The Excitement Surrounding Andy Cole

I didn’t blog at all yesterday (believe it or not but I still have a cold – it’s been hanging on for over a week now and I’m a little bit frustrated with it) and when I came to check what was what on NewsNow, there seems to very little there other than everyone getting very excited about the Andrew Cole signing.

Bruce has likened the arrival of Cole to that of Christophe Dugarry and it’s fair to say that his arrival really has given everyone at the club fresh impetus. He’s that genuine bit of quality that may be what’s required to get us across the finish line and everyone’s eager to see Cole’s debut and get on with the rest of the season.

Indeed, in a piece in the Mail, Bruce says that “Billy Davies at Derby, West Brom or Wolves? They all would have signed him if they could.” It’s probably true and West Bromwich Albion, Derby County, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Preston North End, Sunderland or any other side in this division would’ve loved to have brought Cole in… the fact is though that we did and that’s a huge plus for us at this point in the season. I’m yet to hear anyone say a bad word about the Cole signing.

The board and manager deserve credit and whilst there’s been a lot written about him already, he really could be the difference between Premiership and Championship football next season. Cole insists that talk such as this isn’t helpful or correct and that particular interview is just one in a series of sensible quotes connected with our new striker. It’s very encouraging to read.

There seems to have been a procession of people in the game talking about what a great signing Cole is and Coventry City boss Iain Dowie and West Bromwich Albion striker Kevin Phillips being the latest two, meanwhile Eric Black has insisted that age will not be a problem for Cole.

Steve Bruce has not ruled out a permanent move for Cole in the summer.

Cole is expected to make his debut against Coventry City at St Andrew’s tomorrow, kick off 2 PM.

International Awayday With Murph – Ireland Vs Wales

Another in my occasional series of away days following Ireland;

Up before the crack of dawn for the drive to Holyhead to catch the fast ferry, I dumped the car in the long stay car park and waited for the bus to the terminal. The number of red shirts and strange language told me that the ferry would be full of Welshmen, most of them seemed to be related and from Wrexham.

I don’t normally wear colours but out came my Ireland scarf to show that the ROI were represented on the HSS Explorer, ‘the biggest and fastest ferry in the world’ as the lady on the tannoy system kept saying. Green, white and gold stood out among all that red and I was getting a few glances from the red hoards. ‘Alright Paddy?’ someone said and that was that, they all headed for the bars… it was only 8 AM!

The Irish Sea was flat and the journey passed. The noise from the boyo’s was getting louder as the consumption of Guinness and Magners increased. At customs the laconic Garda asked ‘Nationalities please?’ Welsh was the answer from most of them, except one bloke who wasn’t paying attention and said ‘British’. All his mates stopped and slagged him off!

I was looking forward to my visit to Croke Park as I hadn’t been there for a few years and to see a soccer match, not to be confused with ‘football’ which is what is normally played there along with Hurling. I am an Ireland season ticket holder or ‘block booker’ as it is called over here.

My cousin, Dublin Bluenose, picked me up and after dumping his car. We were in the Lord Mayors pub in Swords, downing our first beers of the day while we waited for our mates to come and we booked a taxi for the trip to Croke. The Welshmen would be on their tenth pint by now, I thought!

As I can’t go to the Slovakia game on Wednesday, I sold my ticket to a mate for face value, 50 Euro and that would fund our beer for an hour or two.

We decided to have a beer in the Prison Officers club and were met by a load of Cardiff fans in there, where our Blues badges didn’t go unnoticed and we chatted to the merry Welshmen.

This pub is next to Fagans Pub, it won’t mean much to you, except that it’s Bertie Aherns (the Prime Ministers) local and he can be found in there on a regular basis or in the curry house opposite or failing that in his office over the road.

A few beers later and it was onward to the huge edifice that is Croke Park. Three tiered on three sides and the open terrace, Hill 16, where the away fans were housed and temporary seats erected for the day. The Hill will be covered eventually but, will still retain the terraces for GAA games, as it is made from the rubble from the Easter rising of 1916 and has a special meaning for Irishmen and Dubliners in particular.

The view from my seat was truly spectacular, although the pitch was made to look very small as GAA games are played on much bigger playing surface and there was about 10 yards between the white lines and the stands.

After rousing anthems I looked around and saw many members of the Midlands Ireland supporters club, including one eejit wearing a Vile scarf, the Midlands branch is one of the biggest Ireland supporters club and attracts allsorts I suppose. The unwritten rule is that no club shirts or colours are on show, everyone supports the national team. I also saw a number of mates from Digbeth.

What can I say about the game? We were slightly better than Wales and they were rubbish, yep, that about covers the 90 minutes of football. One thing, although it was sunny, in the stands the sun never shines and I was bloody freezing, again. But not as cold as the West Bromich Albion game.

There were over 72,000 at the game and unusually, a Garda helicopter hovered over the away end. I didn’t see any trouble, just the roads thronged with fans trying to get away from the ground for a beer. Although there had been rumours in the Irish press of an arranged ‘meet’ between the Soul Crew and Zulus! Everyone kept asking me about it and I said I knew nothing about it at all, just some strange rumour I suppose.

After the game we headed for the Goose Pub and more beer, this time in the company of Stephen Kelly’s dad and his mates. We had a great chat and they are all coming over for the Southampton game and a tour of Digbeth. No one noticed that England were on the TV and big screen, people only paid attention at half time when the listened to the ‘talking heads’ having a go at England and McClaren. Everyone cheered when they found out that ‘The North’ had won.

The boys from County Dublin, headed back to Swords and another beer and that was that, a few hours kip and back on the ferry!

No red shirts on show from the Welsh but, plenty of red eyes, from the look of it they had spent all night in Temple Bar where no self respecting Irishman would drink.

Hundreds of Welsh turned up late and delayed the ferry by half an hour, lost tickets, carrying beer glasses, at the wrong ferry port etc… your typical international away trip. Most of this lot seemed to be Cardiff fans and were a bit leary.

The sea was a little bit choppy and many of the lads were turning the colour of my scarf. It didn’t stop them drinking though! On arrival in Holyhead, I picked up the car and I was back in the ‘shire by 5.15, dog tired and sipping a cold beer (or two) before heading to bed.

So, just like a Blues awayday, good company, a mighty craic, crap football and home for a beer.

KRO and ‘Come on the boys in Green’ (and I don’t mean the sea sick Welshmen!)

The Unthinkable – By Russell Dempsey

I think even the worst pessimists agree we’ll at least make the play-offs this season, and with it – assuming Derby County and Sunderland (the present teams most would fear) have an excellent chance of going up (it would appear to be West Bromwich Albion, Preston North End and Wolverhampton Wanderers our opponents in the Play-Offs at the moment) as our record against those teams so far has been good.

However, I was wondering what people thought about our chances of keeping our squad together, should we not make it.

Forget the Bruce In/Bruce Out debate, what about the players?

Maik Taylor, Colin Doyle, Adam Legzdins, Artur Krysiak, Sam Oji, Matt Sadler, Stephen Clemence, Mikael Forssell, Julian Gray, Neil Kilkenny, Neil Danns, Bruno N’Gotty, Matt Birley, Sone Aluko, Stephen Kelly, Martin Taylor, Sebastian Larsson, Cameron Jerome, Mehdi Nafti, DJ Campbell, Olivier Tebily, Rowan Vine, Damien Johnson, Radhi Jaidi, Gary McSheffrey, Nick Wright.

Andy Cole, Fabrice Muamba and Nicklas Bendtner, I think we can all safely assume will have gone back to their ‘parent clubs’ should we fail to achieve promotion… some would question whether they’d stay even if we go up.

I think Maik Taylor would go, and we’d keep the other three keepers. I’d imagine Forssell won’t be happy to stick around should we not be offering him Premiership football next season. Julian Gray and Neil Kilkenny have already been making unhappy noises about the lack of opportunity. I imagine their grumbles may cease if they enjoy Premiership salaries once more, but for now I’d imagine Kilkenny could do better elsewhere, and Gray may even be tempted by a smaller Championship team.

There was an interesting point made by fellow ‘J & S poster’ Kym Smith, that she wasn’t exactly sure Stephen Clemence was a logical choice for a Premiership Captain. He’s done arguably a better job than Damien Johnson in the Championship though, so it’d be great to see him still here, should we not go up. I’d hope he took the armband off DJ too, and I suspect Jonty would be only too happy to say goodbye to being the fall guy, and the stress…

I think Mat Sadler was being touted for huge things when he was playing in the Premiership, which may cause him to look elsewhere, but I think he’s been unlucky having to play second fiddle to McSheffrey on the left wing, so I can see him staying.

McSheffrey is our ‘crown jewel’ at the moment, and after Pennant, Heskey, Dunn and Upson, I don’t think any Bluenose would bet against him leaving us for a ‘bigger’ Prem team if we didn’t gain promotion. Some would argue he’s not necessarily a sure-fire success for the Prem, but the likes of Derby and Sunderland would definitely be willing to gamble on him, if no-one else.

Jonty himself I can see wanting to stay at Blues. If we went up to the Prem, I wonder if his age would catch up with him, but in the Championship – despite those who would knock him – I think he has found his level, along with Tiny Taylor and Tebs (who I would hope we’d release should we get to the ‘Promised Land’).

Neil Danns and DJ Campbell would no doubt relish the challenge to pit themselves in the Premiership, but I can’t see a bigger club than Blues coming in for them, should we stay down. The jury’s out on Danns even at the Championship level, and I think DJ Campbell struggling to hold down even a place on the bench at times wouldn’t bode well for his Premiership dreams…

Jaidi and N’Gotty are coming toward the end of their careers, N’Gotty in particular seemed to suggest he’d retire after one more ‘Prem season with Blues’ that quote from him suggests to me he’d leave should we fail to get promotion. Jaidi’s recent decision to re-enter the Tunisian national team probably suggests he’d be ready to continue playing, but I’m again not sure a bigger team would come in for him, or pay his salary. Mehdi Nafti was a promising Premiership player before his season-long injury stopped him being our ‘bigger and better Robbie Savage’ but this season he’s been solid but average for the Championship, held out of the team by Fabrice Muamba. I can see him staying at Blues for another season.

Matt Birley, Sam Oji, Sone Aluko, and Nick Wright have all made their names in the Blues reserve sides. If they’re not released as seems a common fate for their ilk I think they could even break into the first team, should we stay in the Championship. Oji, Birley and Aluko perhaps even regular bench spots in the Prem in the future.

Nick Wright looked excellent to me, a match for Pennant at times, for the reserves last season, but his impact seems to have lessened this season, and he certainly doesn’t seem to have caught Bruce’s ‘first team’ eye.

Stephen Kelly I believe is good enough for the Premiership, and if we don’t go up, I’d expect him to head up a division.

That leaves Larsson, Jerome and Vine.

An interesting bunch of players. Arguably all capable of making it in the Premiership, but all recently signed to Blues. I’d think Jerome could say he has least to lose by leaving Blues, after he’s played second fiddle to Bendtner, DJC, Vine and now Andy Cole this season, but would he be offered a Prem spot? Again, perhaps the newly promoted teams would give him more than a cursory glance?

Larsson and Vine I would have thought should want to prove themselves for longer than the half seasons they’ve been permanent Blues players. Larsson isn’t proven in the Prem at all, and neither is Vine.

I would have thought – without transfer window buying – our Championship team for 07/08 (as unthinkable as that may be) would consist of….

GK: Colin Doyle
LB: Matt Sadler
CB: Martin Taylor
CB: Radhi Jaidi
RB: Olivier Tebily
LM: Sebastian Larsson
CM: Stephen Clemence
CM: Damien Johnson
RM: Neil Danns
ST: Rowan Vine
ST: DJ Campbell
SUBS: Adam Legzdins, Sam Oji, Nick Wright, Mehdi Nafti, Sone Aluko

KNOCKING ON THE DOOR : Artur Krysiak and Matt Birley

Krysiak let in six goals (Blues were down to 10 men mind) for the U18’s last night so hes ‘one for the future’.

I actually think – taking Bruce out of the equation – IF we don’t go up this season, we have a bloody good squad to get us there or thereabout next season. With the right investment, we can only get stronger, surely?

Any opinions on a postcard to….Joys and Sorrows, PO Box blah blah blah!

Keep Right On, and hope my unthinkable stays just that…

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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.

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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.