This will be the last match preview that Hoobs will ever do for Joys & Sorrows. He now has more commitments and I’d like to publicly thank him for his work on the site over the last year or so.
This is it, this is my final preview, changes to my work mean I’ll no longer be able to offer my thoughts on Birmingham City FC, not that I expect anyone to be unduly bothered.
It’s been an interesting week, from the edge of dismissal; Steve Bruce managed to conjure two away victories. The first being Derby thanks to a fortuitous goal, the second being a shocking 2-4 victory and Sheffield United, I say shocking in the fact that we scored 4 away from home.
This has given Bruce a bit of breathing space, but do these victories point to a revival or are they papering over the cracks? Personally, I think a bit of both.
The Derby victory was won with a defensive midfield (predicted here last week) with Clemence, Nafti and Johnson across the middle. It’s a typical Steve Bruce tactic, stop the opposition by stifling the game and then hope to score a late goal. It worked perfectly, but in the main to Derby’s lack of a decent forward line, that particular tactic won’t win enough games for automatic promotion, and once found out is a disaster in the Premiership, as we’ve seen.
Sheffield United was a totally different team, young and pacey the Sheffield defenders struggled to cope (although it was David Unsworth and Craig Short – combined age 146). It’s interesting that according to Bruce one of the reasons that we’ve struggled is because we have a young team, now our young team has gone and scored 4 at a Premier League ground!
That’s not taking anything away from Bruce, he stood up to the critics and the results were good, but we’ve a tough run of games to come, and I don’t think the problems for him are over yet.
One thing that doesn’t change is Bruce’s capacity to excuse, his latest pearl of wisdom is that the 7-0 defeat to Liverpool was almost excusable. Trust me Steve, I was there, there was nothing excusable about that! But should we read too much in to what he says, I’ve come to the conclusion that we shouldn’t, it’s simply because he spouts so much nonsense, so many excuses, so much blame that anything sensible is lost within the borderline insane.
What has been good is that, temporarily, Bruce forgot the excuses, the hand-wringing, the puppy dog face and actually got some fire in to the team. For too long I’ve criticised Bruce for standing in front of the camera’s after another dreadful performance with the “It’s the worst night since I’ve been here, I’ll be looking for a reaction in the next game” speech. Bruce had got too cosy in the job, too complacent. If last weeks events knock that complacency out of him then that’s great, I only wonder why it took two years for him to realise.
On to Saturdays game, and another Midlands derby against West Brom, they are in a great run of form and are scoring goals. Since Robson’s removal they are rejuvenated, and with the appointment of Tony Mowbray look like a good bet for one of the top two spots.
This will be a tough game, and the starting line-up will be interesting. We’ll be looking to see if Bruce reverts back to his trusted favourites or sticks with youth. I think he will go for the Clemence, Nafti, Johnson partnership and try to stifle West Brom’s attacking edge, so I’m going for a tight, close-fought draw.
Hooby prediction 1 – 1 Jaidi to score (well, he’s going to eventually)
I think Hoobs is feeling a little down at the moment…
Well I was wrong, not wrong in the fact that I said weeks ago that Bruce wouldn’t be sacked and not wrong when I said that Tuesday’s game would be a stinker, I was wrong when I said that Jaidi would be this weeks Evening Mail rent-a-quote. You know the sort of thing “players responsibility”, “too many individuals not performing”, “we’ll get it right in week/month.year/millennium”. We’ve had them weekly for two years, promise, promise, promise, then deliver nowt.
No, I was wrong, this week it was Taylor and McSheffrey.
The debate this week has moved from the “Bruce in or out” to the “when the **** will the idiot leave?” and its hard to see how a man who said that he would leave when the fans turned against him has not resigned. I suppose the fact is that Bruce has a couple of million of reasons not to resign. And in the wake of one of Birmingham City’s most depressing nights for, oooh weeks, what was the reaction of our fatcat directors? Drive up the M1 and administer a sacking? Roll in to Brum for a rollicking the size of which would scare Gordon Ramsey? No they phoned him and told him it must improve. But they did do it while frowning, so I guess Bruce must have filled his pants then.
The simple fact is that for Bruce’s incompetence the boards incompetence is mirrored three-fold, the three not very wise monkeys indeed. In fairness the David Sullivan its my guess that he is the one that is being outvoted. I remember seeing David Gold at a function eulogising about the time he sacked Trevor Francis. He admitted that Francis should have been sacked earlier, but it was he that persuaded Ralph to vote to give Francis more time. Gold admitted he was wrong that time, yet has done exactly the same thing again, most odd.
Gold’s problem, in my opinion, is that he has declared himself the mouthpiece of loyalty to Managers. He has been on Talksport on this subject to often that there is a parrot in Romford that can recite his speech on why Football Clubs must be more loyal verbatim. Gold has become so obessesed with rolling-up at the Football League managers committee and lecturing to the other chairmen about loyalty that now we’re deeper in the mire than at any point in the last 10 years that he is unable to do anything about it.
What of Bruce I hear you say? Where did it go wrong? And again, in my opinion, he believed the publicity. We had 2 great years and he could do nothing wrong, he was tipped as a future England manager, Newcastle came knocking, it was perfect. In fact so perfect that all he had to do was keep the foot on the accelerator. Sadly, he did the opposite, he hand-brake turned and zoomed off in the opposite direction, you know the one, its signposted ‘career-ending-cliff’. Unfortunately he has driven over the cliff and been suspended in-air “Wile E Coyote style” for about 12 months.
So, on to Derby, I hear you crying “what’s you prediction Hooby”. Do you know what, I don’t care, Gold, Gold, Sullivan and Bruce have ripped the passion out of me. I don’t give a toss. I predict Bruce will have a job Monday evening no matter what the score, but the rest of it? ****** it. I’m taking my 5 year old daughter shopping to buy her Sparkle Magazine for doing well at school this week, and to be fair my five year old daughter talks more sense that Gold, Gold, Sullivan and Bruce combined.
Hooby prediction: More inane comments from Bruce, a midfield so defensive that it rivals the Great Wall of China in girth, and more gutless inaction from the board.
Oh, and an extremely healthy balance sheet when the PLC figures are released – far more important than thousands of disillusioned supporters, eh David, David, Ralph?
Forget referee’s, luck, injuries, black cats and every other excuse offered by Birmingham City’s management team, they have come out with a new pearl. Yes, the blame for Blues relegation and subsequent seventh position in the league is firmly down to the supporters.
Whether you believe Steve Bruce should be given more time or now, one thing is certain, Bruce has actually had an easy ride. I can’t think of many supporters that would have watched a team surrender last season with a pace that shocked even the French army (usually the first to throw in the towel). Can anyone imagine Newcastle, Manchester United or even Fulham getting spanked 7-0 at home in the FA Cup in one of the most spineless displays ever witnessed on national TV with barely a murmour of dissent against the manager?
However, nothing will come between Bruce and his big excuse, this is now a man so embattled and to embittered that a new excuse a week is not only the norm, but actually expected.
So, this week it’s the fans. Of course last week it was that the ‘season starts here’, and we promptly lost. The week before was that Cardiff couldn’t possibly keep their form going due to their ‘small squad’, a squad that consists of 23 players to Birmingham City’s 24. Of course, before that it was ‘gelling’, I mean how can a manager get a team with 8 new players to perform? Well, you could ask Dave Jones, Steve, as his team are top of the league and have 9 new players. You see, the point is not to take-in what Steve Bruce says, it’s all complete nonsense anyway, as much as he try’s to deflect the blame it ultimately is his responsibility.
Take the Luton game as an example, we didn’t play that badly, but a bad referee’s decision and kamikaze defending put paid to us. Forgotten amongst all the analysis is that we’ve actually scored two goals in each of our last two games. That’s four away goals! I guess that’s not many away from the total scored last season. But we’re shipping them, and despite procrastinations about referee’s and luck it’s the manager’s responsibility. How are players expected to take responsibility for their actions when the manager won’t? We’ve developed a culture of excuse’s, lose a game it doesn’t matter, get ‘rent a quote’ in the Mail to say it will be better in the next game and ‘move on’. Yes, lets use the great battle cry of the Government, let’s not face our responsibilities and ‘move on’
And like anyone that fails to ‘move on’ when the Government tells us to when they are questioned, so Steve Bruce wants to ‘move on’ weekly. Don’t question him, don’t criticise him, just ‘move on’ to the next game, then to the next, then to the next.
Norwich roll in to town tonight with a new manager in tow, Peter Grant. Now, I know nothing about Peter Grant, but any team with a new manager will always be a tough test. In Robert Earnshaw they have a player that is always likely to score goals and the defence will be up for a stern test.
But don’t panic Mr Manwairing, we’re going ‘back to basics’, which will probably mean an overly defensive midfield, pack the back and don’t concede, we might get one on the break.
I’m bringing a pillow, an alarm clock and my Thomas the Tank Engine pyjama’s
Hooby prediction 0-0 (Jaidi to be interviewed in Thursdays Evening Mail telling supporters not to panic)