Tonight’s The Night! – By Cliff

For once my ramblings are going to appear on the day of the game. Are you scared about tonight, worried or simply looking forward to it?

I have been relaxed about most games this year and this one is no different, I have to admit to being more worried about playing Sunderland and was glad when that one was over. Derby look to be in decent form but are they better than us?

I am going to assume that captain DJ will return for the game so I would assume the team will be slightly changed to bring him back in place of Larsson. That may be harsh on the lad and maybe I am wrong but I could see the sense of that. I think against the better teams we probably do need a more hard tackling midfield. I think there is a good case for both players.

Our performances are slightly weird for the last couple of home games, shocking first half but much improved in the second half, and at the end of the day we won. I do think we should come out and go at the opposition a little more from the start but if we win who cares?

I honestly thought Derby would start to drop a little but they seem to be getting better and are (apparently) getting results when they are not playing well when needed. In many ways they look they league winners, frankly they can have the league as long as we are second. Don’t get me wrong I would love the title but at the end of the day teams that finish top do not have any advantage next season.

In terms of our play the one thing that stands out for me week after week is the gap between the front and the back. When I was taught to play football coaches always used to say you move up and down the field as a unit. Our back line has a tendency to stay where they are, so the ball gets cleared and then the midfielders have a gaping hole to try and cover. I would like to see the back line being a bit more energetic and coming out, of course then you run the risk of being caught for pace I guess!

As a result of the back line not pressing the game up I think we then see the midfield struggle with the gap and Bendtner drops into midfield to get the ball. Of course when it then gets to the front Vine is sometimes stranded alone. You see and hear comments about our midfield players not carrying the ball but the fact is that they receive it so deep normally they would have to run so far its not possible. When was the last time we saw a central midfielder hit one from 30 yards?

Our back line does worry me, I think we should be looking for a loan player to come in just in case. I think the deadline is in a couple of weeks but nothing is coming out to suggest anything is likely. Alan Hansen talks about defences coming out in a line and being straight, look at ours it’s like a donkeys hind leg.

We are on course to win the league, a win tonight will be difficult but I truly believe that Derby are not as good as Sunderland, or us come to think of it! The other worry for me though is our players on that surface twice in one week, it must be draining to play on. Anyone who has played football at any level will know the extra effort needed playing on a pitch like that.

It’s going to be a tense night, personally I love floodlight games and the crowd (hopefully) will be a near sell-out. I see us shading it 2-1.

Enjoy the game.

The Most Important 12 Games Of The Season – By Cliff

Brucey, God love him, calls this part “the tickly bit”, the fixtures this weekend are as follows.

Blues v Cardiff City(1st v 6th)
West Bromwich Albion v Sunderland  (2nd v 4th)
Derby County v Colchester United (3rd v 10th)
Preston North End v Southampton (7th v 5th)

Remarkably if Wolves were to win and the results went their way they would be in the top six, that would be a superb achievement for them considering the lack of investment in the club. I think the top six now will be chosen from the current top eight teams.

Let’s look at the positive and say the results 100% go our way, we won, WBA and Sunderland drew, Derby lost and Preston v Southampton was also a draw. By my reckoning we would be three points clear and still have a game in hand on everyone except Derby. Let us pray!

Derby are due a bad run, let’s hope their current indifferent form continues and they come to St Andrews to be battered. The national press seem to be stirring things up with certain stories saying Bruce has dismissed the threat of Cardiff’s Michael Chopra, is this journalism simply meant to antagonise our opponents? I am fairly sure Bruce would not say such a thing having seen how certain Villa players comments have fired his team up in the past

While I was watching the game against Leeds my mind struggled to stay on the game and I started thinking about this league. I have asked this before, but is it an easier league to get out of nowadays or harder? I only ask because when TF was manager (and to a lesser degree BF) we seemed to play better football but not be quite good enough. I know towards the end of his reign it was poor but generally I do not remember being quite so bored during games.

I am not starting a dig at Bruce or anything but no-one could argue we play exciting football, maybe that’s the way you get up in this league. I think we would all settle for a poor season in terms of football displays that ends in promotion wouldn’t we? I remain to be 100% convinced we will go up but you cannot argue that we are top of the league and it’s in our hands to blow it. The simple fact is that if we won all our remaining games we would go up, is that so unlikely? There are only 12 games to go, we could easily remain unbeaten so why not win them all?

When all is said and done we should at least make the play-offs, as everyone knows luck then plays a massive part. I think it would be harsh on us to be in play-offs as we have been in the top 2 most the season, Bruce deserves praise for that. The fans (me included) have moaned about the guy, criticised and scrutinised every decision, complained about the players and tactics but he keeps going, and for that alone he deserves backing for the most important 12 games of the season.

He is not maybe the best manager in terms of tactics, maybe everyone is slightly bored but I think overall he has not done too bad a job. We have a massive chance now of getting back up, I think by the end of March if we were still top I would be delighted looking at the fixtures.

We must beat Cardiff this Sunday and follow that with all the points against Derby, I for one would love to see a full house and a massive roar behind the team. I beg all the stay away supporters to dig deep, yes it’s a lot of money but the club need your help, the players need your help, most of all the other fans need your help.

I would hate us to fail now, I would feel even worse if we failed in a half empty stadium with no atmosphere, it would be almost unbearable to then fill the ground for the first leg of a play off game! We all know the atmosphere would be great for that, let’s treat the last six home games in the same way.

Blues 2 – Cardiff 1

Nail Biting Time – By Cliff

It’s been a funny week, we have drawn a game that was always going to be tricky and we played without a player that a lot of people do not like, but did we look any better?

Before the game against Sunderland I would have taken the draw, during the game I would have taken a narrow defeat! Second half we played better but for the initial 45 I thought Sunderland simply looked a better and sharper team than us. Personally that’s the best team I have seen play this season and I think they will be in the top 2.

Then onto the game itself, Johnson did not play. I sway with Johnson like the wind, but we missed him I think. Larsson did not play too good and looked lost sometimes, one thing about Johnson I think is that he cannot play central, now I am not sure if I would want Larsson or Johnson on the right.

One player who is concerning me is Bendtner, not his work rate which has always been suspect, but his positional play. Over his last few games he seems to be playing more and more like a midfield player, dropping deeper and deeper. Maybe that’s just to get the ball as the service is poor I do not know, but when we then play the ball forward Jerome is on his own.

After the game people have been saying that Campbell should start, Blues fans (maybe all fans) at the moment seem very knee jerk. Yes Campbell came on and scored, but does that make him a starter? I think his best role is off the bench, he has pace and that last twenty is ideal for him. I am not sure he is a first choice player, now or maybe ever. I think any defence is going to be physically tested with Jerome’s movement, then Campbell can come and push them further!

One small issue at the moment is goals, Jerome for all the best will in the world is not that great at finishing, so he needs a partner to notch some up. Bendtner has not scored now for quite a while and I cannot remember him having missed many chances. I am not saying Bendtner should not be playing but I do think he needs to get back in and around the penalty area and not in his own half looking for the ball.

Prior to the game I wondered if the older hands of Taylor should have been recalled but I think Doyle played well. I do worry slightly his decision making is not quite right but he is young and his shot stopping looks to be superb. Saying that I am still not too sure what Taylor did wrong really.

Looking at the league table we are now in a superb position, weird since we have dropped a place! Games in hand are not ideal but win them and we are top and the others have to chase us again. The bookies have put us back as favourites in a league which no doubt will have a lot of twists yet. Before the season I said to myself at least we will not be worried about opposition teams coming here, I was against Sunderland, maybe nerves are now coming into play.

People keep saying that 90 points will take you up, well on that basis we now have to average 2.07 points per game, looking at the remaining fixtures we can afford a couple of slips I reckon as they look ok. Hull and Leeds provide the next tests and they are going to be very tough games, both clubs fighting for survival. Realistically if we are going to go up we have to beat the teams down the bottom.

Then we have Cardiff followed by Derby, two games which could shape our final position no end, Cardiff appear to be playing a lot better again, personally I think Derby may now have a dip.

At the end of the day, before the seasons started we would have taken this position at this stage, now we need to finish the job off, let’s start with three points tomorrow!

Hull 0 – Blues 2.

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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.

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- Aff, 03/08/08.