McLeish, Bruce, Black and Boards

I haven’t updated for a specific reason. I’ll come to that soon enough. First of all, I’d like to thank MerseyPete, Jake and Bazza (View From The South) for their recent articles to keep the viewing stats healthy whilst I’ve been mulling over my own feelings regarding Bruce leaving and McLeish being appointed.

I wanted Eric Black to take over. There, I’ve said it.

The current poll on the right hand side states that just 1% of 193 voters wanted Black. If I further check the stats, it shows that just one other person was with me. Maybe it was someone else who couldn’t make it to the Portsmouth game? That seemed to kill off any chances he had. And it was such a sudden change to. Before the game, I knew of a few people who wanted to give Black a chance. But straight after the game, a 25,000 strong crowd seemed to bundle his chances up, bung them into a coffin and then rapidly nail it shut. Not so much the final nail as all nails at the same time, really.

When Monday came, I was completely underwhelmed when McLeish was appointed. I gloomily trudged to work knowing that McLeish had resigned his post with Scotland and was due to be unveiled at St Andrew’s at a press conference at 10:30 AM. Still, I saw a Birmingham Mail headline along the lines of “Black With Blues Job Chance” on the way there and hoped that McLeish was set to be unveiled at Derby County instead!

No such luck as far as I was concerned… 10:30 came and I sneaked a look on the web to see that McLeish had indeed been appointed manager of Birmingham City. I tried to get excited. I really did. I came home and watched all the interviews and read all the quotes from the press conference. I read the opinions of people I respect, people I don’t respect and people I don’t care for one way or the other and to a man, they were saying that it was a great appointment.

I feel for Eric Black. His only crime seemed to be that he took his job as ‘caretaker manager’ a bit too literally. It was almost as if Steve Bruce was away for the week and Black had been told to carry out his instructions to the letter. We were doomed from the off and people came in their 1,000’s to say that it wasn’t good enough. Although typically, I had to read a lot about the game afterwards since Tom Ross’s version and the version of everyone who was at the game seemed wildly different.

(And whilst I’m on the subject of radio commentaries, I like Gary Rowett but he doesn’t stand up to Ross and tell him that he’s talking monkey urine like Broadhurst used to. Whilst Broads used to get on my nerves a bit for rarely giving credit or rarely being positive, it feels as though Ross coerces Rowett into agreeing with everything he says and therefore, the opinions given to listeners is very much what Ross wants them to hear – not what actually happened.

Someone has suggested that I try listening to WM instead but they seem about as passionate as a 90 year old couple named Edna and Norris going for a naughty weekend in Brighton. Ergo, I’m stuffed when it comes to local radio commentary or coverage. At least some of the ‘internet warrior’ fans are able to go to games and provide invaluable details for us ‘exiles’.)

The instant accusation was that Black was Bruce Mk II. An accusation I find wholly unfair considering that he’d had well under a week to work with most of the squad, that he didn’t know whether he’d be in the job longer than the Portsmouth game, that he had injuries.

People say that he could’ve at least tried changing the formation or go slightly more attacking but it’s a stance I just don’t agree with. To implement your own ideas, you need time and a bit of stability. Black had neither of those things, not to mention that all week, all he must’ve heard about was who we were being linked with. For Black, it was very much a “We’ll have you if no-one else wants us” sort of deal and that sort of situation isn’t possible to work with.

Not to mention that some people would be blighted by the memory of Steve Bruce. A lot of fans can’t seem to separate the two and whilst Black played a Bruce type team on Saturday, there’s no evidence to suggest that he would’ve continued down such a path. Any mistake that Black made might’ve been highlighted by the anti-Bruce brigade and it would be like Bruce had never left.

I was underwhelmed by McLeish too. He had a good record in Scotland with Glasgow Rangers although from what I hear, by the end, they were far than complimentary about him. He also did ‘okay’ with Scotland after Walter Smith had laid down some great foundations. It’s even been said that Berti Vogts implemented some good ideas despite his disastrous record as far as results go. McLeish seemed to come in at the right time and took advantage of a good situation although there’s no denying that under his leadership Scotland had some fine, fine results.

But my mind drifts back to the night I was in a Scottish hotel on the banks of Loch Linnhe  tuned into BBC One Scotland watching as McLeish’s side were played off the park by Georgia. Not quite the heroic failure against Italy during the final group game that everyone seems to remember and talk about.

I decided that I’d at least be fair to the bloke and give him a chance. So he has until the full time whistle against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday to prove to me he’s good enough otherwise I’m fully ensconced in the “McLeish Out!” camp. After all, that’s all the time that many people were willing to give my particular favourite for the job so therefore, I’m going to get my own back!

I am, of course, just kidding. You must give any new manager a chance and now that McLeish is here, he’ll get my full backing – along with his two assistants. I’ve been reading and watching the press coverage with interest and he certainly talks a good game. A lot of people would’ve picked up on his quotes about playing football the right way and after so many luke-warm attacking, passing performances over the last six years, it’ll be something to look forward to.

However, my favourite quote from him appeared only today:

I don’t think anybody will tell the players that they should fear failure because then they can play with more freedom.

I’ve said it time and time again but Bruce seemed like a man paranoid by failure and what I’ve wanted to see from any Blues side is the willingness to really get out there and have a go like they don’t know failure exists. We’ve seen them put it in and we’ve seen them have a go but it’s always been in a sort of “Don’t lose what we’ve got” sort of a way. What I’d love to see is a Blues side who grab a game by the scruff of the neck and say “We’re going to take everything here.”

If you catch my drift?

McLeish and co have made all the right noises and there’s genuine optimism around the playing side of the club again. I mean, there’s a real feeling that we might at last get to see some decent football and if he can pull off a decent performance against Reading on the 15th in front of a big and noisy St Andrew’s crowd then things could really start to take a turn for the better.

A fresh impetus, new ideas and a different viewpoint on almost all things is very much welcomed and I’m more than willing to admit that McLeish’s breezing in probably was for the best. We already have a talented squad and with the right purchases in January, an escape away from the relegation trapdoor mightn’t be as difficult as it might once have been.

Inevitably, there’s been rumblings about transfers and how much he’ll get in January. If, like Bruce, he’s somewhat restricted then we’ll probably not move on much further but much will depend on the takeover. There’s been more about it today in the Birmingham Post although it really doesn’t add any weight to either scenario so basically, we’re still as unsure about who’ll be leading the club come Christmas as before.

And speaking of Bruce, I’m quickly realising that his interviews and general demeanour were actually becoming very irritating. Don’t get me wrong, I like the fella and I’m certainly not one of those who have jumped on the “Let’s slate Brucey and hope Wigan Athleitc go down!” bandwagon since he’s left… but his shelf life as Blues manager was over a long time ago and the injection of enthusiasm and excitement that Alex McLeish has brought has been very good for the club – in the short term, at least. The long term is, of course, impossible to know about just yet.

So after several days worth of mulling it over, I’ve joined everyone else on Planet Pleased. McLeish seems to want to play things the right way, we’ve got new impetus and there’s another day crossed off the calendar meaning that we’re 24 hours closer to knowing who will own the club come Christmas.

None of that can be bad, surely?

View From The South – By Eck, It’s All Change At St Andrew’s!

Good day intrepid readers! As many of the more regular visitors to the blog know, I usually comment about the latest match but this has been more than adequately covered already by Jake so other than to say that there was a sad inevitability about the result against Pompey I will leave it there. Kranjcar’s free kick though was a privilege to witness even if it was against us. One can argue all one likes about whether the wall was big enough or the failings of Richard Kingson on the day but it was a magnificent strike worthy of winning any game.

Moving on it looks as if we are about to have one of the most highly rated managers in the game at the moment join us. At the time of writing the lauded press conference is yet to happen and I therefore hope that I don’t end up with egg on my face and discover it’s not him after all but Billy Davis, O’Dreary, Graham Sourness or indeed any number of unemployed managers out there. The appointment of Alex McLeish is one that I am absolutely delighted about because I think he will bring a cold eyed, bloody minded determination to win attitude with him. He exhibited this as a player and a very fine one at that winning 77 caps for Scotland and moreover he has shown his credentials as a manager at club and international level. What he achieved with Scotland is truly phenomenal when you consider the players he had at his disposal. I mean no disrespect to the Scots when I say this; they have very good players but the Italians showed they lack that extra bit of quality when it comes to the crunch. Nevertheless they ran them very close and put up a far more creditable performance than England did in their shameful capitulation!

There is no doubt that the rapidity with which Steve Bruce has been replaced can only be good for Birmingham City Football Club. For the recent sorry saga to have continued would have been truly detrimental. A fresh start with a new coaching team which I understand will include McCleish’s team with Scotland of Roy Aitken and Andy Watson is another plus and will give a much needed boost to the players. One observer on the Telegraph web site this morning made the point that the much maligned Birmingham board made an astute move over all this. He contends that if they had wanted to keep Steve Bruce they would have fought tooth and nail to do so. It is indeed possible that SB could have been given the Grand Order of the Golden Wellie in the New Year anyway; especially if results had continued to go the way they have. This would have cost the club a big pay off. However, what have they actually done? Sold their manager for £3 million, bought in another for less than £1 million making a net profit of £2 million that can be added to the January pot? (At least that is what we all hope!)

In addition to all this it is looking increasingly likely that Carson Yeung’s takeover of the club is not likely to go ahead. In some ways I’m relieved despite my initial feelings that the extra injection of cash into the club may have pushed us on. However, if as we are led to believe, he is having problems raising the £35 million needed it suggests he is not prepared to commit any of his own money but merely that of lenders. This does not auger well does it? I’m happy to string along with the Golds, Sully and our Karren for a bit longer frankly. I think that deep down they have the best interests of the club at heart and you never know with a new management regime perhaps a more successful era will follow. ‘The King is dead; long live the King!’


Do You Want Alex McLeish?

It’s looking increasingly likely that we’ll be seeing current Scotland boss Alex McLeish unveiled as Blues boss within the next day or two. The question is, are you happy about that? There’s a new poll on the right hand side. Vote now.

The last poll saw just shy of 200 votes with the results looking like this:

I have no idea what happened to the other percent!

Again, it’s good to see people signing up and commenting on blog posts recently (And oh, if you’re looking at the right hand side and thinking “The poll doesn’t say anything about McLeish, Aff’s forgot to update it!” I haven’t. It might take some time to appear due to the caching system this blog uses – usually about ten minutes.)

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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.