Not a Cock-up…Coventry Preview…

MR BLUE SKY VS MR SKY BLUE

Made in Brum’s Barnet editorial mentioned a conversation Big Dave had with Terry McDermott.  Our assistant manager suggested that he wanted Blues to be knocked out of the “Capital One” Cup as soon as possible.

 

Now, in a way, I sympathise, in that it’s called the C.O. Cup.  Surely Villa would be better winning a Cock-up than we are, after the infamous Sorensen and Enckelman errors?

 

In another way, though, to paraphrase Big Dave, “We won the bloody thing, so it surely (whatever title it is using these days!) is worthwhile trying to win the League Cup, again, even to this day?”

 

Looking at McDermott’s career stats, he’s won three League Cup winners’ medals.  You would assume he wouldn’t have sold those medals on EBay, and that he wouldn’t have been ‘mortally wounded’ to have been involved with the Liverpool team that won the League Cup in 1981, 1982 and 1983!

 

This makes me wonder just why McDermott would say this at all, after all, you would think his experience should be handed down to the youngsters he is managing (even Carr is a youngster to the 60 year old McDermott!).  When they ask him what he has achieved, what qualifies him for the job, you would imagine a consecutive treble of League Cups would be the first thing out of his mouth.

He never won the FA Cup (runner-up with Liverpool and Newcastle).  Six league championships, three European cups and a European Super Cup victory surely out of reach for Birmingham City for at least the foreseeable future, would mean the League Cup is the most achievable carrot he can dangle (sorry Jasper!).

 

Last season’s efforts were – eventually – to come to nothing, so it could well be argued that our FA Cup exploits against Chelsea and Wolves, and the amazing European spectacle we were fortunate to witness, were ultimately responsible for our “petering out” in the Play-Offs.

 

It would be a bit of a ‘Kop-out’ to pardon the pun, though, as the players waxed lyrical all along about how the European campaign in particular, boosted morale and played a huge part in our charge up the table.   In fact, our relatively feeble end to the season happened when we were no longer involved in any cup campaigns.

 

For that reason alone, I think it would be foolhardy to rule out wanting to win another League Cup.  COCup or otherwise.  Last season we were knocked out at the third round stage, after European-provided ‘byes’, by Manchester City.  Now, if Manchester City – with all their millions – had won it, you’d have to have said our loss was meant to be, but they didn’t win it!  Last season’s winners were a very fortunate Liverpool, who held off a valiant effort from Cardiff City.

 

Cardiff finished a point (and 14 goal difference!) behind us in the league, so it’s not totally out of the realms of possibility that we could have won it again.  Those who were glad we got knocked out by Manchester City, so we could “concentrate” on the League and/or Europa League weren’t vindicated in their belief, were they?  Our 5-1 trouncing of Barnet (particularly after going a goal behind) certainly doesn’t hint at the playing staff being given orders to roll over and play dead, so perhaps McDermott’s comments could and should be taken with a pinch of salt.  Perhaps not only by us, but perhaps they’ve been taken with a pinch of salt by Lee Clark himself, the man with whom – ultimately – the buck stops.

 

Lee Clark has never tasted League Cup success (in fact ANY Cup success) as a player OR as a manager, so perhaps he’s been more vocal in his endorsement of the need for silverware at our club.  If we’re targeting automatic promotion but would accept a playoff spot, we should again (realistically, especially after our lack of victory against newly promoted Sheffield Wednesday and Charlton, and our Watford capitulation) brace ourselves for failure (I mean this in the most positive sense) to regain our Premiership status.  Knowing the attitudes of the ‘big’ teams to the Cup competitions, it would seem obvious that the Capital One Cup would remain our most realistic opportunity to win something this season, especially as we have no Europa Cup dream (or distraction if that’s your viewpoint) this year.

 

Would you accept Cup victory again, if it meant no Premiership football next season?  I – for one – would say here and now that I would.  To witness yet another victory at Wembley would be amazing.

 

Of course a first FA Cup victory would be the most preferable option, and some would rather gain Premiership status, rather than win a Cup we’ve already won twice before.  Premier League status isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Last season’s League exploits were the best I’ve ever witnessed, better even than the year we finished 9th in the Premier League.  Mainly this was because Chris Hughton provided more entertaining football than Alex McLeish, but in my opinion, the expectation, perversely, is higher in the Premiership.  “It’s only Wigan, we should be beating them!” one season turns into “Wigan are still in the Premier League!” the next season, and the season after.

Beating Leeds 4-0 away from home was amazing to all who witnessed it.

 

Strangely, despite having been amongst the favourites all season to gain promotion, the expectation amongst the fans was less.

 

Perhaps that speaks volumes about the fans.  It may be a stereotype, but the fans attracted by the Premiership only demand wins against teams who have played many more years than Blues in that League.  “We should be beating the likes of Fulham” etc.  Those fans to a man, tend to vanish with relegation.  Leaving behind the die-hard Bluenose, who hopes beyond hope that we’ll win, who dreams of Premiership return, but – conversely – doesn’t EXPECT it.  That was what made our demolition of Millwall so much more satisfying.  It should also be what means our fans keep the faith with Lee Clark and his team, despite a shaky start to the season.

 

Remember our first ever season in the Premiership?  Underdogs.  How else did we manage to survive that season?  Second season syndrome was bound to kick in.  Underdogs.  We survived.  Third season, Steve Bruce stepped the squad up a gear; we were to become a force to be reckoned with.  Relegation.

This pattern was repeated.  Ninth place finish in our underdog year followed by an almost inevitable relegation, when Alex McLeish began his dismantling of Midlands football!  The League Cup success happened against the ‘mighty’ Arsenal, who would ‘surely’ collect their first silverware in a generation.  Statistically it was more likely, we were told, as it had been so long since Arsenal’s previous triumph.  Our 1963 triumph was virtually forgotten, let alone invoked, such was our underdog status.  We overcame that.  We won it.  Being the underdog suits us so much better.  Our ‘illustrious’ neighbours are currently having to find a new sense of humility, that we have held as long as I’ve been alive.  As long as our club has existed.  Aston Villa just aren’t cut out to be underdogs, and their fans will let their dissatisfaction be heard.  Our fans – come what may this season – should let no dissatisfaction be heard, barring a beyond-belief relegation battle.

 

In Jack Butland, we have a rough diamond, but surely the best (rated?) goalkeeper in the Championship.  Curtis Davies and Steven Caldwell formed the best defensive pairing in the Championship last season.  Some point to Caldwell’s injury as a major factor in our Play-Off failing last year, Ibanez is excellent cover, but deserves his spot on the bench in my opinion, when Caldwell is fit.

 

Burke and Redmond, together with Morrison and Ambrose are surely amongst the best midfielders in the league, and we have already seen what King and Zigic can do.  Keeping hold of Zigic may not be as straight forward as we think if you believe the Press, but I do have faith in Pannu and Clark only to let him go if necessary, for the right amount, and if a replacement can be found.  Lovenkrands has flattered to deceive to date, but his credentials are there for all to see.

 

Our squad could well be good enough to win the Championship, this season, but the bookies have pretty much ignored us.

Betfred, that bastion of all that is morally correct in the world (ahem), have Bolton, Leicester (!) and Blackburn as present favourites to go up.  Bolton are currently 14th!  Leicester’s presence there (presently only in 10th) proves the ‘bounce straight back to the Premiership’ theory wrong, particularly in the absence of Wolves (presently 11th).  Blackburn aren’t doing too badly at present, in 4th, but their fans STILL want Steve Kean out.  They appear to be fighting a war formed out of habit alone.  We are ELEVENTH favourite to go up.  Odds of 7-1 aren’t too bad when you have the chance to win by coming 1st or 2nd (or 3rd, 4th, 5th or 6th if we win the Play-Offs!).  They have us level with Sheffield Wednesday and Bruce’s Hull in terms of our ability to go up.  After all, we “lost all of our players” last year.  The fact that only Jordon Mutch, to this date, has departed, is lost on the media at large.

 

This suits us down to the ground.  Let them continue to portray us as underdogs.  Let us continue to stick by OUR team.

 

Let us aim to win every match thrown at us.  Aim for the treble, why not?  Championship Champions, FA Cup winners (following in the Ladies’ footsteps!) and C.O.Cup Winners.  Perhaps we can beat Villa or Arsenal on the way.  Either way ultimate victory in any one of those three competitions should be seen as success this season, whatever Terry McDermott may ill-advisedly say.  Perhaps he was winding the editor up, perhaps he was so spoilt with success at Liverpool that he doesn’t realise what it would mean to us.  Either way, let’s do our best to make him eat his words, in the nicest possible way.  When we travel to Coventry let’s hope he realises that it’s another winnable step on the way to Wembley and not another futile barrier to league success.

Coventry have remained unbeaten thus far this season, allbeit with three League One draws and a narrow 1-0 away win against Dagenham and Redbridge in the Capital One Cup.  The sacking of Andy Thorn could act in our favour but is just as likely to provoke a winning response from ‘his’ players, we’ve seen it so often before!

Let’s hope Gary McSheffrey doesn’t score another one against us, but that Marlon King repeats his exploits against HIS former employers…

My prediction:
1-2 victory against Coventry, seeing us through to the third round of the Coca Cola, erm I mean Carling, erm I mean Capital One Cup.

Keep Right On

Russell Dempsey

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3 Comments on Not a Cock-up…Coventry Preview…

  1. They have us level with Hull and Sheff Wed, both of whom have managed to win a league game so maybe they are about right? Maybe the bookies ignore us as we have an uninspiring manager who could not get a Huddersfield team up with a massive budget?
    Win the league, really? Come on!

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