Several players have played a significant role in helping turn the club’s fortunes around this campaign but Harlee Dean is surely an early candidate for player of the season. The former Brentford defender struggled to adapt to life in the West Midlands after joining in August 2017 and was part of the side which was booed off the field under former manager Steve Cotterill but he has thrived under Garry Monk and his recent performances have seen him become a firm fan favourite. The no-nonsense defender has all the attributes to achieve cult status in B9 and he is spearheading our march up the EFL Championship table. The Blues were unbeaten at home until recently, alongside Michael Morrison, he’s been at the heart of a defence that has helped the side turn St. Andrews into more of a fortress than recent seasons.
Positive Results at Home
Although most journalists will simply inform us that Blues were unbeaten at home until December this season, the undefeated run actually stretched back to March 6th, 2018 when Monk’s side were beaten by his former employers, Middlesbrough. It was the manager’s first game in charge at St. Andrews and his side displayed a number of resolute qualities which will have pleased the former Swansea captain. Since that narrow defeat, Monk has overseen eight victories and seven draws in front of the vociferous home faithful and the crowd have enjoyed a number of impressive performances this season, including a 3-0 victory against Preston on December 1st.
Clearly it was disappointing to lose at home to Bristol City and again Boro, but we were always going to lose at some point.
Harlee Dean’s Influence
The Basingstoke-born defender has started all games for the club this season and, although he didn’t feature in the EFL Cup defeat to Reading, he’s always one of the first names on the team-sheet. He’s proved particularly competent in the air. Dean does not rush into tackles nor does he make rash decisions. He’s picked up just four bookings this season and always appears to be fully in control of the situation. There have been a small number of disappointing performances from Birmingham’s back-line, with the defeat to Derby being one of the more recent examples but they are in the minority and they’ve been able to put those displays firmly behind them.
Birmingham have shown excellent powers of recovery this season and they responded to successive defeats in the second tier with back-to-back clean sheets against Millwall and Preston. Dean and Morrison have helped the Blues pick up six clean sheets so far this campaign and we conceded just 24 goals in the first 20 matches, fewer than Midlands rivals Aston Villa and West Brom. Many pundits had written off Birmingham’s chances of making the playoffs earlier this year but they sit in eighth place and are very much in contention. Betway have them priced at 9/2 to finish in the top six and their home form can be a real contributing factor this campaign. Despite the division being hugely competitive, Birmingham have a good chance of sneaking into the playoffs under the radar.
Blues focus isn’t purely defensive however with Monk managing to instil plenty of attacking intent into the side. The topsy-turvy 3-3 draw with Hull at the beginning of November was just one of many hugely entertaining games to have taken place at St.Andrews this season. The Blues have talent at both ends of the pitch and are unlikely to drop away from the chasing pack anytime soon. Very few of Birmingham’s games have been broadcast on Sky Sports this season but, if they continue to trouble the top half of table, they are likely to feature more prominently in 2019.
Cult Status at St.Andrews
It tends to take more than 18 months to achieve cult status at Birmingham but Harlee Dean is making great strides to become a Blues legend. If he can help guide the club back to the top flight, he will surely go down in folklore for his imperious defensive displays.
Fans have created their own chant for the defender, which can be heard reverberating around the ground on a regular basis, and some fans on social media have even spoken about the possibility of getting a tattoo in tribute to their hero. He has become a popular figure amongst supporters and his continued presence in the side will have undoubtedly helped his profile. Dean puts Birmingham’s success down to the squad dynamic and he is playing alongside a number of familiar faces including Jota and Maxime Colin, who also joined the club from Brentford. He told reporters that the squad is “always chasing perfection…” and he credits Garry Monk with helping the side achieve some stability on the pitch.
It’s been a tremendous first half of the season for Blues in the league. Harlee Dean’s influence at the back has clearly played a huge part in that success. He looks likely to continue to lead by example as the Blues embark on the second half of the season.