Often Partisan

To Start, Or Not To Start

For the second season in a row, Alex McLeish has opted not to start with his marquee signing striker in the first eleven, but to leave him on the bench. Whilst I believe Chucho truly wasn’t totally fit when we went to Old Trafford last season, many people are mystified as to why Zigic didn’t take the field at the start of play at the Stadium of Light.

It’s led to the inevitable criticism of McLeish which has dogged him over the last couple of seasons – why does he insist on leaving these players on the bench – with Michel, Chucho, and Mauro Zarate amongst some of the other examples given. What hasn’t helped is often these games are ones we’ve lost; or looked uncreative and guileless – and the perceived flair that the players left out would have brought to the team might have changed the situation.

I must admit, I’ve been frustrated with McLeish at times, but I do think he knows what he is doing. There is a definite aim I think from McLeish and his coaching staff to make us into a solid, dependable unit. Whilst it’s true that sometimes you need moments of magic from flair players to win games, I think the fear has been from McLeish that he doesn’t want to have to carry the players for the rest of the game in the hope that they’ll turn it on and win it for us. In Zigic’s case, I think there was a definite reasoning behind the decision – Garry o’Connor had played very well in pre-season and the idea of using GoC as a battering ram, tiring out the opposition defence before bringing in Zigic to use his superior skill against tired legs isn’t really a bad one; what didn’t help was that we’d conceded twice and was now chasing the game.

I think it’s 50/50 that Zigic will start at home against Blackburn. Looking at the Blackburn defence, you’ve got some hefty units in the shape of Christopher Samba and Ryan Nelsen, and whoever plays has got to be capable of taking some real heat from these no-nonsense mountains of centre backs. When we played them at home last year, we ripped them apart with the pace and guile of Chucho allied to the strength of Jerome, so it would make sense to me that we attack them in a similar fashion. Zigic is easily the best footballer of our front-men, and I think it comes down if McLeish trusts that he’ll be able to deal with the rough stuff whether he plays or not. I think Jerome will partner him, and our other new striker Matt Derbyshire will be on the bench, hoping for a cameo to come on and score past his old team.

I can understand why people get frustrated with McLeish – he is very safety first and I think sometimes is more eager not to lose than to ensure we win. To his doubters I’d point to the fact that we finished in our highest league position in my lifetime last year, so he must have some idea about what he is doing; we have to trust in him to continue to make the right decisions and get behind the team.

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5 Responses to “To Start, Or Not To Start”

  • Aff says:

    100% trust McLeish although I was like you when I saw that he wasn’t starting against Sunderland. Thought he looked bright and very promising in China and was mystified when O’Connor – who, to be fair, also did well in China – started in front of him. Jerome seems to be the automatic choice as he had a good year last year and brings something different to the side. Maybe the signing of N’Zog will also free up McLeish to leave Jerome on the bench from time to time if he feels the opposition merit such a decision?

    McLeish has also said in the Mail that he didn’t have much time to work with Ziggy during the week due to the internationals but will do plenty of work on the training pitches this week so I think he’ll be starting against Blackburn alongside Jerome with both GO’C and MD on the bench.

    Sign N’Zog and I’ll be reasonably happy with the squad. Another defender – plus Clyne – wouldn’t go amiss but I wouldn’t be crying if those deals didn’t happen. Carr worries me a bit this year – not based on the Sunderland game alone. In fact, a few of our players do. Bowyer also. But we have cover for him. If Carr gets injured or badly loses form, can you trust Stuart Parnaby to be fit? :-)

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  • gavin says:

    Are Blues really signing Matt Derbyshire ? Chuffed to bits if true.

    • almajir says:

      Signed, on loan

      • gavin says:

        cheers been in London for a few days and not kept up with stuff, still on train back. Derbyshire is good enough to be ignored by England because he plays for Birmingham,like Hart was last year and Johnson. I really rate him.


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