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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Birmingham City Preview

I don't know about you but a 2-2 draw means for me a pleasant, relaxed kind of week. A defeat just upsets me till about Thursday afternoon, like a sore toothache that won't go away, while on the other hand the kick that I get from a win only lasts till around Monday lunchtime before I then need another one. A draw though is a nice medium, lets you sleep and dream. So that's got all the shite out of the way, who's next then.
After the leafy drive westward into pleasant Devon, we now face the dull, featureless drive up the M1 to the concrete jungle that is known affectionally as Birmingham, as in Burrminyum. But this time, as so many times in the past, we won't have to face the city's number one team Aston Villa, because someone's decided we're not good enough, so on this occasion we're playing the second best that the place has to offer, Birmingham City. With posh neighbours Villa winning the Cup and the League 7 times each, the Blue half of the city are reportedly pretty pissed off with life because despite lots of top flight football, they've been distinct under-achievers. In fact, despite winning Tier Two a few times, they have accumulated even less major honours than we do. Just one League Cup win in the distant sixties, '63 to be exact.
Recent manager was the strangely likeable Steve Bruce who tried to set the place on fire but a while back he decided he'd had enough and just to rub it in upped and left for struggling Wigan just one year ago.
So in November last year the Scot Alex McLeish arrived seeking a piece of Premiership action and took over with the Blues in a healthy 14th place. Sadly, his learning curve was a bit steep and with just 3 wins and only 14 points from the remaining 20 games they rather foolishly, depending on your point of view, declined a continuing relationship with the Big Boys and now find themselves once again slumming it in the fizzies.
And rather in keeping with their being a second-best Second City club and an up and down sort of team - 2 promotions and 2 relegations this century - or maybe its their Scottish manager, but whatever, they tend to keep things very tight up there and don't give much away, have only been losing at half-time twice and haven't lost either of them.
And its pretty obvious that for the experienced ex-Rangers and Scotland manager, Alex McLeish, defence obviously comes first and only Sheffield U with only 8 goals conceded have a better defence than Birmingham with only 11 goals let in. And in terms of efficency we can't fault them. Although they've only scored a total of 19 goals, only 2 more that the Addicks, while we struggle on 16 points they have accumulated near twice as many and are on a total of 31. So that's 1.6 points for every goal scored, the highest in the fizzys.
So oddly enough Birmingham sit in exactly the same position as the Addicks were in just one year ago, in second spot with their 31 points ( we had 28 a year ago!) struggling to keep up with a flyaway leader. And just to stress the length of a season, all of the teams that filled the two automatic promotion slots and the 3 relegation positions at this point last year either fell apart or improved and are still loafing it right now in the fizzies. Back to Brum and as far as points are concerned they've got the 4th best home record in the fizzies with 6 wins, no draws and only 2 defeats, both 0-1 against those mid-table giants Blackpool and Coventry.
But while Addicks fans prize entertainment above all else (!) and have witnessed a feast of goals - although it must be said that goals conceded are obviously not enjoyed so much - with a total of 26 goals scored at the Valley this season with 3.25 goals per game at a goal every 27 minutes, Birmingham have witnessed a meagre total of 12 in the 8 games, only 1.5 per game - one goal every hour.
As if Birmingham wasn't boring enough you might say, and I bet they never sing "We've gonna score in a minute, we are going to score in a minute" and it has been rumoured that the home fans take a pack of cards or a good book to read to while away the time whilst setting their phone alarms to ring every 1 hour 10 minutes that it takes the home side to score a goal. So with 9 goals scored by Brum in 6 wins, I suppose waking up has its delights but is it all worth waiting for? In fact there's only 3 teams that have scored less goals than Brum at home and they're struggling Southampton in 21st place and relegation certs Forest and Doncaster.
But, Pards, we mustn't be lulled into the languid state that affects the locals because these are another one of those teams that start well and have gone in for their half-time tea losing only twice, away at Southampton and Burnley, and they beat the first 2-1 and drew 1-1 with the second. But once ahead, they then relax and on 2nd half turnouts have only scored 6 times in 16 games and conceded 8 during the second period. So to beat them you need to defend for the first half to keep it at 0-0 and when they have run out of ideas in the second half, sneak a goal.
Anyway, after a surging start to the season, things haven't been going quite right these past few weeks for Birmingham. They did go top a couple of weeks ago but they obviously suffer from vertigo and a 0-1 at QPR stopped what had been a good run and they then promply lost again the following week at home to Coventry 0-1. And last weekend a dismal 1-1 draw at Forest.
So only one point, and one goal, from their last three games but an impressive total of only three defeats so far, all with a 0-1 scoreline, and all have happened on the only three occasions that they have failed to score.

Who They Got Then? As for players, they have, of course, the usual four strikers one of them being our old nemesis' in the aging 35 year old Kevin Phillips who always seems to score against us. He's currently top scorer for the Blues with 6 but didn't start the last game against Forest, whilst the number two striker, ex-Locomotive Moscow favorite, Scottish international Garry O'Connor bought for 2.7M just over a year ago, had a lean time last year in the Premier but has finally brushed the snow off his boots and has notched 5 goals already this season. There's also the young U-21 international Cameron Jerome who cost 3.5 from Cardiff and he's on a trio of fizzy goals.

Oh, sorry almost forgot, the fourth striker, sorry front-man, is the 4 times relegated ex-Addick Marcus Bent who hasn't had much to do recently although the bad news is that because of the recent spate of no goals scored he did in fact play the full 90 minutes in their last game (1-1 against Forest ) and is obviously itching to sink a knife into all our bad mouthing. And no, he hasn't scored yet for the Blues!
There's also two dangerous ex-Everton men in James McFadden and Lee Carsley.

The History? Surprisingly for their recent failures in the top flight they've spent a remarkable 55 years up there, to our 26, so consequently there's only been a mere 26 years that we've spent in the same Division and currently we've winning the tie with 20 wins to 16 although we've only won 5 times at St. Andrews, losing 13 and drawing 8. But of our last 8 visits, going back 12 years, we've only lost once - a 1-0 in 2000, have won three and drawn four and we've won 2 of the last three.
Of course, St. Andrews should only be remembered for one thing and one date. Friday 29th May 1987, the occasion of our 2-1 Play-off victory over Leeds United with two late, late goals in just 4 minutes from captain Peter Shirtliff just when Leeds thought they had won it.
Team News Well, there's no Ambrose to get upset about anymore and Jose Semedo is rumoured to be fit again after his couple of dead legs. But the big question this week is will we see Luke once again starting the game or will Pards bit the bullet and leave him on the bench and finally give a start to Dickson? Can't see it myself and Luke is odds on to start yet again although as least now he knows he'll be replaced if he's not achieving anything.

And perhaps the performance against Plymouth has put a temporary brake on any loan deals, with now up to 4 being promised by Richard Murray before Shefffield arrive at the Valley. With both Darren Powell and Ian Hart appearing for the reserves on Tuesday, maybe there's a couple of the new names.

As for this week, with another difficult away game it would seem sensible to play exactly the same team that performed so well a week ago, although this time they'll be probably be a more measured approach from Birmingham than we received from Argyle.

Weaver; Moutaouakil, Hudson, Primus, Youga; Sam, Bailey, Semedo, Holland, Bouazza; Gray and Dickson.

Prediction Out of the 37 pundits on cafcpicks no less than 33 forecast a defeat, with only 3 seeing a draw and only one brave soul, Frankie himself, hopefully forecasting a win. Maybe it's a forlorn hope, and it would be typical to get hammered after such a good result at Argyle, but I can almost see another fighting 1-1 draw.


Anonymous said...

If we field that side we may well be in with a chance because you've picked 12 players!! I assume you expect a 4-5-1 system with Gray or Dickson upfront. No way Dickson will start, especially as a lone striker, so Gray it will be. With Zheng and Racon to return and Shelvey in the frame, we have options in midfield but the team you've peaked and your "deliberate error" highlight the problem upfront. Clearly that's where the search for loanees must be. Let's hope Pards is able to find the right player.

nelson said...

Obviously, anon, you have this blog business well sussed. The best way to get a response is to sneak in a little "error" to test that everyones awake and what better way that to encourage Pards to put out 12 men. No, Dicksons' not going to start? but will Lukey baby?