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Keep the Faith?
Saturday will see Birmingham City return to league action in the Championship against Lee Clark’s former charges Huddersfield Town. After an injury crisis which necessitated 17-year-old Reece Hales making his debut against Leeds, Blues’ selection crisis looks to ease with the return of players from suspension and injury. However, by many accounts Blues played well at Elland Road and the question has to be asked – does Clark keep the faith with his young charges?
As I wasn’t at Elland Road to see the game I can’t comment first-hand on player performances and I am reliant on the reports of others from the game. That being said, there does seem some consensus that Blues played very well with Ravel Morrison and Nathan Redmond linking up well up front and Chris Burke returning to his imperious best on the right. Morgaro Gomis and Callum Reilly have also received plaudits for their roles in the engine room of the Blues side, and the question has to be asked – should Clark change things to bring in some of his returning big-hitters?
I think the big question is going to be in the middle – not just bringing back players like Hayden Mullins but also looking at moving back players who have filled in up front like Morrison because of the return of Nikola Zigic and possibly Marlon King and Peter Lovenkrands. Blues have struggled at times in the middle of the park this season, with quite a few games seeing the midfield just over-ran and failing to put their mark on the game. I know that there a lot of critics of Hayden Mullins but I am of the personal belief he isn’t quite as bad as people have made out and that prior to his injury he was contributing to Blues when they were on top.
However, if reports are to be believed that Reilly and Gomis had such good games I don’t think either player can be dropped. I can see that Reilly has limitations – he’s still only 19 and he’s just making his way in the professional ranks but I also think he brings a lot of energy to the side and that energy is something we have lacked. Similarly, from what I have seen of Gomis since his recall to the first eleven he has looked like a decent enough Championship player. He might not have the physical presence of a Diop for example, but he does like to hold onto possession and to try to use the ball in a way it gets spread around. Blues have had issues with not being able to hold onto the ball and that ability to retain the ball is important if we are to do better.
Up front Blues have lacked a physical presence as such but again, the reports were that Morrison and Redmond looked much more threatening at Elland Road. Marlon King’s injury is the kind that needed rest and I don’t have a problem with leaving him on the bench if he is fit to use as an impact player, a plan “b” as you will and to ensure his return from his knee injury is a gradual one. I think Zigic might get the nod to play as a lone man up front with players like Elliott, Burke, Redmond or Hall playing off him, picking up the scraps and feeding off the big man’s flicks and touches.
The only place where Blues will definitely have to make a change is right-back after Will Packwood’s horrific injury. If Caddis doesn’t make it back in time for the Terriers game I’d honestly think about putting someone there like Mullins or Spector (if either are fit) to try to ensure that we have someone in the position with a right foot. I think the option of playing Paul Robinson at right-back should truly be the last resort – as much as I think the former Bolton and WBA man has done well for us I do worry when he plays on what is his wrong side.
It’s going to be interesting to see which way Clark goes; there is no doubt he was impressed with the Leeds performance as he praised every player and I can imagine he’s thinking of keeping with the same team to reward the good play. However, I can also see Blues fans being disappointed if he does that and names two or three strikers on the bench. It’s a tough call.