Birmingham City 1-3 Southend United – View From The South

I got an email today from a regular commenter on the blog. His name is Bazza and he wanted to have his say on last night’s performance. So here it is.

I finished work a little earlier than expected and decided that I had just enough time to get home, get changed and drive the 125 miles to St Andrews for the game. My 17 year old son pleaded with me to take him, convinced he was sufficiently recovered from glandular fever to attend. He has been much better over the last two days so I relented. My 15 year old had homework to do and his entreaties cut no ice but I promised that he could come to Colchester on Saturday.

So we set off just before 5.30 pm and managed to negotiate the M25 – M40 relatively unscathed. We arrived at St Andrews about 5 minutes before kick off and then had the frustration of delay as we had to purchase tickets which took forever considering there were only a handful of people waiting to pay cash! We heard the roar that greeted our opener from the Kop ticket office and were told Cameron Jerome had scored but now it seems it was an own goal.

We got to our seats just after but happy to be 1-0 up. Blues were playing some quick incisive stuff at this stage and we settled in for a similar demolition to the game at their place. Larsson hit the post with a fabulous free kick and was very unlucky not to score. The first of the refereeing howlers then occurred. Gary McSheffrey was clearly pulled back as he tried to bury the rebound but this clear shout for a penalty was ignored. Nevermind, we were on top and it was a matter of time.

Totally in control a sloppy back pass was hammered into Mat Sadler by Maik Taylor and the ball rebounded towards goal. Ryce-Campbell and Taylor chased it wide of the goal and the winger then blatantly handles it to bring it under control before stroking it back to a colleague to score easily from 10 yards. How the linesman and the referee missed it is breathtaking. The ineptness of some of the officials is extraordinary. If nearly 20,000 people can see it why can’t they? 1-1.

It is at this point that the wheels started to come off. This is where the role of the Captain is important. Where was Damien Johnson when the troops needed to rally? An indignant aggressive response to such an injustice was to be expected by the incensed crowd but what was the reality? We stopped playing the ball around neatly and started banging it down the channels for the ever willing Jerome to chase. We look at our most ineffective when we do this and the belief given to the opposition by their gift from the officials was enhanced. The frustration started to transfer itself to the assembled Bluenoses as the half progressed but the half time whistle relieved the tension.

For a good deal of the half especially early on the team had played OK and had been robbed by the incompetent officials and our own nervous going to pieces when the unjust equaliser was allowed. However, there can be no excuses for what then followed. Why it is that Birmingham City teams for as long as I can remember can contrive to make poor sides look good is beyond me. Southend are where they are in the Championship because they are not very good as we aptly showed just before Christmas. The same team were knocking it around and running circles around our midfield and constantly getting behind our full backs. Freddie Eastwood is given all the time in the world to pick his spot and shoot from the edge of our box from one such move barely two minutes in and before the tea is cool enough to drink.

OK a shock; we’ve been here before, now for the reaction. Give it five minutes and change it if we continue to struggle. No, it’s at least 15 minutes before the ineffective Nafti is replaced by Clemence and DJ Campbell is finally brought on after noisy chants of his name by the crowd with 15 minutes left in a desperate attempt to put three up front replacing Larsson. There is no doubt that these changes made a difference and there was a flurry of urgency that had been completely missing for the previous 40 minutes. Their keeper made a couple of smart saves but it became disjointed and frenetic as full time approached. Then with six minutes left it’s time to go to sleep at a corner and allow a short one to be taken for the all too easy pick a spot and curl into top corner routine.

Overall an awful performance after their equaliser aided and abetted by the officials who were even worse than we were. It was nowhere near as bad as when we played Norwich City but several things struck me; Jonty has to rouse the team out of its soporific slumber against teams like this and remind a few of them that hard work is still required even if it is the bottom club in the league. The complacency on show was unacceptable. His captaincy in this situation was dismal.

Maik Taylor’s kicking was dreadful all night and he has to take some of the responsibility for this debacle with his part in the first goal as does Sadler who was beaten far too easily by a competent but ordinary winger. Tiny was the only one of the back four to emerge with any credit from what was a shambles of an evening as at least he stuck to his task and put his foot in at vital moments. Upson, as an England international, could have done much more to marshal the back line and was ordinary at best.

The midfield all went to pieces after they scored and Jonty and Nafti went AWOL for long periods. McSheffrey did his best to get things going as did Larsson until he was taken off. Jerome worked hard as usual but the service he received was not up to the usual standards and his contribution was thereby limited. The biggest disappointment of the night for me was Rowan Vine who looked nothing like the player that played so well against us in late December. I hope the St Andrews curse has not blighted him too early!

On the long drive home I remarked to my son that our team will break your heart as they have repeatedly broken mine over the last 45 years. There was an inevitability about last nights result as I can point to several instances when we have been on the brink of success only to take a fall against a relegation threatened minnow and this undoubtedly explains why we have never won anything in 132 years. Getting things in perspective, there is no real crisis as the result of last night but we have once again made heavy weather of what should have been a straightforward task. We must learn to beat teams like Leeds United, Luton Town and Southend United if we are to have any pretensions of rejoining the elite as champions of our division.

Despite picking up the pieces of my broken, tired and weary heart, I will be there at Colchester United with my two lads on Saturday though I can’t understand why, other than we are all sticks of Birmingham City rock!

Larsson, Kavanagh Sign, Upson Close To West Ham Move?

As the minutes tick by, it would appear that West Ham United are closing in on the signature of Matthew Upson. More and more online reports are suggesting that the deal might be on and Sky Sports News are on the edges of their seats waiting for the deal to happen.

Colin Tattum has suggested that the deal might be on and Sky Sports News have been reporting all morning that Upson was absent from training this morning. I’ll have my say on Upson going later on, if indeed he does end up signing for the Hammers today.

Meanwhile Blues have announced the signing of two wingers on the official site. The first is Arsenal loanee Sebastian Larsson – he has signed a four year contract for a £1m transfer fee. Larsson is a Swedish U21 international and Bruce had the following to say:

We are delighted to finally conclude the deal to bring Seb here on a permanent basis.

He has done very well since he has been here and he can play in a number of positions.

He is young, hungry and ambitious and he epitomises the type of player we need to push this club forward.

I personally like Larsson and am delighted at the signing. I know some Arsenal fans rated him and other fans I’ve spoken to rate him too. I feel he’ll get better and better and his style of play will be much more suited to the Premiership than the Championship. He has a good range of passing and hasn’t a bad turn of pace. Hopefully Bruce will fix him in one spot and let him learn and develop his game. The ‘utility man’ tag simply doesn’t work.

Blues have also announced the six month professional contract signing of Patrick Kavanagh after his contract ran out with Irish side UCD in November. He’s been on trial with Blues for a while and has appeared twice for the reserves.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to sit here watching Sky Sports News ready to go into rant mode if the Upson transfer happens… I’ve had a bad couple of days with regard to Blues!

Upson, Muamba, Larsson, Transfer Deadline Day

It’s transfer deadline day and that can mean only one thing – Sky Sports News for most of the day hoping that we’ll sign someone. Regardless of how balanced and how good a squad might be, I find it impossible to believe that any football fan won’t be keeping at least one eye on the footy news today.

For Blues fans, the only two possible transfer deals that might happen are Matthew Upson to West Ham United and Sebastian Larsson from Arsenal to Blues. SSN have been claiming all morning that West Ham are set to make a final bid of £8m to land Upson.

If what Bruce and the board have been saying is true then that’ll fall flat on its face and we’ll go into February with an £8m centre half on our hands. It’s not a bad place to be in I suppose but after watching Upson’s last 2-3 games, it looks as if his mind is elsewhere and I’ve never seen him tackle as rashly as he has done over the last 4 or 5 days.

He could’ve easily broke Kitson’s leg on Saturday and again last night jumped into a tackle just outside the Tilton penalty area. Thankfully not much contact appeared to be made and with the manor of the defeat, it’s happily been glossed over.

Meanwhile Steve Bruce has again reiterated his stance on Upson. He’s not going and he’ll continue to play to get Blues into the Premiership… full stop. The problem is that he doesn’t appear to be focused on doing that, his mind appears to be elsewhere and how can the bloke give 100% to a club who he seemingly doesn’t trust?

Blues hold his contract and, as Brucey says, they can move the goalposts if they wish but in the end, if we do not find the ‘real’ Matthew Upson again this season, who are the real losers? It isn’t going to be Matthew Upson is it? He’ll still sign for someone else at the end of the term, we’ll be out of pocket and a centre half down – regardless of which division we’re in next year.

Last night I tried to get into the ground nice and early to gauge the the reaction to Upson. From where I was in the Tilton corner, no-one appeared to have an adverse reaction and he wasn’t given a fantastic reaction. Just one of the lads in blue as far as I was concerned. So at least that, I feel, is a positive. I just hope that this nonsense of transfer talk and rife speculation can be put to bed at midnight tonight and once again, Birmingham City can become the main priority.

Over the last couple of days there’s been a flood of stories about Upson on Newsnow. Perhaps the most interesting is this one on TribalFootball. I’ve never personally heard of that rule and if it were true, surely there’d have been more instances of it happening? Besides, the club’s pretty hot on that sort of thing and I suspect that Karren Brady and co would know exactly what’s what in regard to a potential move by Villarreal. Still, interesting story.

The other is from Blues ‘keeper Maik Taylor saying that Upson will not spit his dummy out. He doesn’t need to to upset the apple cart, as I think has already been proven somewhat.

Onto Fabrice Muamba… there’s a good chance he could be at St Andrew’s again next season. Whether that be on a permanent deal or a loan move again remains to be seen. According to this article in the Birmingham Mail a day or two ago, what Muamba does is up to him but Wenger’s preference would be for him to stay at Arsenal and go out on loan again next season.

The article also states that Everton, Reading and Fulham are interested in the combative midfielder. Personally I think we have a very good chance of signing him if we go up. But going up is now appearing slightly less likely than it did twenty-four hours ago!

Muamba is picking his words very carefully and it’s obvious that he’d love to make it at Arsenal. I can’t say I blame him. From the few Gooners that have previously visited the blog and left comments, they do not seem to see Muamba as a future Arsenal player and I’ve read that they’re more upset about losing Larsson than the prospect of losing Muamba!

That to me seems crazy but Muamba seems to be the perfect Blues player. Gets around, puts challenges in, runs all day and has an element of skill about him. It’s hard to believe that he’s still only 18. Along with Clemence this season, he’s looked the only central midfielder who’s consistently deserving of a first team spot.

Next year, promotion assumed, I’d probably suggest that we’ll get him on another loan. He’s already said he likes it here and he obviously doesn’t want to burn his bridges with Arsenal until he’s sure that all chances have passed. Fair enough, I can’t say that I blame him. Overall though, this relationship that we’re developing with Arsenal seems to be a profitable one and from speaking to Gunners fans over the last few months, they seem genuinely interested in what sort of impact the players are making – regardless of if they’re going back to the Emirates Stadium or not.

And speaking of Arsenal loanees, what is holding the deal for Sebastian Larsson up? We’ve been told that it’s just a couple of days away for the past month or so now and I’m getting itchy feet. I like Larsson and I’d love him to sign but I’m beginning to panic a bit about the prospect of not going up and him suddenly deciding that he has better options elsewhere. It would be nice to get that one sorted before the end of the day.

Aside from the Muamba, Larsson and Upson stories… it looks like a quiet day for us ‘Noses. It won’t stop me checking like a maniac though.

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Explanation!

You have arrived at the archive site of the Birmingham City blog Joys & Sorrows. If you were looking for fresh, meaty stuff then this way, please.

This section of the site covers the blog portion of J&S from 26th April 2006 - when the site returned after a catastrophic hosting failure causing the loss of over 500 articles - to 28th April 2008 - when I decided to have a prolonged rest from the site.

Here, if it so takes your fancy, you can find every single article, totalling over 1,000, written by myself and many others over that two year period.

Unfortunately, the formatting on some of the posts is a little rough but since this is an archive, it doesn't matter too much. Nothing is unreadable although a great deal of the links will now, sadly, be broken. So internal Joys & Sorrows links will lead you to 404 errors.

I decided to archive them in this way because I wanted to start something fresh for the main part of the site. Hopefully you'll be able to see that up on the main portion of the site now.

Commenting for the archive section has obviously been switched off. You can flick around the archives by using the 'Find It' function in the middle column or the respective 'Categories' or 'Archives' headings in the sidebars

- Aff, 03/08/08.