This article is taken from the double issue of ‘Made in Brum’ which will be sold at both legs of the Play-Off Semi-Final against Blackpool…
I have looked at the stats, and discovered the most picked players of the season.
This shoud serve a dual purpose – giving us an idea who Chris Hughton saw as his favoured starting XI, as well as seeing who was directly responsible for the amazing season we’ve had so far, but also giving us an inkling as to who we’ll line up against Blackpool in the Play-Off Semi Finals, injury permitting.
The full run down (courtesy of ‘Singing the Blues’ website!) is:-
Position Appearances Goals Player
Midfielder 50 (+7) 14 Chris Burke
Defender 50 5 Curtis Davies
Defender 49 (+1) 0 Steven Caldwell
Goalkeeper 45 0 Boaz Myhill
Defender 42 (+1) 0 Jonathan Spector
Midfielder 41 (+3) 4 Keith Fahey
Defender 40 (+3) 6 David Murphy
Striker 39 (+8) 18 Marlon King
Midfielder 28 (+1) 2 Jean Beausejour
Midfielder 25 (+14) 5 Wade Elliott
Striker 25 (+17) 11 Nikola Zigic
Midfielder 24 (+3) 0 Guirane N’Daw
Midfielder 23 (+4) 2 Jordon Mutch
Defender 22 0 Stephen Carr
Midfielder 20 (+4) 0 Morgaro Gomis
Striker 16 (+12) 7 Adam Rooney
Defender 16 (+2) 0 Liam Ridgewell
Defender 15 (+6) 0 Pablo Ibanez
Defender 14 0 Peter Ramage
Goalkeeper 13 (+1) 0 Colin Doyle
Midfielder 13 (+20) 6 Nathan Redmond
Striker 13 (+14) 10 Chris Wood
Midfielder 11 (+4) 0 Andros Townsend
Striker 4 (+7) 2 Erik Huseklepp
Now – first things first, it does appear that we’re missing Jean Beausejour from those stats. His two goals weren’t immense in our season, but his presence and assists must have been. The same couldn’t and shouldn’t be said about Liam Ridgwell, Scott Dann and Cameron Jerome, who all appear in our official squad photo. No goals between them, and less combined appearances than Adam Rooney alone.
Best goalkeeper is obviously Boaz Myhill, though injury would seem to have curtailed his season prematurely. I’d happily take him back next season, but would honestly trust Butland or Doyle as first choice in between the sticks too! 45 appearances as a first choice keeper certainly won’t have done Myhill’s reputation any harm, mind you neither will Doyle’s penalty saving exploits.
If Doyle really is heading off to Ipswich I’ll wish him all the best!
Best four defenders, Curtis Davies, Steven Caldwell, Jonathan Spector and David Murphy would appear to be keeping Stephen Carr out of the team. We’ve done well enough without him, haven’t we? It would be great to see him lift the Play-Offs winners’ trophy, wouldn’t it? Let’s win the semi’s first though, eh? We don’t want to ‘do an Arsenal’…
As things stand, Spector and Caldwell are still injured, so you’d have to tout Ibanez and Ramage to take their places. This would elevate both of those above Ridgwell in the appearances table, so it’s a welcome change.
Best four midfielders, Chris Burke, Keith Fahey, Wade Elliott (!) and Guirane N’Daw. Again, question marks over the fitness of Fahey, so I’d suggest Mutch would take his place in the middle. Not a bad little player is he? 🙂
Then comes the strike force, of Marlon King, who should be there by merit of being top goal scorer alone, and Nikola Zigic, second highest match starts and goals scored (as a striker!). It was good to see them both eclipse the contribution of Chris Wood,
who seems to have been happy finishing fifth bottom with Bristol City!
So – assuming the absence of Caldwell, Carr, Myhill, Spector, Fahey – we’d have a ‘statistical first choice’ of:
Doyle, Ramage, Davies, Ibanez, Murphy, Burke, Mutch, N’Daw, Elliott, King and Zigic.
From: Morgaro Gomis, Adam Rooney, Nathan Redmond, Andros Townsend, Erik Huseklepp, Jack Butland.
This would be a tricky one to call. You would think he’d rest Rooney or Huseklepp in the away leg, keeping the ‘extra attacking option’ for the home leg, in case we needed to push for a win.
My money is on Rooney being deployed on the away leg and Huseklepp – who isn’t our player after all – making way.
The second leg could well see Butland staying home (or watching from the stands) as Hughton’s gambles that way before.
I also suspect Townsend will be started ahead of Elliott, as he’s certainly caught the eye a lot more in recent games; though I would hope Elliott was available for penalty taking duties if it goes to penalties in the second leg…
Gomis could be traded for Fahey if he returns to fitness, perhaps Fahey could find himself in the first eleven, but that would depend on just HOW fit he was. Perhaps the final would be the ideal game for a fully-fit-Fahey? Spector’s return to fitness would give us a much-needed defensive presence on the bench, either from himself or the rested Ramage, with Spector returning to the full back position he made his own.
Whatever happens, there’s a defensive solidity (if no strength in depth) and an abundance of goals available in midfield and attack. Nathan Redmond will feel harshly done by not to start I imagine, but I truly feel next year will be his year, whether that be with Blues in the Premier League, us in the Championship, or following a £3m move elsewhere…We’ll see!
Blackpool away 2-2, Blackpool home 3-0
Cardiff away 0-1, Cardiff home 1-1
West Ham home 1-1, West Ham away 3-3
This – to me would have us as favourites to win our semi final against Blackpool, pitch us as underdogs against Cardiff, and guarantee a sizzler against West Ham!
We don’t care how Blackpool did against the other two teams as we don’t want to see them play again after us, do we?
How did West Ham and Cardiff match up this season?
West Ham 0 Cardiff 1
Cardiff 0 West Ham 2
This would suggest we’d be MORE LIKELY to be playing West Ham at Wembley, with the heavier and more recent win, though it will be a close semi-final between those two, seeing how neither seemed to enjoy home advantage!
Anyway, here are my predictions for the semi-final…
Blackpool 1- 1 Birmingham
Birmingham 2-1 Blackpool
I also think we’ll be playing Cardiff at Wembley, contrary to conspiracy theorists who think we’re destined for another blistering match against the Hammers. I have a sneaky feeling the West Ham players will feel demoralised at having lead the pack for so long, only to have it all to do in the Play Offs.
I’ll save Play-Off final predictions for the Final! 🙂
Keep Right On
I’d like to dedicate this article to my wonderful nan who passed away peacefully on Sunday 29th April 2012.
She wasn’t a Birmingham fan, but she was always interested in hearing that we’d won, and pleased too, probably for mine and my dad’s sake…
RIP Mrs Winnie O’Callaghan, aged 82.