Often Partisan

Happy Clappers

The mood of Birmingham City fans on the internet right now is bleak; after a pretty shocking performance against local rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers, once again Blues fans are looking at the Premiership trapdoor with trepidation thinking “are we going to go down again?” There has been much criticism for many players in the team, and I don’t believe one new signing (barring Ben Foster) has been seen to be a good purchase by Alex McLeish by some. People are concerned that new players won’t want to come to the club in the window as we’re not seen as an attractive proposition to sign for. In short, I wouldn’t be surprised if prescriptions for valium haven’t gone up in the blue half of the city.

I won’t deny that I try to be positive. Some people might term me a happy-clapper, and say that I’m accepting mediocrity at St Andrews. It’s not that I don’t want to criticise; it’s more that I can see reasons for being positive and I don’t believe things are quite as bad as people are making out. Sure, the performance on Sunday was dreadful, but I do think this was an exception to the norm and should be treated as such.

Whilst we’re currently sixteenth, two points off the bottom three, we’re also four points off eighth place. The league has been extraordinarily tight this year, as teams have been taking points off each other, and no one has done “a Derby” and found themselves rooted to the foot of the table with a tiny tally of points. A couple of wins and we’re back into the reaches of the upper mid-table, and things won’t seem so bad. Throw into the equation that only two teams in the bottom half of the table (Stoke and Everton) have better goal differences than us, and things don’t seem quite as bad.

I have to admit, I really don’t understand the criticism of some players. Nikola Zigic wasn’t picked at the start of the season as McLeish said he needed to toughen up, and get used to the physical demands of the Premier League. Now he’s in the team, and whilst he’s had some good performances, he has looked a bit lightweight at times, and sometimes he’s not quite looked up to the pace of things. Is it possible that when McLeish said Zigic needed toughening up, this is what he was referring to? I think some fans need a reality check; for six million pounds these days you are not going to get someone who is going to come in and instantly score goals. What we have got is someone who is undoubtedly talented – the cameo against Spurs proved that – but needs a bit of time to get used to the Premier League, and used to us. We also need to play to Zigic’s strengths, and not just fire balls at his head hoping he’ll flick them on into magically brilliant positions for Jerome or similar to bury.

Jean Beausejour has found it difficult to get into the team – but again, he’s steadily improved game by game he’s been involved in. Like many South Americans, he’s gonna take time to adapt to the game here – but again, I think I can see it in him. The one chance Jerome had against Wolves was made by a very good whipped cross from Beausejour – the kind of cross I love to see testing defences. The way Keith Fahey played against Wolves surely has to equal him being dropped for the visit of Newcastle; hopefully that will allow Beausejour another start to show us what he can do.

Yes, we’re around the bottom of the table. Birmingham isn’t as attractive as London to live in, and we’re seen as an unfashionable club. However, we’re potentially 180 minutes away from a major cup final, and potentially 270 minutes away from being in European competition next season. The club is stable, having only had four managers in seventeen years. We’ve got owners who are enthusiastic, and seem to be wanting to back the team financially. It’s true that our players seem to be overlooked for international duty, but I think most footballers if they looked at us would at least see a stepping stone to greater things. People keep saying that we’re an unattractive proposition to players, but I don’t believe it has to be that way. If, and it’s a big if, McLeish is backed fully in the next window, I believe we could make the signings to make our season.

One thing is certain for me. As fans, our job is to get behind the team at the ground, and to intimidate the opposition. Too often this season, the fans haven’t been in good voice; indeed, the ironic cheering of Zigic earlier in the season was moronic and can’t have helped the situation. Maybe if fans tried to be a bit more positive in the ground, results on the pitch would improve.

Talking Points sponsored by John Hicken Industrial roofing and cladding materials

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