Blues takeover vital for future
Many neutrals fancied Birmingham to take the momentum from last season's play-off bid and European campaign into this term, and put them amongst the favourites for promotion this time around. But under the new management of Lee Clark, the Blues are struggling to get up and running and look set for a long season. We caught up with blogger Daniel Ivery to find out what the early-season mood is like around St Andrew's.
After last season’s fourth-placed finish, a semi-final defeat in the play-offs, and a European adventure in the Europa League, what were expectations like amongst Birmingham fans before the season kicked off? Is promotion a must for City?
I think before the season started many of us thought promotion - either automatic or via the playoffs - had to be the aim. It's been a bit of a patchy start but with the players now seeming to settle down I think it's still something that is very achievable. With our parachute payment halving after this season from a financial perspective it's important that we get back into the big league ASAP.
How happy were you with the transfer business done during the summer, with the likes of Darren Ambrose, Hayden Mullins and Peter Lovenkrands joining permanently, and loans agreed for Paul Caddis and Ravel Morrison?
As someone who didn't really expect us to make any signings that involved us paying money, I was pleasantly surprised with our acquisitions. That being said, none of the permanent ones have gelled massively well into the team at present but (Leroy) Lita and Caddis on loan seem to be inspired - although of course now Caddis is out for a month.
I'm a bit disappointed we've not see more of Ravel but the fact is that he's a raw player - he will get chances I reckon but the rumours around him have already restarted.
Chris Hughton departed St Andrew’s to take over at Premier League Norwich, and he was replaced by former Huddersfield manager Lee Clark. How disappointed were than fans following Hughton’s departure? And what was the initial reaction to Lee Clark’s appointment?
I was a little miffed at Hughton - after all, Blues had picked him up off the scrapheap and had given him a chance. It had looked so good last year but I don't suppose that you can blame him for leaving for the stability of a three year deal when you've got the financial situation we currently have. It still rankles a little though.
Of the names of managers mentioned prior to us hiring Clark, the former Huddersfield boss was the one I wanted because of his youth and his perceived hunger. He's taken a little while to settle in but Blues are starting to make strides now and it's looking up.
We’ve had seven league games and City occupy 19th spot with eight points, while also being knocked out of the League Cup in round two. How is the feeling amongst City fans now towards Clark?
It's very mixed; unfortunately some people don't really take into account how long it takes for players to settle and the problems off the field and there have been a few that have called for Clark's head already after the Coventry game (in the League Cup, Birmingham lost after extra-time) - which was in fairness a shambolic defeat.
That being said, I think even the most sensible of us were concerned at the chopping and changing and I think it's only now we're picking up points that people are starting to relax a little. I think the fact Clark hasn't got any sacred cows and will drop any player who isn't performing has gone down well and hopefully the competition that has started for places will help fire us up a little bit.
How does Clark set his side’s up tactically? Is there a major difference between Clark’s style and that of Hughton last season?
There isn't a massive amount of difference; both go for a 4-4-2 with wide men doing the majority of attacking backed up by the full backs whilst the midfield tends to hold a little and protect the defence. Clark is more likely to change things with a sub if he thinks legs need freshening or someone isn't performing whilst Hughton was a bit more prepared to sit and wait and watch.
Who did you see as City’s key players last season?
Last season it was Chris Burke, Curtis Davies and Marlon King, and all three of whom are key for us again this season. Burke had the season of his life last year; umpteen goals, umpteen assists and the continual knack of being on form. This year he's not been so great but he's our sole experienced winger, one of our few creative outlets.
King scores goals - 18 last season, four already this year - and we don't have a goalscorer as clinical as him in the side. Davies is a leader at the back, a rock we can depend on although he's looked off it a bit this year. We need him back on form and back doing what he does best.
Despite the poor start, have there been any players in the squad that have been surprisingly good this season? Is there anyone who has been a major disappointment?
Suprisingly good? Pass.
Surprisingly Bad? Darren Ambrose. I was excited by us signing him - a genuine attacking and creative midfielder but he has been awful this season. No desire, no passion and gives the ball away time and time again. Bearing in mind we spent money on him (something we've not done a lot of recently), it's been an exceptionally poor return on investment.
Nathan Redmond was tipped for big things after making a positive impression last season, but he remained at St Andrew’s over the summer despite the lure of the Premier League. Is he still improving as a player? How good could he be?
The thing to remember with Redmond is he still is only 18. He's still a raw player - he's not quite got it all yet and he's not played many good games away from home. He could be an excellent player but he still needs games at our level to improve his footballing education, I don't think sitting on the bench or playing for the under 21s for some big shot team would do him any favours at all and I think Redmond is sensible enough to know this.
There has been a lot of talk in the press about a potential Birmingham takeover, with Gianni Paladini one of the names linked with the club. How vital is a takeover for the club’s future?
Our current owners cannot continue as they have been - there is the very real chance Carson Yeung could be sent down in the New Year and with that he will fail the fit and proper persons test, meaning a change of owners must happen.
In my personal opinion, Paladini isn't the answer either - we need an owner who is prepared to sit out the rough stuff and maybe one who will introduce some stability and build the infrastructure at the club further. Without that - it's going to be interesting, that's for sure.
After the poor start to the campaign, where do you imagine City will finish this season? Can they pick up the pieces and make 2012/13 a successful season?
After Saturday's performance [a 5-0 home loss to Barnsley], I don't actually know where. We're almost a schizophrenic team at times - against Bolton we showed heart, passion and desire but against Barnsley we looked like lost, bewildered little boys.
A lot will come down to how much more we get affected by injuries; we've got two right backs on the sidelines for months, injuries to our first choice left back and one of the three central defenders we have; if we lost a couple of key players in the middle we'd be up the creek sans paddle.
Daniel Ivery is the founder and writer of the excellent Birmingham City blog Often Partisan, covering everything from player reports to the complicated ownership issues at St Andrew's. He can also be found talking all things Blues on Twitter @often_partisan.
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