Doubts – Nagging Or Otherwise By Kym Smith

Posted on February 10, 2007 
Filed Under Articles By Kym

For most of the rest of the league, there are fifteen games to go. We still have two games in hand, although a huge majority of Blues fans would prefer that we had already played these, with the points on the board. Those six points would make our current tally 60, we would still be second and not as nervous as we clearly are at the moment.

Far from having a ten point lead at the end of January, we found ourselves slipping from the top spot and at the time of writing are now fourth. Derby are on a seemingly endless run of 1-0 wins and Preston are still clawing in the results courtesy of retaining David Nugent.

The worries are now starting to creep in:

Can we get our form back?
Can we win enough of our remaining games to get us back into an automatic promotion place?
Will Derby and Preston’s run of form continue?
Are the Baggies going to remain serious contenders for promotion?
Are there are other teams sneaking up that we haven’t noticed?
Can we all stand the stress of going through the playoffs again?
What if we slip outside the playoff places?

Can we get our form back?

Maybe the team will be more settled now that Upson has left – and maybe it will show in the results.

Upson was sold too late to bring in another defender, although at least we have reasonable cover and the option of an emergency loan until March. I hope that this inactivity does not cost us in the long run.

Those that went to Colchester last week said that the defensive performance seemed better, so maybe in the long run the decision to sell him will prove to be the right one. The whinging will go on from those at the top, but the rest of the team have to get on with it.

It had already been noted that our best run of the season coincided with Tiny and Jaidi forming the central defensive partnership and goals started to be conceded when Upson returned from his long injury layoff.

Likewise, our results have been poorer while Nicklas Bendtner has been injured, so whatever the boo-boys may think of him, he obviously makes a big difference to the team when he’s on the pitch.

The Damien Johnson saga rambles on and on; it’s certainly true that our best results coincided with him being missing through injury and it’s a constant source of annoyance to some fans that due to his status as team captain, he is automatically the first name on the team sheet, to the exclusion of someone with more ability. On this one, those of us in the stands can only hope that Steve Bruce will finally see sense, while at the same time we fear that he won’t.

Our downturn in form over the last month (FA Cup performances aside) have caused some of the “Bruce Out” brigade to surface again and no doubt their voices will get louder until results improve to our satisfaction.

There are some of us that weren’t completely convinced even when we were eight points clear at the top; some of the wins had been down to sheer luck and some of the performances had been distinctly average; not what would normally be associated with a team hellbent on promotion.

There are also still lingering “long-term” worries about Steve Bruce and whether he is the right man to take Blues up to the Premiership AND keep them there, and I guess this is another debate that will continue over the coming months.

Can we win enough of our remaining games?

The Stattos have already pored long and hard over the fixture list and some of the games we have to come are clearly winnable. Most people would agree that these games include Hull, Leeds, Burnley, Barnsley, Coventry and probably Palace. There are also a group of “so-so” games, which based on popular opinion seem to be Stoke (given our performance at the Britannia Stadium earlier in the season), Norwich (soon to become our new nemesis), Leicester and Sheffield Wednesday.

There are also a bunch of games that have been labelled absolute or potential stinkers, either because they are against “good” teams, local derbies or both. These include Cardiff, Derby, the Baggies, Southampton, Wolves and Preston.

Most people are of the opinion that 85 points (i.e. nine wins and a few draws) would get us automatic promotion.

Simple? Or maybe not?

Will Derby and Preston’s run of form continue?

This is where it starts to get a bit worrying. Derby have already played Preston and the Baggies twice, therefore two of their near competitors are already accounted for as far as the fixture list is concerned. What might help our cause is that Derby have a distinctly winnable FA Cup tie on the horizon (against Plymouth) and a place in the last eight must be a very tempting proposition for Billy Davies.

Derby have also significantly strengthened their team in the transfer window, bringing in seven new faces. They clearly mean business and Davies’ first thought must surely be to increase their goalscoring chances; he’s far too astute a manager to rely on them continuing their run of sneaking 1-0 wins in the last ten minutes. Like us, they have a bunch of distinctly winnable games in front of them and an enviable run-in of a last six games against bottom half opposition.

From being relegation candidates last season, Derby have turned into a real contender for promotion and on current form are one of our biggest threats.

In addition to already playing the current league leaders twice, Preston have also played the Baggies twice, so the pressure of these games has been removed from them as well.  Amongst their remaining games are ties against Cardiff, Southampton and of course, what could be a final-day thriller against us.

However, they are still in the FA Cup and must be eyeing their tie with Man City with some interest. As well as being a local(ish) derby, it must be a game they fancy winning as Man City have not been particularly impressive in the last few weeks.

Preston managed to hold on to David Nugent during January following his very public pledge of loyalty to the club and his desire to get into the Premiership through promotion with them. They have been the “nearly men” before as far as the playoffs are concerned and must fancy that this is finally their year.

Are the Baggies going to remain serious contenders for promotion?

The key to this one is their away form, which has been pretty poor for much of the season. Of their remaining games they have to visit Colchester, Cardiff, Wolves and Norwich, all of which are going to be tough fixtures for them. The Wolves game could be particularly tasty following their emphatic FA Cup victory a couple of weeks ago and McCarthy will be looking for some sort of revenge.

The Baggies also have some pretty testing home games, including us, Southampton, Sunderland and Stoke to come, so of our three current near rivals they could be the ones most at risk of staying in the playoff places.

Are there other teams sneaking up that we haven’t noticed?

In a word, yes.

Southampton seem to have come up on the rails over the last few weeks, but have probably not been consistent enough throughout the season to make a serious play for an automatic promotion spot.

However, they are now contenders to stay in the playoff places if they maintain their current form, even though they have fixtures to come against the Baggies, Preston, Colchester, Cardiff and us. In Rasiak they have one of the division’s top scorers and they held on to Gareth Bale during the transfer window.

Cardiff held the top spot at the start of the season and had what at the time seemed to be an unassailable lead. They went into a period of not scoring goals, and a succession of 0-0 draws and a few losses have seen them fall away. Some of their remaining fixtures are going to be challenging; they have the Baggies, Preston and Sunderland at home, us and Derby away and the rest of their season will depend very much on how they perform in these key games.

Colchester have turned into this season’s dark horses. From being a favourite for automatic relegation on the first day of the season, they have been as high as the playoff spots and are currently within a few points of sixth place. Sunderland and Stoke are also within touching distance and could yet make a late challenge on the top six.

Can we all stand the stress of going through the playoffs again?

The answer to this one surely has to be “we will if we have to”, although I can see there being a sharp rise for prescriptions for beta-blockers and anti-depressants in mid-May.

Winning the playoffs is incredible; it has to be the best way of all to win promotion as the fans are treated to the full cup-final experience.

Getting there can be tortuous; two nail-biting semi-finals to live through, particularly if they go to the wires in that classic Birmingham City stylee. It’s also more games for a team that have already played 46 in the league and another half-dozen or more cup ties.

It also seems to be a fairly well-observed phenomenon that the team finishing third in the league does least well in the playoffs. The players are demoralised at just missing out on automatic promotion and find it hard to galvanise themselves for another (albeit brief) campaign.

The worst thing of all though, is getting to the final and losing; as well as the utter heartbreak for the fans, unsuccessful playoff final teams are often plundered during the summer transfer window, making launching another assault on promotion the following season very difficult.

So maybe it’s time to think the unthinkable….

What if we slip outside the playoff places?

Unless we suffer a complete blow-up, this must be one of the less likely options. We would have to revert to our form of the beginning of the season, suffer massive injuries or get deducted points from our “pitchless” moment of last month (which is still, rather worryingly, under investigation by the FL).

If this did happen, the ramifications for next season could be immense. The newly-promoted or other Premiership clubs would undoubtedly come hawking round our better players. The parachute payments, although around for another season, would reduce and our chances of recruiting anyone else decent would start to dwindle rapidly.

It would probably spell the start of a rather longer exile in the Championship – and for the “Bruce Out” brigade, would most likely result in his exit from St Andrew’s.

It may even be that the Board have already decided that anything less than automatic promotion is a failure and he would be on his way if we lost out on the playoffs, either at the semi-final or final stage.

We’ve already seen over the Upson debacle that Bruce’s relationship with the Board is now not what it used to be and they might not be so keen on staying their hand if they feel the cookie has not crumbled the way they would like it to.

We were quiet in the transfer window whilst the teams around us bought players in. This has given the wrong message to a lot of the fans, particularly with the recent memory of the consequences of last January’s transfer dealings (or lack of them). But has it also given the message that they feel Bruce has the resources available to get us promoted and they expect him to achieve it with what he has?

As usual, we are at the mercy of what those at the top decide to do and can only voice our approval or displeasure accordingly.

Let’s hope that everybody gets it right over the next three months.

Comments

11 Responses to “Doubts – Nagging Or Otherwise By Kym Smith”

  1. oldburyblue on February 10th, 2007 2:20 pm

    Of course there are nagging doubts..but we are not alone! There is no Team head & shoulders above the rest this year. As has been shown this season, every team is capable of beating or losing to every other team. You can look at the fixtures all you like, but there are NO guaranteed wins or losses for ANY team.

    Who is it better to play..a team fighting for promotion or one fighting to avoid relegation? Cardiff & Burnley couldn’t go wrong a few months ago and the likes of Southend couldn’t buy a win. I know who I’d rather play @the mo tho!

    We are as good, if not better, than any other Team we are due to meet. As long as we remain positive we will win the vast majority of those games and achieve our aim. Just like money attracts money, confidence breeds confidence and success breeds success.

    Ps. Do you REALLY think its only Blues that have enjoyed a bit of luck when not playing particularly well on occasions this Season?

  2. The Villa on February 10th, 2007 5:13 pm

    When will the Beeb sack you? That’ll be the greatest day ever!! Maybe I should put in a complaint?

  3. The Villa on February 10th, 2007 5:20 pm

    /\ Good above comment.

    Kym should stop nagging about her team and just get behind them!

  4. bluebloodedsumo on February 10th, 2007 5:51 pm

    for once i agree with a scummer!!
    ive had enough of ms smyths inane ramblings too.
    her “opinion” smacks of that other know all from capital gold.
    why is this woman being given a voice?
    let her spend less time on her media career and more time at home being a wife!!

  5. Aff on February 10th, 2007 5:57 pm

    I mightn’t always agree with Kym but like everyone else, you’re welcome to a say here. Just send me what you have to say and I’ll post it.

  6. Signmaker on February 10th, 2007 6:25 pm

    sumo you may not agree but like you kym has the right to make her views and thoughts known on this blog, you might not agree with them, as other people may not agree with your “ramblings ”
    if you dont like what she has to say then say so politly and not make unwarrented personal comments.

  7. Scampicat on February 10th, 2007 6:45 pm

    Huge sigh of relief at today’s results, with only Sunderland picking up 3 points. Drawing at Colchester looks pretty good based on their result today, and what about Southend’s massacre of QPR last night?

    If we beat Stoke tomorrow lets keep the faith and banish all talk of the play offs! We are better than Derby or Preston.

  8. Anthony on February 10th, 2007 10:24 pm

    I genuinely fear for Blues next season if we don’t go up. I think we’ll be in for a very long exile in the lower divisions. I also think the Board will review their position with the club. Whether I’m a pessimist by nature or just know how Blues manage to cock everything up, I think promotion is beyond us. The team is capable but the manager isn’t.

  9. John Baker on February 11th, 2007 3:15 am

    A well written and researched piece. Lot’s of food for thought there.

    However, I see it all now given that the 3rd placed team customarily fails to perform . . . Bruce is aiming for 6th place and victory in the play-offs!

    And I thought he was . . . .

  10. The Villa on February 11th, 2007 11:09 am

    “A well written and researched piece. Lot’s of food for thought there”. – Nice joke there John Baker :lol:.

  11. John Baker on February 12th, 2007 4:34 am

    Thank you ‘Villa’

    I think you should understand though that once you typed the following:

    “When will the Beeb sack you? That’ll be the greatest day ever!! Maybe I should put in a complaint?”

    . . . once you typed that it was unlikely that anyone, Vila or Blues fan, was likely to take you seriously.

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