October 7, 2012 by Made In Brum
After the departure of Chris Hughton in the summer, Blues appointed Lee Clark as their new manager. Now we head into the international break with ten league games and two cup ties gone, Rob Wildey looks into Birmingham City’s season so far.
Lee Clark took a job which he knew would be a massive challenge, and his enthusiasm for the job cannot be questioned. A club with no money, expectant fans and a board focusing on selling the football club, it would never be easy for Clark. He’s 39, his managerial CV reads two failed promotions with Huddersfield in League One, although he did take the club on their longest unbeaten run of 40 odd games.
Losing Jordon Mutch wasn’t a big deal. Many saw him as a bottler, a lazy player. A frustrating one when you consider his undoubted potential. Peter Lovenkrands, Hayden Mullins, Darren Ambrose, David Lucas and Ravel Morrison were bought in. Were fans optimistic before the season? I think it was mixed, some expected, some didn’t, but certainly hoped. After a good pre-season, Barnet were first up in the capital one cup. Despite making heavy weather of the first half, Blues came from a goal down to win 5-1. A result that certainly flattered them, but they were deservedly through to the next round. Four days later, Charlton were the first league opponents at St. Andrews. A scrappy game in which Blues again fell behind until a late equaliser from Nikola Zigic earned a share of the spoils. The football wasn’t great, but its early days. Ben Gordon was signed from Chelsea on loan to add depth to the squad.
Blues travelled to Hillsbrough to take on a newly promoted Sheffield Wednesday team. A bad start got even worse, Blues found themselves swept aside, two down. Zigic came on and gave Blues hope, before a late strike made it 3-1. Marlon King’s penalty was sparse consolation for Blues’ travelling faithful. The performance for an hour was poor. But credit to Blues for making a game of it for the last half hour. Could they get something from Watford?
The answer, no. A non-existent Blues may as well have not turned up. Watford didn’t even break sweat and strolled to the most comfortable 2-0 victory. Clark assured us that everything would soon click. What better way to kick start your season than an away cup trip to Coventry. After taking the lead, Blues were lacklustre at best and eventually succumbed to a 3-2 defeat after extra time. This is the cup we won two seasons ago, but we were well below par again.
Early season strugglers Peterborough were the nest visitors to St. Andrews. A diabolical game, but a big three points thanks to Wade Elliott’s free-kick somehow bounced all the way in. The pressure of that first win was now off and Blues had the chance to push on and turn the corner, kick start their season.
After the first international break, a trip to Nottingham Forest would present a tough task. Leroy Lita made his debut after signing on loan from Swansea. Credit where credits due, the performance from Clark’s men was a lot better, but they threw away a two goal lead late on. It was disappointing, but it was our first point on the road. A few days later, Bolton were the visitors. They hadn’t had the best of starts themselves. A big physical side, Bolton levelled after going behind courtesy of Lita. A King penalty and then some good, determined displays meant Blues hung on for the points. Seven points from nine. The light was starting to shine, a win against Barnsley would make for a very good table climb.
Ah, Barnsley. The game we all want to forget. Without doubt the worst performance from a Blues team I have seen at home. Desperate. Gutless. Shambolic. Just a few words to describe this game. 5-0 the end result, Blues’ heaviest home defeat since 1986. Clark’s post match words- “I’m the leader, the players mirror me, I apologise, we’ll turn it round”. Those familiar words from a man who was now under massive pressure.
Going down the Brighton, I wasn’t confident at all. All I expected was a reaction from the players, but not a result. Paul Robinson had signed a short-term deal to cover injuries. Chris Burke’s first half goal meant Blues, and deservedly so, won the game. Maybe this would be the win we needed to start our season? Hmm, maybe.
A defeat, but a decent performance at Cardiff was next. Blues could have dealt with the two goals better, but the showing from the players was ok. So, going into the game against Huddersfield at home, feeling slightly better about Blues, an expectant crowd witnessed….nothing. Another gutless display in which Blues struggled to pass a ball five yards. It could have been, maybe should have been three or four to the Terriers. In the end, it was just one. Despite a later Elliott header being tipped over, an equaliser would have papered over the cracks. Clark has today said- “the players need to stop hiding behind me”. A bit contradictory after his post Barnsley statement. He added- “I am up for the challenge”. Should we believe him?
This season so far has seen the following-
* St. Andrews lowest league crowd in 15 years, three games in a row.
* Lee Clark changing his formation FOUR times in a single game.
* Blues suffer their worst home defeat in a quarter of a century.
* Blues lose two consecutive home games for the first time in 18 months.
* Clark’s signings NOT performing.
* Despite the crying need for creativity, Ravel Morrison doesn’t get a look-in, Clark instead opting for Mullins.
I could go on forever. And before the Clark fan club start accusing me of creating a vendetta against him, look at our Tweets from recent weeks. I have been standing up for the bloke day after day, bad performance after bad performance. But I’m beginning to change my view. Something needs to happen. Ok, we’ve had hard luck with injuries, Ibanez, Carr, Murphy, Caddis and more recently Packwood, but the lack of effort sometimes from the players is worrying. Is this job too big for Clark? I’ve no doubts that he can be a good manager in the future, but this job, perhaps, is for a more experienced gaffer. Just under a fortnight until we take on Leicester City… Something has to change.
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