December 23, 2012 by Made In Brum
Now we’re halfway through the season, Rob Wildey takes a closer look at Blues, Lee Clark and the whole situation at the club.
In the summer, Chris Hughton departed for pastures new at Norwich City, and let’s face it, a more stable position. During the hunt for his successor, the Birmingham Mail ran a vote to let Blues fans have their say. Lee Clark was overwhelming favourite, and eventually, he was appointed.
Clark was said to have been ‘keen’ at his interviews, the was a sense that the other candidates didn’t truly want to be there, that they were doing Birmingham City a favour by simply turning up. Alan Curbishley was offered a second interview, but declined it and Peter Panny favoured former Hull boss Phil Brown. But Clark was the hands down winner in the managerial race. The poisoned chalice began. Since, Made In Brum have been told that Clark turned up at the interview with “files and files of information on the club” and his demeanour suggested he “badly wanted the job”.
With limited resources and the club in a financial mess, it was a case of wheeling and dealing to bring in new blood. Peter Lovenkrands, David Lucas, Hayden Mullins, Darren Ambrose, Ravel Morrison (loan) Ben Gordon (loan) were signed, eventually followed by Paul Caddis (loan) Leroy Lita (loan) Paul Robinson (short term) Papa Bouba Diop (short term) James Hurst (loan) and Rob Hall (loan). Its worth noting that out of these signings, two have already returned to their parent club (Lita and Hurst).
Only Jordon Mutch and Ben Foster were let go, and Adam Rooney went on loan to Swindon, as a make weight in the Caddis deal.
Clark was quick to speak of the talent at this disposal, and he wanted a quick return the Premier League. Under Hughton, Blues finished fourth and lost to Blackpool in the play-off’s, a feat that was always going to be difficult to match, let alone better.
After a flattering, but comfortable victory in the Capital One cup first round against Barnet, Blues needed a stoppage time equaliser from Nikola Zigic to rescue a point in the opening league game against Charlton.
The story of Blues’ season has been one of inconsistency. Or as many would argue, they have been consistently inconsistent. They have proven on occasions that they are capable of good things, but it hasn’t happened enough.
The tendency to start playing when they’re behind has become too easy to foretell, and has to disappear from the teams permanent make-up. When one or two goals down, Blues become a better side. The challenge is to get rid of this mentality and take the game to the opposition from the off. If we lose, we lose. We’ve had a go, shown intent.
Millwall away is the perfect model for the first half of the season and the way it has shaped up. Three nil down, and seemingly dead and buried. A hat-trick from Marlon King and a near consummate second half display meant Blues could have won the game. If they had played in the same manner whilst goalless, a victory would have been a dead cert.
If you read that last paragraph again, times it by at least ten, you get the picture of where Blues should be, as opposed to where they currently find themselves.
Don’t kid yourself, there has been absolutely harrowing performances. The Barnsley game was one of, if not, the worst I have seen at St. Andrews in my time, and Watford away was terrible, but not quite on the same scale. Then there was Ipswich… Repulsive.
There have also been some gratifying performances too, Leeds away was as complete as we have been all season, Brighton was scrappy but solid, Middlesbrough at home was an excellent come back against a good side, Cardiff away was decent despite the loss. Doing the business on a regular basis has been the biggest burden on the team.
‘Big players’ under performing comes a close second. Chris Burke has been a shadow of his former self, he looks tired, leggy with no invention or spark. Nathan Redmond has not lived up to his potential one bit and Steven Caldwell has been sub-standard. Darren Ambrose, our marquee signing of the summer if there was one, has been poor and has been riddled with injuries. He was potentially a great addition to the squad, but it hasn’t worked out.
Injuries have played their part too. Stephen Carr has missed the entire season, his replacement Paul Caddis has been injured too. The defence as a whole has took a battering. Pablo Ibanez, Curtis Davies, Jonathan Spector, Will Packwood and David Murphy have all suffered injuries, some more serious than others. With a consistent back four, how much better off would Blues be? Its a case of what if.
Those ‘what if’s’ need to be put to bed as we approach the second half of the season. Marlon King has to continue his rich goalscoring form and it is pleasing to see some of the youngsters coming through. But the time has come for the talking to stop and the action to begin. Quote of the year has been “we have to go on a run”. Let’s do it then.
Clark has improved in my opinion, but there’s still room for more.
Jack Butland- 8
The young ‘keeper has been superb. He’s made mistakes, but the amount of times he’s saved us has by far outweighs them. Hasn’t looked back since being capped for England. We’ll be lucky to keep him.
Stephen Carr- n/a
Has missed the entire campaign through injury.
David Murphy- 5
Was struggling to hit his best form even before his serious injury.
Steven Caldwell- 5
Looks like an old man. Looks slow and struggles against anyone with a bit of pace. Always committed though.
Pablo Ibanez- 5
Seems to settle in to the team, then picks up an injury. His form when playing has been up and down.
Curtis Davies- 6
His early season form was poor. He has improved somewhat and would be a major loss if he was to pick up and injury, or worst case scenario, leave.
Chris Burke- 5
The Scot has been a shadow of his former self. One or two glimpses of his best, but in the main, below par.
Hayden Mullins- 5
If you’d asked me a few months ago, he would’ve scored less. But he has definitely improved over time, still not the answer in centre-mid though.
Marlon King- 8
Player of season so far. He scores goals. King is already comfortably in double figures, he can hit 20 plus this season if he stays fit. Has been unplayable at times.
Darren Ambrose- 4
I’m hoping this mark will improve by May. He was below average early in the season, but injuries have cancelled out what could have been.
Peter Lovenkrands- 6
I’m unsure of his best position. I prefer him out wide or as part of a front three. Not the most natural goalscorer, but always grafts.
Ravel Morrison- 7
The loanee from West Ham took his time to earn a regular starting place, but when he did, took it with aplomb. Has faded slightly recently, needs to refocus.
Colin Doyle- n/a
Seems content with his place as number two. His best chance of action would be if Blues did the unthinkable and sold Butland.
Morgaro Gomis- n/a
Who? The forgotten man. The reason behind his expulsion from first team affairs are due to rejecting a transfer. Unlikely to be picked any time soon. A decent performance away at Coventry in the cup, but that’s it.
Wade Elliott- 6
Not always the most fancy, but Elliott always gives you the extra percent. Scored a great goal in the win against Middlesbrough, and is neat and tidy.
Ben Gordon- n/a
A few games under his belt before injury, Gordon didn’t impress. It would be unfair to judge the Chelsea loanee.
Keith Fahey- 5
Was hot and cold before returning to Ireland on compassionate leave.
Nikola Zigic- 6
Although he hasn’t started as many games as he would have liked, Ziggy has made an impact from the bench a fair few times. Always a handful.
Akwasi Asante- n/a
The club have high hopes for the youngster. As soon as he’s fit, he’ll be fourth choice striker in place of Lita, who returned to Swansea.
Nathan Redmond- 4
Undoubted potential, no execution. Redmond has been anonymous when he’s played. Needs to improve.
Jonathan Spector- 6
The American offers versatility, but his best position is centre midfield. His balls retention stats are immense and he’s a work-horse.
Will Packwood- 6
The youngster has impressed in his handful of appearances before his minor injury setback. He will play a part again soon.
Jack Deaman- n/a
Looked decent in pre-season. Yet to feature in first team, other than as an unused sub.
David Lucas- n/a
Hard to judge the experienced stopper. Played ok against Barnet, hasn’t been involved since. Third choice.
Mitch Hancox- 6
I’ve rated him generously based on the progress he’s made. A few substitute appearances in which he’s played well.
Paul Caddis- 7
Great replacement for Carr. Injuries aside, Caddis has been a quality signing, albeit on loan.
Rob Hall- 5
Shows promise. Will hopefully show more until the end of his loan spell.
Paul Robinson- 6
Solid, combative, determined. You know what you get with Robbo. Could do worse than signing him permanently.
Emmitt Delfouneso- n/a
Only recently been handed squad number. Will see what the future holds for him.
Papa Bouba Diop- 6
Based on his few appearances, he’s exactly what we need in the middle of the park.
Callum Reilly- 6
High hopes for this lad. Was superb against Palace, praying for more of the same.