By Far The Greatest Team

The football blog for fans of all clubs

As We Journey On #1

Before I get into the blog itself, I want you to know a bit of background on me, both related to Birmingham and to football in general. I was born in Birmingham and lived in Birmingham for eighteen months before moving to South Derbyshire due to family reasons, however, I was always brought up in a Brummie way. I’m nineteen so I won’t say I have supported Blues for nineteen years, more or less about fifteen years and I don’t really know why I became a Blues supporter. We never won anything major, we were never a dead cert for Premier League survival. I think the only thing that attracted me to them is my family. My family are basically split 50/50, Villa or Blues fans, my mum and my dad are both Villa fans and I turned out to be a Blues fan. Yes, I know, I don’t know how either. I’ve supported them through the bad, meaning 90% of the time, and through the good. I have supported them with a lot of passion and this will be a reoccurring theme within my weekly pieces, I won’t be a typical writer in the fact that I won’t sit on the fence about things, whether it’s good or bad, and that is just the type of football fan I am.

Rowett’s Revenge (again…): 

Last Saturday Blues played second placed, high flying Derby County at St. Andrews. This game wasn’t a normal Championship game, this had some meaning to it as former boss and, in some eyes, Blues legend Gary Rowett returned. Now, personally, I have mixed feelings over Rowett. What he did for our club was incredible and he had a perfect connection to the fans, you could genuinely feel he wanted to do well by us rather than himself. However, when he was controversially sacked back in December 2016, a lot of stories came out about Rowett’s behind the scenes behavior. Many national newspapers printed stories saying that Rowett was speaking to clubs behind the clubs back and was really thinking about jumping ship. He was apparently offered a new big deal by our, then new owners and he apparently turned it down as he wanted to see what other clubs would offer for his services. Our board took it upon themselves to feel hurt by this decision and thought that because Rowett wasn’t 100% committed to the club, then it would be better off we got a manager in, before the January transfer window, who would be 100% committed to the club and the future of the club, and so in December 2016 we sacked Gary Rowett, news that truly shocked the English footballing world. Whether these stories surrounding Rowett were true or not, we may never know, however, he hasn’t helped his case recently after he was flirting with Stoke over their opening just to get a bumper new deal at Derby, and that he did. In my honest opinion, I can say Gary Rowett is a fantastic manager and will be a big-name manager in the future, especially in England, however, I don’t always believe what comes out of his mouth and that, unfortunately, has tainted his legacy at Birmingham. But what I would give for him to come back!

Anyway, this always had the feeling of a good game. Blues always seem to get a few more fans in the stadium for the visit of Derby, and Derby always come in numbers. Derby are playing superbly under Rowett and before the game sat 2nd in the league. Blues had hit some form in 2018, not losing a game and keeping a clean sheet in both the games they had played. Blues fans went into this game with some optimism for a good result, and Blues fans definitely aren’t used to going into games with optimism! Blues named an unchanged side for the fourth game running, trying to keep up their momentum and really push further up the league. Well, this momentum completely stopped.

Usually, Birmingham would go out and be happy to sit back, soak up the pressure and then hit teams on the counter-attack. However, this wasn’t the game plan against Derby. We went out from kick-off and really tried to play football for once. It nearly paid off as well as in the fourth minute, Jonathan Grounds rattled the post, almost the perfect start. Moments later, Jeremie Boga ran down the right wing and delivered a perfect pull back to Sam Gallagher in the box, but instead of hitting it first time, the in-form striker took a horrendous first touch and the chance went begging. Then disaster struck, in the nineteenth minute Johnny Russell ran down their right wing and went to either cross the ball or try to put the ball in at the back post, it took a deflection and wrongfooted David Stockdale. 1-0. Back to normality for Blues fans.

However, Blues came straight back at Derby and once again, Boga with a brilliant run at the Derby defence, teed up Gardner from twenty-five yards out. Gardner caught the shot with some venom and it forced in-form Derby Goalkeeper Scott Carson into a fantastic save. Derby was relying on their dangerous counter-attacks though and Vydra smashed the bar just before the break. Half-time, 1-0 down, we could still pull something off as we were playing well.

The second half started and Blues couldn’t find the rhythm they had in the first half and conceded again ten minutes into the second half. Vydra this time with a fantastic shot when he was one-on-one with the helpless Stockdale. 2-0, game over. Derby continued the pressure for most of the second half, however, a glorious chance fell to Jonathan Grounds once again just inside eighty minutes and once again he could only find the woodwork with his header from close range. Definitely game over.

Derby managed to get a third late on through another counter-attack. David Nugent ran at his marker, cut inside and laid it off to ex-villain Weimann who tapped it in, 3-0. Back to reality for Blues as they fell to their 16th loss of the campaign. Thanks to results elsewhere we didn’t lose any ground on teams above us and we sat 23rd just like before the game, Derby stayed 2nd and cut the gap between them and Wolves to 10 points.

This result felt hard to take as Derby probably deserved to win but 3-0 was definitely a flattering scoreline. Blues really need to pick their act up if they want to be playing Championship football next year.

Reports came out after the game that Steve Cotterill had a very heated argument with a fan behind the dugout and he apparently told the fan to ‘f*** off’, tried to get him taken out by security and he then had to be held back by a member of his backroom staff as he went for the fan. Whether these reports are 100% true I don’t know, however, I have seen pictures of the incident and it doesn’t paint a good picture for Steve.

Transfer News:  

If you’ve come to this blog to read about the mad transfer window Blues are going to have then I’ll break it to you now. This transfer window will be pretty boring for us bluenoses. After spending a ton of money in the past two windows, Blues, according to Cotterill himself, have to be careful with FFP. However, this doesn’t mean that there won’t be any incomings. We have already been linked with a number of players. One of them being former Blues striker Cameron Jerome, however, he has just joined Derby for around £1.5 million. Another player we have been linked with is Fleetwood Town striker Devante Cole. Cole is out of contract in the summer and has been scoring a fair few goals in League 1 for his team. Apparently, he would be available for around £750k, which is obviously cheap, however, I feel he isn’t quite the striker we need right now. We are really struggling for goals this season and with this, in mind, I feel we need an experienced Championship striker who knows how to find the goal. Yes, I know that’s what every other club wants!

Now onto outgoings. Blues fans already know there will be many outgoings in this transfer window and possibly a few in the summer, depending on which league we will be playing in. Just before January, Blues released veteran winger David Cotterill. Then on January 8, just under a year since he joined, Blues sold right back Emilio Nsue. When the news first broke, I was extremely happy, he never played that well for us and we have a good young right back in Josh Dacres-Cogley coming through the ranks. I was quite harsh on Twitter to Nsue and I didn’t feel too bad and then I go onto Instagram. Nsue had uploaded a massive goodbye letter to bluenoses and it was one of the most emotional goodbyes I have read, he even apologised for his performances over the past year and that he wished it had of gone better. Please come back Emilio, we’ll give you a second chance.

Other outgoings that could happen are Jason Lowe, who joined on a free in the summer and has only featured a limited amount due to injury or just generally not getting into the squad, even though he impressed in the few games he has played. Another player who is linked with an exit is defensive midfielder, Stephen Gleeson. A few others could depart within the transfer window that wouldn’t surprise Blues fans too much.

One last thing to do with current players and that’s the fantastic news that Blues midfielder and one of our best players Maikel Kieftenbeld has signed a new two-year contract with the club, with his old one running out in the summer. This is fantastic news for us bluenoses as we absolutely love Maikel and were almost in tears when he was set to sign for Derby, in the summer, for a tiny, tiny sum, thankfully he signed the wrong side of the papers and the deal fell through. What a crazy time for the guy and the fans.

Just as I am about to send this off, Blues have just announced that long-serving left-back Jonathan Grounds has signed a new contract that will keep him at Blues until 2020. I love this news as Grounds has been fantastic servant over the years for us, he always gives everything for the club and that’s all us Blues fans really demand from our players.

One last bit of news that has recently surfaced is that there has been a boardroom bust-up between our head of transfers Darren Dein, absolute prat, and Chief Executive Xuandong Ren. Apparently, Dein hasn’t been showing up to games so he can identify which areas of the team need improving, Ren has become annoyed at this and recently refused to attend a board meeting after Saturday’s loss to Derby. This isn’t the news that us bluenoses wanted to hear. We have known now for a while that there is something toxic behind the scenes at the club, and now this news has confirmed our suspicions. Hopefully, this is just paper talk, but if it’s true, many bluenoses will be hoping to see the back of Darren Dein as he isn’t a popular figure anyway. However, the reports are suggesting that the Blues board are more likely to sack both Ren and current manager Steve Cotterill just to keep Dein at the club. This is astonishing and, to be honest, I still haven’t fully wrapped my head around this. Hopefully, more news comes out in the next week and we have a better understanding of what has actually taken place.

Previewing Preston Away: 

Saturday holds an away trip for bluenoses to Preston. Preston are currently sitting 10th in the Championship, after a hit in form since their great start. They are currently only two points off of the playoffs and if a number of results go right and they beat Blues on Saturday they could move into 6th place.

Blues’ away record is abysmal and I can’t see it improving with this game either. Blues have this tendency of having a few cracking performances, really getting our hopes up that this is where our season turns around, then go and settle back into bad habits. We need to improve our chance conversion. We are getting into decent positions and working the ball around well at times but it always seems to get to the final third and the players lose all knowledge of the game. A two or three nil win would be brilliant for the team and the fans, getting a few goals under our belts, proving we aren’t going to slump into our usual routine and giving us hope that we can still fight for our Championship status. Despite how bad our season has gone we are still only two points from safety, only four points from 19th place. Three points on Saturday and results going our way would be perfect, we would be out of the relegation zone and have a two-point lead over 3rd from bottom.

However, in my opinion, and I hope I’m wrong, we won’t win on Saturday and we will fall to our seventeenth loss of the season. I think it will be 2-1 Preston, I think we will give a decent performance but unfortunately fall short on Saturday. Hopefully, I am wrong and I usually am, I am a guy who has never achieved more than two correct scores on Super 6 so do not take any predictions I make seriously. Also, please do not take any transfer news I report on to be solid truths, I will simply round up any links I have seen in all media and any official news.

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