November 7, 2014 by bluenosebible
By Nat Peters
No matter what you thought of Lee Clark – whether you thought he was a half-wit, a manager done over by the situation he was managing the club in or a manager who was doing a very good job against the odds, it is fair to say he was never able to command anything like the wholehearted support of a majority of Blues fans. He was a figure who divided Blues fans, not someone who united them.
However, the new geezer in the dugout has been received in a manner Jesus Christ himself would have found overwhelming. Gary Rowett has commanded the instant and unilateral respect and adulation of the Stan’s faithful. He is Birmingham City. His backroom staff are all Birmingham City. Though there are a sizeable chunk of Blues fans who were delirious with LC’s departure alone, I don’t think that explained GR’s reception; I don’t think someone like Micky Phelan or Owen Coyle would have found themselves the beneficiaries of such a greeting. He has the implicit trust that rightly or wrongly Blues fans were never able to give his predecessor and his cohorts.
I should have known that Tuesday night was going to be a good night when I was on the phone to Aamir in the ticket office just after GR’s appointment. Buying my tickets off Aamir has, for a good while now, been one of the better things about going to Blues and I think anyone who has dealt with him would feel the same way. He was insistent we’d get at least four points out of Watford and Wolves. Bearing in mind they were both flying high, and that our previous game was the Bournemouth debacle, I just couldn’t see it. But he was spot on.
The Wolves game was actually a replication of something we did numerous times under Lee Clark; go away from home to a team who everyone thought would wipe the floor with us, get behind the ball and kick and bite our way to a decent enough result. But the Watford win was…well it was something else. I don’t think I’ve felt that happy in a long, long time watching Blues. We didn’t just win against Watford, we tore them apart; with the way we overran them the only disappointment was that we should have won by more – I actually can’t remember the last time we played at that level, at that tempo, for ninety minutes.
As I wrote a few weeks ago, the atmosphere in the ground can spur on or deflate a team. I was actually in an executive box for Tuesday’s game (many thanks must go to Wes and family for the hospitality) but you could hear every decibel of the crowd for the entire game. The rapturous reception for GR, the deafening roar that accompanied both of Clayton Donaldson’s goals, the resilience showed by the crowd when Watford got an equaliser and at the end one of the loudest renditions of Keep Right On I have heard in a long, long time at Stan’s. I swear the window in the box was shaking at times. Even realising after checking an accumulator that I was a Preston win away from well over £100 (Wes’ son Charlie did tell me that Swindon would win that game, but me being a blithering idiot ignored such wise counsel), the whole experience of Tuesday’s match just set me on a massive high.
There were several factors that saw us play so well and get such a remarkable win on Tuesday. Generally, players do tend to play out of their skins in the immediate aftermath of a managerial appointment and can put in the sorts of performances they then struggle to repeat thereafter. I also think the players fed off the encouragement the crowd gave them right throughout the game.
But there have been some tactical tweaks as well that I think may have helped us. David Davis for example was seemingly brought in as a replacement for Tom Adeyemi, but to me they are different players. Adeyemi was a box to box midfielder who oozed physical prowess and athleticism and could almost act as a battering ram in the midfield, but I don’t think Davis is quite that type of player which may explain why he has been inconsistent so far in a Blues shirt if he was trying to be Adeyemi Mk II. What Davis arguably does possess which Adeyemi didn’t though is an ability to keep the ball and to spread it around a bit more; I think sitting deeper like he did on Tuesday may be the way forward.
In addition, a pleasant surprise has been the re-emergence of Andrew Shinnie. He had been persona non gratia at Stan’s for a long time, but he started both of GR’s first two games, and the more he plays the more confident he seems to be becoming and the sharper he seems to look. It happens so often in football where a player blacklisted by one manager is given another chance by his successor and grabs it with both hands, and hopefully ‘Shinniesta’ can now make a real contribution in a Blues shirt.
Getting carried away; that is something we really need to avoid doing right now. I cast my mind back to when McLeish first became manager in 2007 – in his first few months we got two draws against Arsenal, turned over Spurs home and away and battered ‘Boro. But we still went down, because we became complacent and got just a single point against Bolton, Sunderland, Reading, Fulham and that God awful Derby team later on in the season.
It’s actually been something replicated in recent times; getting good results that seemed unlikely, before going on to balls it up against teams we should have been looking to beat. Last season for example, wins at Bournemouth and Blackburn were followed by dismal home draws against Doncaster and Barnsley. Excellent 3-3 draws against Derby and Burnley were pre-empted by defeats vs. Yeovil and Huddersfield. Even this season; drawing away at high flying Norwich was followed by a defeat vs. Fulham, and after four points from trips to Millwall and Charlton came a loss against Bolton. The two very good results we have got in the past week will mean nothing if we cock it up against Rotherham in a couple of weeks, or don’t get much out of Blackpool and Huddersfield in December. If we can start taking the performances we often give against the better teams in the league into games against the lesser lights then we will climb up the table. The fact is that right now we are still in the bottom three, and we need to achieve a semblance of consistent performances and results to move away from danger.
But there is a feel good factor at Blues right now, and let’s hope it continues for as long as possible. People are now excited to go down the Blues, looking forward to the next match rather than dreading it. The club should look to take advantage of this; I saw someone put up an idea on SHA the other day to make a ticket in the Gil Merrick stand £10 a pop – what a good idea that would be, to fill a part of the ground that has resembled a mausoleum in the past few years. Whether it is logistically possible (for example I know there were some Watford fans who were hacked off that they were charged more for a ticket than Blues fans on Tuesday) I’m not sure, but it’s that sort of idea the club should look at. The Gil Merrick can either be filled with a few thousand people paying buttons to get in, or can be just left empty – I know which one I would prefer, and to be honest it makes business sense to have people filling those seats even at a reduced price.
Tomorrow is another tough game; Cardiff, for all their inconsistent form, have some good players. But if we can reproduce the sort of performance we have shown in the past two games then there’s nothing stopping us getting a result to send the masses home happy again. That is a big if though.
You can read more of Nat’s thoughts about Blues on his blog: http://nattubes.wordpress.com/