Defence Is Actually The Best Form Of Defence

I’ve only just gotten around to reading all the Blues-related articles on Newsnow and on there I came across three that I really wanted to comment on. Two concern players directly and one concerns the back-four as a whole.

I’ll start off with the one concerning the captain. You can view it by clicking here (registration required.) Is anyone a little bit tired of Damien Johnson having to be defended? This season DJ seems to come across like Marmite. People either love him or hate him (for various reasons.)

On several messageboards I see the debate rage on about Johnson. People want him sold or people want him in the first XI. I don’t come across too many people who’d be happy with him as a sub. I did, earlier in the season. But the shirt-throwing incident quickly coupled with the sending-off incident has tended to cause a split right down the middle. Either in or out.

This sort of thing isn’t new to Blues fans and Nicky Forster, Bryan Huges and Jesper Gronkjaer are players that spring immediately to mind when I try and think of people who’ve previously split the fans. Still, none of them seem to have done it as contraversially as Johnson has.

We all know what a mess Bruce made when he appointed Johnson captain. There can now be no debate about that. I think in years to come, Bruce will admit his mistake but as we all know by now, he’s too proud to admit his current faults and it’s part of the reason we were relegated in such poor fashion as we were last season.

But let me get back to Johnson. To my mind, this is the second time that the manager has had to speak in the public domain about his captain and state how wonderful he is. Surely a captain should be the type to inspire other players and lead by example? Johnson’s challenge on Saturday wasn’t mistimed – it appeared to be violent (carefully avoiding the word ‘deliberate’) and in this instance, we’re lucky we’re not in the Premiership. Incidents like this can be swept under the rug in the lower-classes of English football.

I’m not anti-Johnson. I’m not pro-Bruce. I’m not for one or against anyone in particular at the club. I’m for Birmingham City FC. As it stands, our manager is spending too much of his time defending a man who should be standing up and being a big part of a side that is challenging for promotion. There are circumstances that are different regarding this captain to most other captains in the football league but evenso, a captain-type figure should be able to rise above the background noise and prove without doubt that the manager made the correct decision when the appointment was made.

So far, Johnson hasn’t done so.

The second article regards Marcos Painter. You can read it in full by clicking here.

I have only seen Marcos play once. I haven’t formed an opinion on him or his abilities at all. I semi-regularly get comments on this blog saying that I don’t really have a right to an opinion due to my lack of attendance at Blues games – and messages of that nature. I have no problems with that.

What I hate is the idea that people believe that I think that I know it all despite the fact that I seldom have the finances to attend. I always make a point of saying that I didn’t attend this game or I know little about this player to make sure that I do not mislead whoever may be reading.

But back to Painter.

His attitude in this article is first-rate and the fact that he does extra-work is fantastic news. I know some people don’t rate him (again, check through the comments here) but with an attitude like this, I think it’s hard to write a player off. I’m not sure he’ll retain his place at left-back for tomorrow’s visit of Leicester City but his best position is centre-half and it might be worthwhile Bruce giving him a run-out alongside Jaidi if Sadler is fit. Perhaps a decent game at centre-half will be just what Painter needs to lift his confidence after his last two league outings. Meanwhile, I thought he had a good, solid game linking up with Shefchenko against Wrexham AFC.

The third and final article has plenty of quotes from Steve Bruce about the defensive part of Blues game. You can read the article in full by clicking here.

To be fair to wor Brucey, I don’t think he’s too far wrong in this article. Again, it sounds like we’re doing things right again this season. Again I must point to last season and point out lots of articles from players who just believed that we’d get out of trouble. This season it would seem that we’re having problems so Bruce and the backroom staff are working the problem department extra-hard to make sure that they’re ready.

When Jaidi/N’Gotty first started playing together, Blues fans were talking about how solid they looked – although of course that could’ve been down to the bore tactics that Bruce was employing at the time. It could all be down to the injuries disrupting things although against Leeds United, some of the marking was absolutely shocking – especially for the first goal.

I’m not yet worried about the back-four as such. I honestly believe we’ll get back to how we used to be – without losing any of the new-found attacking flair – when we start to get a settled line-up again. I also believe that Bruce can be defended for the injuries and suspensions this term. He’s already fining players for stupid red-cards and telling players that they simply cannot get away with such acts.

It’ll settle down and tomorrow I’m very confident about a win – despite the latest injury to David Dunn. Sub Dunn for either Danns or Kilkenny and I still think we’ll have too much for Leicester. It’s looking more and more like Mehdi Nafti will be captain. So long as we start well and the back-four don’t completely self-destruct, I think Stan’s will be in for a treat tomorrow.

One Retires, One Fails – Again

This article doesn’t have any big news in it but I’ve tried to follow Njazi Kuqi as much as I can since he left St Andrews. If you search for his name via the search bar on the right-hand side, you’d probably find quite a few articles about him being rejected by a plethora of clubs. Some of those articles might’ve also been lost after the big server crash of ‘06!

Anyway, the point is that he’s been training with Ipswich Town over the past few weeks. In fact, since we released him – and we tried to loan him out several times before that – he’s been trawling around lower-league clubs and one or two in Europe trying to bag himself a contract.

When we signed him, we were promised that he was better than his brother and very much “one for the future.” A quick search for Njazi shows that he has represented four clubs. FC Lahti in Finland then us (I bet they snapped our hand off when we offered £300,000!) then a couple of loan deals – one at Blackpool and one at Peterborough United.

But I’ve read several articles over the months stating that he’s been rejected by this club and that club (and even a second division Dutch side at one point!) He scored a hat-trick for Ipswich Town reserves on Monday and still wasn’t offered a contract. I’ve never see Njazi play but I’d be interested in anyone who did.

Following his career has become a rather sad and pathetic hobby for me and I can’t wait for the day he finally signs a professional contract with someone as I’m quite sure that then and there, I’ll find myself a ’second’ club to follow. I currently don’t have a second English team like most people tend to do. I’m not sure why I’m so bothered…

There’s also some international Blues news doing the rounds. Blues have had several players called up to the England youth set-ups and whilst I’m happy about that, I tend not to blog them since I can’t say anything about them that other sites can’t. I do at least try and keep the blog filled with odd tidbit that can’t be found anywhere else!

The main piece of international news is that Blues 31 year old centre-back Radhi Jaidi has decided to retire from international football. The 88 time capped Tunisian has cited Tunisia’s poor form during the World Cup as well as a bad result against Mauritius as the reasons for his retirement plans. He has stated that he will not go back on his retirement.

Of course, this can only be good news for Blues. I hate international weekends when we’re not sure if all our players will come back unscathed. I can only imagine what it’s like for an Arsenal, Chelsea or Manchester United when they have all eleven of their first team away on international duty… checking all the results for injuries, substitutions and so on must be a nightmare. I must confess that I tend to do it for Blues players… are you getting the point that I’m a little bit of an anorak?

Although to be honest Jaidi’s retirement doesn’t help me since I’ll still have to check on Tunisia for Mehdi Nafti! They could’ve at least retired together!

Get Into ‘Em!

A thought-provoking article by Cliff this week. A pleasure to read and one that asks a few questions.

In a week which for Blues has been dominated by the captain row I was thinking about how many times you hear the thing about having 11 leaders on the pitch. In a week for the anniversary of Shankly’s demise the quote below came from one of his ex-players..

“Shanks always preached that we had eleven captains. He wanted to see players think things out and rectify things if they were going wrong. You never got shouted at for trying to change something out on the pitch. You were always taught to work things out for yourself. Mind you if you tried something stupid and it didn’t come off we had a saying that we would ‘hit you on the head with a big stick from the touchline’

Now the obvious thing would be within our team, who are the natural leaders? Do we have players who would try and change things on the pitch? Would Bruce stand for that anyway?

Someone once said (apologies cannot find the exact quote) that when you get on the bus for the away game if you have several captains or lions staring at you then you will be ok. That’s not the exact wording but the jist was that if you had people up for the battle generally you would be fine. Now that does not mean a team of battlers will always beat a team of highly skilled players but the mix needs to be there. An example are Arsenal, they do not seem to like teams who try and get at them physically but they are a very skilful team.

This week Liverpool beat Galatasaray, their coach Eric Gerets was afterwards quoted as saying:

“I think that we missed the third goal because we don’t speak to each other. We could solve so many problems if we had better lines of communication on the pitch, I don’t have enough leaders in my team. But, the second half showed that Galatasaray can play very good football.”

Do the Blues have any leaders at all, let alone more than 3. Upson seems to be a popular choice but is he an ideal captain figure? He does not strike me as someone who would motivate people really and is not really very vocal. Captain is defined as “One who commands, leads, or guides others”.

We have now lost a couple of games and the worry is that on the field when things are not going well who will turn it around? As fans most of us love to see committed players like Savage etc who give their all. The other thing it gives you of course is a will to not lose. Look at when we played Chelsea a couple of seasons ago. Moaniniho whinged afterwards they came to play football but Savage turned it into a battle. Are we a little comfortable for teams?

Is this how things have gone wrong at the club? First season Premiership we had Savage and Cisse in the middle, neither of them would give an inch. Surely if you played in that team you could not help to be inspired by their actions? If Keane or Viera were playing they inspire confidence and motivate by their actions and will to win.

Is there some heart missing at the club? Who should be the next captain is one I am not sure about as there is no great candidate, and that concerns me. Maybe football has changed since the days of Shankly but I still think his comments are valid.

I do sometimes wonder if the captain of a team should be slightly scary as well to be honest. I do not think I would be inspired to work harder for a captain like Beckham for example, but then if someone like Liam Daish or John Terry were bawling at me I may be tempted to pull my finger out.

Maybe I simply yearn for a time when the Blues were a tough physical team who scared their opponents a little before meeting them. I know in one poll within a football magazine a few years ago one of our teams were voted the hardest ever! I am of course not suggesting we should revert back to that fully, lets face it we never had much success at it. I do think though some of the issues with the quiet crowd and lack of interest are the fact we have become a nothing team. There are no characters or true battlers in there, in some ways we mirror the team as a crowd now, quiet.

I am starting to think we may be lacking something, yes we have a good squad, yes we have some skilful players. Is that enough to get automatic promotion? I am getting worried about the balance of the team, lets hope I am totally wrong and playing football is the way out of this division. Teams have played football to get out but I think the majority are physically strong as well.

Saying that I think at home we should be ok, the away games may require some more metal to be shown. I would go for a comfortable 2-0 win against Leicester.

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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.

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.