I found myself asking a familiar question again this week, “Where do I start?”. There has been a lot of drama since my piece last week. We have played two games, one being the last for Cotterill and the other being the first for Monk. One thing I am looking forward to in the future is not having to type Cotterill’s name as often as I was. So, to the question I just asked, the answer is the same as last week’s. I will start off with a similar thing and go straight into two game reviews. Then I will move onto the managerial situation and then move onto the preview of Saturday’s game against Cardiff.
Just before I start, I want to thank the lads at the Tilton Talk show for having me on again. It was quite a funny episode as the Staffordshire mob (Villa fans) decided to infiltrate the live chat. There was a lot to talk about and it was fully entertaining and I got the chance to speak to Birmingham Mail’s own Brian Dick, so it was truly amazing. Once again, thanks to the lads for having me back on and considering me a friend of the show!
Well, I must admit, going into the game it was a dead certain defeat with no excitement around it, but then the news struck on Friday afternoon, just after my piece went out which is typical. The news was to say that no matter the result against Forest, the game would be Cotterill’s last and Garry Monk would be in charge by Monday. This was fantastic news, but I took it with a pinch of salt because why would they leave Cotterill in charge for the Forest game, anyway I didn’t care, we could win the game and see the back of Cotterill, what more could you want?
Cotterill went with a similar lineup to the team that lost to Barnsley and not many were shocked. Blues fans were going into the game with hope, not for a good result but for the near future. If the rumours were true, then we would have a good, young and experienced manager in Monk in charge and he could rebuild the team to what he wants.
The game wasn’t that entertaining, to be perfectly honest and we went 1-0 down within the opening six minutes. Another mistake by Stockdale after Lolley had struck a low shot from twenty-five yards. The rest of the first half was pretty boring, both teams had their half chances but nothing really stuck out. We were enjoying the better of the possession and were playing half decent football.
The first half ended and we found ourselves 1-0 down. It was a position we could get ourselves back from so we definitely weren’t out of it yet.
The second half started and Blues went straight on the attack and continued to take the game to Forest. However, because of this, there was space for Forest to counter-attack, which they did. However, Stockdale produced one of the saves of the season when he, somehow, managed to tip Cash’s thunderous shot onto the crossbar.
This motivated Blues even more and they continued to attack, however they never created much and lacked that killer instinct and finishing touch. We were then caught on the counter-attack, with Cash this time, making sure the ball hit the back of the net. 2-0 and that was game over. I was expecting Blues heads t go down, but to be fair to them, they didn’t and we scored our first goal in God knows how many games, when Michael Morrison hammered a header home from a corner.
There were four minutes added on and Blues nearly got a leveler, courtesy of Forest’ Ben Watson. Somehow his header, towards his own net, managed to find his keeper’s arms. That just summed up Cotterill’s reign and the game finished with Forest taking the three points with a 2-1 win.
There were rumours around an hour after the game that Cotterill had been sacked. Others were saying he was on the way back to the training ground to speak with the owners about a deal to terminate his contract. Usually, with Blues, this is done straight away but we had to wait until late Saturday night and I was jumping with joy when I saw the tweet.
It’s safe to say Cotterill won’t be returning to Birmingham City Centre anytime soon.
The new era started on Tuesday, Garry Monk’s first game in charge was against his former club Middlesbrough and it was on his 39th birthday, everything was with us, surely, we couldn’t lose.
There was a buzz around St. Andrews again and there was a buzz in each and every fan. We were actually heading into a game hopeful of a win, which we hadn’t experienced in months. We were eager to see Monk’s team, formation and style of play and we weren’t disappointed.
Monk put the pairing back together with Adams and Jukey up top. Jota was back in the starting eleven and we were playing 4-4-2 which is what I have wanted for months, I hate one upfront, I just feel it leaves your striker too isolated. In my opinion, Monk made the best start just with the team choice.
The game started and Blues were a little nervy, which was to be expected. Monk had come in with a new way of playing and only had one training session to put it over to the players. After surviving the first ten minutes, Blues came to life. We were playing football, we could pass the ball, players understood where everyone was running to and where they would be positioned, it was fantastic.
I said on the Tilton Talk show that Jota will come good under Monk, he’s a manager that wanted him before, he will have a close relationship to Pep Clotet and he plays a similar style to Brentford and I was right once again. He gave Jota the freedom to roam anywhere he wanted to and it worked perfectly, Jota had his confidence back and Middlesbrough were running scared.
We went close a few times in the first half, however, we went 1-0 down to a controversial goal. Patrick Bamford found himself free at the back post and he slotted home, however, he looked a good yard or two offside. It wasn’t given and the goal stood. Where’s VAR when you need it?
The second half started and Blues dominated the game. We were playing lovely attacking football and it was ten times better than at the weekend. Monk had turned this team into a good side in one day, imagine what he can do when he has had two or three weeks with them!
The second half wasn’t too good. Blues had a few good chances and Gallagher came on as a sub, this must have hurt him a little as he looked pumped for the game and instantly made a chance for himself, however, it was well saved.
Unfortunately, we just couldn’t find a proper way through a well-structured, typical Tony Pulis side and in the end, the game finished 1-0 to Boro. It wasn’t the ending to his Birthday that Monk wanted but he must have been proud of his side as they showed what quality they possess after just one training session.
Monk In, Cotterill Out…
This next bit is just my straight opinion about the whole managerial movement, Cotterill’s reign and what Monk can bring. Hopefully, you all agree with me but if you don’t, that’s even better because I love proving people wrong.
Cotterill’s reign can only be described as a reign of hell. He never made that all-important connection with the fans, that was what ultimately cost him his job. I think I would be sitting here today describing how we lost to Boro with Steve in charge. The thing that cost him his job wasn’t his poor decisions or his arrogance, it was his comments about the fans after the Barnsley game. You cannot, no matter what the situation, go out and blame the fans for the performances on the pitch. When you lose the fans, you lose your job.
Cotterill will go down as the worst Blues manager in recent times. Clark and Zola were better than him and it’s easy to argue for it as well. Zola had a pan and he was a likeable man. He knew what he wanted to do with the team, he just wasn’t willing to compromise for the twenty odd games he was in charge of. He was trying to play pretty football with a team that knew how to defend, it was never going to work but, in the end, he acknowledged his mistakes and resigned.
Clark was better in terms, that he actually cared and his team also cared, they always went out with passion and tried their best. Cotterill didn’t know what he was doing with the team, he was trying to fit square pegs in round holes and then never blamed himself for doing so. He never came across as a confident bloke, he always seemed very reserved in his press conferences and you could tell that he wasn’t the type of guy who would inspire you, just look at the team’s commitment levels on the pitch for evidence.
Anyway, he’s gone now and the quicker we forget about him, the quicker we can grow with Monk. It is still unclear if Monk will stay on if we end up going down to League 1. He is unwilling to comment on next season, which I don’t blame him for doing. He did sign a three-year contract so he must be willing to, if it feels right. I said this when he was first announced if we do end up going down, we are the best club in the lower half of the Championship, to re-build and build something that you want to build. We aren’t in debt like Sunderland, we have the fanbase, which the likes of Barnsley and Burton don’t have and we have owners who are willing to throw money at us, it’s a perfect match. Pep Clotet and James Beattie are brilliant additions to the backroom staff and they will do wonders on that training ground pitch with the players.
It’s safe to say I am looking forward to our future with Monk, we have already seen he likes playing positive, attacking football but can solidify our defence at the same time. He almost feels like a hybrid of Rowett’s defensive football and what Zola was trying to do, in terms of the attacking side of things.
Saturday sees us bluenoses making the long trip over to Wales, specifically the capital Cardiff for our game against Cardiff City. Cardiff sits 2nd in the league and have surprised the majority of fans in how they are currently sitting so high up. They have, somehow, closed the gap on Wolves to six points and they still have to play them. Imagine if Wolves actually choke the title, Jake, our in-house Wolves fan, would never hear the end of it from me. We could actually allow Cardiff to go 1st. If we lose this game and Wolves lose at the weekend against Villa, the lead goes to three points, Cardiff then goes and beat Wolves to draw level on points with them and then, we beat Wolves with three games to go and Cardiff go three points clear at the top.
Anyway, enough of them and this will be the real test for Monk’s new attacking team. I am counting this as Monk’s proper first game in charge. We will see what a full week of training will bring to the side and I am hoping we pick up the three points. I think it will be a closely fought tie with the game ending in a 1-1 draw, which I would take before kick-off.
That’s where I am leaving it today, hopefully, you have enjoyed this week’s piece and here’s to a fantastic new era under Garry Monk and Co.