Half Term Report – By Kym Smith
Posted on February 1, 2007
Filed Under Articles By Kym
We’re now slightly over halfway through the season. To bring out a well-used expression, a league campaign is a marathon and not a sprint, so there’s no sight of the finish line yet.
Our projected forecast of being ten points clear by the end of January has not materalised and we find ourselves in second place, but with two games in hand. Most of us would rather have the points in the bank and no impending fixture pile-up.
We’ve now survived our 100th anniversary, Diarygate and the Great Pitch Fiasco before Leicester applied the double whammy and contrived to have their own Act of God put paid to another league fixture. There is no sign of the big screen; one can only assume that it is being hid from us with an elaborate cloaking device.
It’s a long time since we played a league game in between our glorious victory over Newcastle and our not-so-glorious exit to Reading resulting from a failure to take our chances.
Since we found ourselves back on Planet Championship, our performances and results have ranged from outstanding to lamentable, with just about every other adjective in between.
Now that all the “bedding-in” has been done (apart from the new pitch), it’s maybe time to take a look at how some of our players have fared since the start of the season.
Maik Taylor was one of the few that survived the axe in May. By merit of his age and experience, he is undisputably the first choice between the sticks. Is this good for his play though? Although we have Doyle, Legzdins and Kryszak, they are all young and their lack of experience could prove to be a problem were they called to action in a crucial game. There are a number of fans who think that we will have to go into the market for a keeper in the summer, particularly if we get promoted.
Sometimes being a keeper is the worst job in the world; you can be fantastic for eighty-nine and a half minutes and awful for thirty seconds, whereas outfield players can often get away for being anonymous for entire games. This season, our Maik has had some great games, but he has also had a few shockers where he has stood between the posts and done some great impressions of a Cabbage White (Southampton away comes to mind).
We’ve enjoyed a much more settled back four this season, although it took them a little while to gain an understanding of each other. Both Jaidi and N’Gotty had to adapt to the ways of the Championship, although N’Gotty provided a certain entertainment factor to fans in the Railway End who had a close view of him giving Ipswich’s Alan Lee the slap he so richly deserved.
Then the Norwich game came and N’Gotty was deemed to be amongst the truly dreadful and disappeared. We wondered whether he was ever going to be seen again and called him “Forgotty”, then he appeared for the Newcastle game (of beloved memory) and banged in a most impressive goal.
Jaidi’s best central defence pairing so far seems to have been with (of all people) the much-maligned Martin Taylor, as their partnership coincided with a run of clean sheets that can’t all have been down to luck. The Moroccan international has also chipped in with a couple of fairly important goals.
In some ways, Martin Taylor seems to have found his comfort zone in the Championship. From the bumbling, flapping player we screamed at in exasperation last year, there have been times in recent weeks when he has bettered Upson for his attention to detail. He managed to be villain and hero in the space of ninety minutes against Reading, as although he looked to be responsible for the two of the goals conceded, he attempted to make amends by scoring his first goal for years; and a jolly good shot it was, too.
Sadly, Tiny became the unfortunate victim of Upson’s return from injury, although by the time you read this, he may of course have got his wish and large pay packet from West Ham.
Miles of column inches have been written already as to whether he is overpriced at £8M (for those that remember the Tennant’s Pilsener adverts, I would make the comment that he’s “good, but not that good”), but Steve Bruce seems to be adamant that he wants no further disruption to the squad, so for now, Matty may find that he is marooned north of the Watford Gap for the next few months.
It would be interesting to see whether his huge desire to go and be a Hammer would diminish if they are in the Championship next season! It’s also interesting to note that despite his desire to “further his career” the only club to have shown significant interest in him is one which is fighting hard to beat the drop. Pint of Tennant’s, anyone?
Stephen Kelly had a mixed reception initially as he seemed to make some fairly basic errors in our early games. He then seemed to shape up fairly well, particularly when the “back to basics” ruling came in and he was persuaded that a right back’s first job is to, well, stay at the back…
Mat Sadler is another one of the survivors and so far seems to be getting through the season with good games and bad moments; in other words, a lot of people are of the opinion that his concentration can sometimes go AWOL. Whether he truly is the answer to the left side problem will remain to be seen next season if we do get our wish of Premiership football again.
Moving on to the midfield, the new season started with a new captain, and some of us wondered at the wisdom of giving the armband to a quiet guy with a short fuse. Although nobody could ever question Damien Johnson’s application and industriousness, he is never going to be our most gifted player, but would now of necessity be the first name on the team sheet.
DJ1 crowned our ill-fated visit to Leeds with a red card, and the muttering began in earnest. This reached a climax with the shirt-throwing episode and there were calls for his replacement. However, he proved that he is a big enough man to apologise and further redeemed himself at the Baggies game where he gamely played the last ten minutes of the game with a broken jaw.
Stephen Clemence had turned into one of the forgotten men. After a few appearances at the beginning of the season he drifted off into obscurity and was not seen again until Brucie’s Last Stand at Pride Park, where of course he scored THAT goal.
Since then he has been positively prolific and also contributed to the victories at Southend and Sheffield Wednesday. For me, Clem remains one of the club’s unsung heroes; he is solid and dependable, with our midfield being better (on the whole) for his inclusion.
Muamba and Larsson arrived in a “loan two, get one free deal from Arsenal” and the first few times he played, I wondered whether Arsene Wenger was having a senior moment when he had described the kid as the new Patrick Vieira. I’m delighted to say he has proved me wrong though and has made a big contribution to the team. He plays with a smile on his face and says he loves being at Birmingham, so much so that there is even a chance he could become our player at the end of the season.
We all uttered a little whimper at Steve Bruce’s glee that Larsson was a utility player and have now seen him play in most positions apart from on the front row or in goal. He’s at his best as a wide player though, as Newcastle found out to their cost and he also showed us last week that he is pretty good with the dead ball.
Poor old Nafti is becoming one of the ones that has gone missing in action, sometimes not even making it as far as the sub’s bench. It’s a bit sad really that he was one of the ones who said that he wanted to repay the club for paying his wages while he was injured last season. Maybe he’ll have something to contribute in the future.
David Dunn. Oh dear. What can I say? For all the years we had him, his appearances didn’t total a full season; an exquisite player on form, but in the end he was like a lovely glass Christmas tree bauble that couldn’t be taken out of the box as it was so fragile. Just don’t be fit when (if) we play Blackburn next season…
Neil Danns came to us as one of Colchester’s top scorers, and they’re doing quite nicely without him in the event. I have my doubts about his ability, nice lad that he is; he’s popped up with one or two decent goals but also makes some shocking errors. Maybe he just needs a bit more time.
DJ Campbell also survived last season’s clearout, as I suspect the Board had bought him with an eye to him being useful in the Championship. DJ2 surely has to be one of the jammiest players I’ve ever seen in royal blue. His first touch is average to abysmal, but he is quick and manages to get himself in the right place at the right time, scoring goals with whatever bits of his body he can launch in front of the ball.
Forssell has disappeared into the depths of the treatment room and sometimes I wonder whether he’ll ever be seen again. He seemed a shadow of his former self at the start of the season; overshadowed by our mercurial Dane, he looked dispirited and fed-up. His demons must consist of his injury worries and the fear that he’ll never regain his form. I hope he does; he could still contribute to our push for promotion and retains his die-hard followers amongst Blues fans.
Cameron Jerome didn’t make the best start to his career here; in fact, it was so brief that someone on a quick trip to the Gents’ might have missed it. Red-carded on his first appearance, he has come in for some unfair criticism, particularly as initially the rest of the team were not playing to his strengths at all. He has started to show his worth over the last couple of months with his pace and can only grow in confidence.
It seemed right to leave the best until last.
Nicklas Bendtner was unknown to most of us and when an Arsenal-supporting friend of mine said he was destined for great things, I have to say that I didn’t take too much notice initially. He’d won me over within a couple of games though, showing a class that isn’t often seen in teenage players.
Yes, he’s selfish; yes, he’s arrogant; yes, he sulks, but most kids of his age are still at school doing their A-levels, so maybe the boo-boys need to remember this and cut him a bit of slack. Bendtner is a remarkable talent who could play at the highest level in a few years’ time. We’re lucky to have him here for the season and many of us would love to see the Golds break open their piggy bank for him if Arsenal are willing to sell in the summer.
And then there was one.
I didn’t take much notice of the Championship last season. We spent most of the time clinging to the trap door trying to avoid a drop into its gaping jaws. It was a big vat of fizzy pop full of teams trying to fight their way out, hanging on to Reading’s coat-tails. There were hordes of players down there, but I hadn’t heard of many of them.
When I read in the press that we had paid the biggest fee ever for a Championship player, it only confirmed to me that Steve Bruce and the Board had lost their collective marbles. Who was this McSheffrey bloke anyway?
He started quietly; put in a couple of assists, was quick and fearless; not the best tackler but that’s pretty typical of forward players. The floodgates opened against Wrexham in the Carling Cup when he started his scoring career for us with a thunderous shot, and we haven’t looked back since.
Sheffchenko can score with either foot, from the spot and from free kicks. He puts in pinpoint crosses and a pretty mean corner and has even managed to provide us with our first hat-trick for nearly a decade.
Already a Blues’ hero, he’s well on his way to a Player of the Season nomination and our only fear now concerns being able to hang on to him, as he’s now firmly in the media spotlight and being touted as this division’s best player.
What a great day it was when Coventry put the paper back in the fax machine.