- Birmingham City
- Current Squad
- Development Squad
- Out on Loan
- Former Players
- The Board
- Chinese Connections
- Appearance Data
- Website Information
- Media Mentions
- Contact Me
Clark – the first 10 games
With ten league matches now gone in the Championship season I thought it was worth a look at what Lee Clark has achieved; where he’s got it right and I guess more importantly where he’s got it wrong.
It’s been the proverbial baptism of fire for the Geordie. It was never going to be easy for him as he was following one of the most charismatic managers of Blues in recent times in Chris Hughton and one of the most enjoyable seasons Blues have had in a fair while. Not only that, but Clark has had to do it with arguably fewer resources, a worsening ownership situation and without the glorious distraction of a European campaign keeping people happy.
As a manager when there is only limited amounts of money and wages to be spent on players it’s almost imperative to make what transfers you are able to complete count. Whilst I accept Blues are scratching around the bargain bins somewhat for players I think one of the most damning indictments of Clark is that of his four permanent signings (Darren Ambrose, Peter Lovenkrands, Hayden Mullins and David Lucas) none of them are fixtures in his strongest eleven currently. Whilst Lucas was never meant to be more than a third choice keeper I think it speaks volumes of how poorly Clark has done that Mullins and Ambrose are both seen by Blues fans currently as extremely poor signings; something that is especially disappointing as I had high hopes for Darren Ambrose.
I think another problem is that of the signings that Clark has made, too many were in positions where maybe we didn’t need to sign players. Blues have been short-handed defensively all season and have had to plug gaps with stop-gap signings like Paul Robinson and loans (James Hurst, Paul Caddis and Ben Gordon) which for various reasons haven’t worked out – although I will give Clark that Caddis looked a decent player. Then there is the enigmatic Ravel Morrison who has played two games and disappeared to the consternation of a large section of the fanbase. Whilst there has been a gamut of rumours about Ravel – including one started on twitter about a pond at Lee Clark’s house (which doesn’t have a pond, a swimming pool or any other water feature) – you have to wonder if it’s something as simple as him not impressing in training; his talent not showing up.
Another accusation levelled at Clark is that he isn’t settled on a formation and gameplan. Hughton had a fairly well-drilled 4-4-2 that he played at home and a 4-2-3-1 that seemed to work okay away from home; Clark has switched things about a bit but I don’t think he knows what his best first eleven are. Whilst the Tilton screamed for a switch to 442 on Saturday I don’t think it was a simple as sticking another man up top; there was no plan for how the midfield was going to work and at times the team seemed to be passing the ball like it was a hot potato, actively trying to get rid of it as quickly as they could. It’s almost like watching a teenager playing football manager – stick eleven players into a formation and hope that they can gel enough to make it work.
There have been games where we’ve looked okay – the Bolton home win we played well in some spells and I thoroughly enjoyed the game. However Blues don’t seem to be able to deal with teams that press up against them and I wonder if Clark has realised that Blues have succeeded more in the past by playing a similar game. If the midfield aren’t going to get stuck in, aren’t going to drive forwards with the ball they’re not going to create anything. Jonathan Spector did it once in the first half against Huddersfield and Blues almost scored as Nathan Redmond cracked the inside of the post. If Clark is to win the fans over he needs to form a plan and stick to it – not panic if the team goes behind and ensure that the team knows their roles. Even if it’s simple – hassle for the ball, get it wide and cross it in – it’s a plan.
Lee Clark has been a sea change from the way Chris Hughton (and in fairness his predecessor Alex McLeish) dealt with the media. Hughton was very media-savvy and played everything with the flattest of flat bats which whilst it made it difficult for journos to “twhirl” his quotes meant that he didn’t get himself into bother either. The knack Hughton had of repeating the question prior to answering it meant that he clarified what he thought was being asked and was almost politician-like in the way it kept things on the straight and narrow. Similarly, McLeish was very good with the media, keeping things respectful and low-key and displaying a demeanour that kept trouble in-house.
Contrast that to Clark – who’s already talked about being afraid to leave the house, blamed his players for playing crap amongst other things and there is a huge difference. Whilst I can understand why he might let rip in a post-match presser because he was angry at the level of performance – there are players who seem to be not trying as hard as they can – I’m a believer that the manager should keep a lid on it in public and then give them the hairdryer treatment in private. You don’t give your staff a bollocking in front of others in the world of business and I don’t think football is any different in that respect. It’s one thing to wear your heart on your sleeve but there are only so many times you can offer apologies and talk about lack of luck with refs/injuries/etc before the fans get sick of it – just ask Trevor Francis or Steve Bruce.
Promotion of Youth
If there is one positive in Clark’s reign so far, for me it’s that he has had the cojones to trust his younger players to come into the team. We’ve seen in the past so often managers preferring an out of position player to a youngster but Clark hasn’t been like that. Will Packwood has come into the team and done alright; Nathan Redmond has featured in every league game so far and has made three of his eight league starts in the ten games Clark has been in charge and on Saturday Mitch Hancox came on for his debut – and of course Jack Butland has become a first team regular under Clark. I don’t think Hughton would have brought Hancox on (I don’t think he’d have had him on the bench); I’m certain he wouldn’t have played Packwood either – and I’m of the belief that if the financial constraints Blues are currently operating under continue for any length of time it’s going to be imperative that we utilise our younger players to keep any further incoming transfer costs down.
If this was a school report, right now I think I’d hand Clark a D with “must try harder” written in red pen. He’s got an almighty task on his shoulders now to turn it round and it’s in crisis the men get sorted from the boys in managerial terms. I hope for his sake he succeeds, because right now I believe we’re stuck with him.
Tags: Lee Clark