking up play and either get Davis, N’Doye or hell, even Gardner playing as a holding midfielder. Drop Nsue, I don’t really ever want to see him play in Royal blue again. But most of all the team need cohesion, they need solidarity and they need to just bond. They don’t even seem to really like each other.
I also found it worrying that Cotterill couldn’t find a place for the precocious talent of Walsh in the team. It’s a real kick in the nuts that Everton basically treated us like a petulant child who couldn’t play properly with their toy so it got taken off us. I find that crap.
But, by his own admission Cotterill doesn’t like big squads. He wasn’t lying.
One thing I do hope is that we all, both club and fans alike stop going “we’ve turned a corner”; “we’ll kick on from here”; “now we can look to get up the table” after just a single win. Let’s put together a run of 3 or 4 results before starting to claim we’re going great guns now.
Where do we go from here?
“League One” some might say. It would be no more than we deserve.
Get to January and invest? Cotterill already has too many players, adding more won’t help and I don’t know if the board could afford, would want to afford better players.
I’m trying to think of another option (other than “just get on with it and turn it around”) but, as I said right at the top of this article I just puff my cheeks, roll my eyes and sort of shrug and accept the inevitable shitness that will come our way from now until May.
It just feels as though something bigger is at play here. Something, I don’t know what is wrong down St Andrews and that needs to change before life on the pitch changes.
As always, Keep Right On. Hopefully a happy abode awaits us soon.