Often Partisan

Back in the Saddle

Four games, eight points won, one goal conceded. The start of the Rowett era at Birmingham City has brought about a run of form which has seen Blues lift themselves out of the bottom three and given some of the most optimistic Blues fans hopes of pushing towards the top end of the table.

It’s so good to be able to be positive about the football again. To wake up on a Monday morning thinking about how the club is improving and not having to think about all the moans that will inevitably crop up online. The team is settled, fans are happy – and are travelling in numbers that have allowed the club to sell out their away allocation for Rotherham and Blackpool far in advance of the fixtures.

Of course, we have to be realistic about this. There will be the inevitable suspensions – for example, can you see Paul Robinson not picking up the booking in the next six games that will rule him out for a match? No doubt there will be injuries too – one or two bad ones in key areas could really expose the overall fragility of the squad; and while I know it’s heresy to say this Rowett will eventually lose a game – maybe even two.

However, I’m not trying to be doommongering and pessimistic about this – not at all. If anything, I think the way Rowett will hopefully react to this kind of adversity will be what sets him apart from Clark utterly. When everything is going swimmingly it’s easy to ride along the crest of the wave – being able to turn things around and find the answers when there are blips are what makes a good manager.

As much as I loved Clark’s passion for the club I think it was his downfall; he got too emotional and wanted to do too much to fix things when maybe he would have been better off formulating and sticking to a consistent plan. The thing that has impressed me most about Rowett’s start to his reign is this is exactly what he has done – in those four games he has only used twelve players from the start and seventeen in total; of the five additional players three of them have played less than half an hour apiece which shows a lot of squad consistency.

Yet there have been tweaks in the way the formation has been set to counteract differing strengths of opposition – which shows that while Clark was right about changing things to play different teams it didn’t necessarily mean changing lots of players within the team. A consistent run of games has allowed the likes of Stephen Gleeson and Andrew Shinnie to blossom in midfield while Clayton Donaldson is starting to find the net with increasing regularity. It’s also shown that the squad is bloated in some ways with too much mediocrity masquerading as “cover” – hopefully Rowett will be able to move on the worst of the deadwood and use the saved wages and any transfer income to bring in one or two players who can offer something a bit different.

Forest at home on Saturday will be another tough game; striker Britt Assombalonga is the joint-top scorer in the division with eleven and having pasted Wolves 3-0 at the weekend Stuart Pearce’s men will surely be confident of another away victory in the West Midlands. We can’t yet expect that we can win every game but for the first time in a while we now know we can compete with any team in this division. It’s a long road but under Rowett’s guidance Blues are back in the saddle and with a bit of luck will be galloping down the road to midtable safety and better for the foreseeable future.


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61 Responses to “Back in the Saddle”

  • Oldbluenose says:

    Onwards and upwards, is the key watchword, Eh,!!.

    As you rightly point out, use of proper tactics and nous, achieves things on the field, Yes, We will have a defeat down the line, but we have already seen the development of our playing staff in such a short time,
    Let us leave things in the capable hands of Gary Rowett, and breathe again at being out of the dreaded drop-zone at last.

  • Tony says:

    The change has been unbelievable, Rowett has changed the ethos of the team completely, they are playing with a calm assurance where everyone knows their jobs and what is expected of them.
    Clark was over emotional and somewhat unstable in personality and it showed in the way the team was set up and played.
    As Dan says GR Will lose matches and the side will not perform, well in every match that is to be expected, but they are organized,well drilled and gaining confidence every game.
    Some players ie Shinnie, Randolph, Robinson, Gleeson, have been a revelation, Im not a fan of Randolph I think hes a weak keeper regards crosses, positioning, lining his wall but even he has improved
    All in all it shows what can be achieved with a little organisation and building from the back doing the simple things well.

  • Jaffa says:

    Totally agree Dan.Rowett was just what the team and the fans needed.Keep it simple and be hard to beat.And like you Dan I am looking forward to Forest.Win loose or draw we will give them a game.

  • mark says:

    Daniel why dont you try, and move on from the clark era, its gone forever, you are starting to sound like Tony in reverse…lol Stay focused…..if clark had got anything out of those 12 games, and players had played to their full potential, and bit of lady luck we wouldn’t have heard a pip squeak out of the moaners…
    Easy for the arm chairs supporters to voice their opinion when no money has exchanged…but myself i take the rough with the smooth lol
    Our away fans have always supported our team in great numbers…

    • Luke says:

      I think comparisons are inevitable, Mark, especially after just four games of the new management team.

      These four fixtures were, arguably, more tricky on average than those 12 games for Clark, so there’s reason for cautious optimism. Given the results so far any rational person would suspect that, had Rowett already been in place, Blues might have picked up points against teams like Wigan, Sheff Wed, Fulham and Bolton.

      I understand what you mean though about the moaners – with a bit more luck we might have won two home league games in 12 months, rather than just the one. Honestly, some fans are so unreasonable.


    • Matt says:

      The only one who needs to get over clark is you. You make me laugh, “if clark had got anything out of those 12 games, and players had played to their full potential, and bit of lady luck we wouldn’t have heard a pip squeak out of the moaners”. Well obviously no one would moan but it didnt happen did it? That’s what matters. Are you being serious? youre obviously missing the point. The HUGE difference between clark and rowett is the fact rowett is getting the results. Why do you think the players are suddenly playing to their potential? what do you think the main factor is for their improved performances? Isn’t it obvious? do you really think we would have 8 points in 4 games if we still had Clark?

      • mark says:

        the what ifs means f**k all now………making opinions for the sake of opinions in clark absents, is a pointless exercise imo… Panos made his decision GR IN…..instead of supping on stale news…we are in
        here and now view is where we are aiming for now…..long with our fans at rotherham it was a good day, whether win, lose or draw…..did you manage to go Matt otherwise you missed a spectacle…..

        • Matt says:

          You’re contradicting yourself, you’re the one writing about the what if’s so yes what you say means f**k all. All that matters now is for you to stop talking about clark and talk about how great Rowett is doing and that changing the manager was the right decision.

    • StaffsBlue says:

      It’s like I’ve been saying all season so far.. it’s fine margins. Other than maybe Morrison and Shinnie, it’s the same players and same formation as before. Other than Wigan, no one had battered us under the previous manager, in fact, we were very close to winning most games. But for me, the biggest change is the confidence instilled in the players in the last 4 games. I’ve no idea why the players didn’t have this confidence before, because they were bossing most games, at least the first halves.

      But credit to Rowett and his team, they’ve managed the confidence boost in such a short time, but the real test will be when we lose a couple on the trot, which we probably will at some point.

      • Luke says:

        “In fact we were very close to winning most games.”

        Yes, just like Blackpool coming very close to winning against Bolton this weekend, or against Fulham a couple of weeks ago. They seem to have caught our habit of deserving to win games, but not doing so.

        “Building blocks.”

        • StaffsBlue says:

          Reading the Blackpool boards yesterday, they seemed fairly satisfied with the performance, if not the result. I think most of their supporters are resigned to relegation already and put the blame fairly and squarely on Oyston and his battle with Riga. I get the impression they’re looking for a complete rebuild ready for League 1 next season.

          • Luke says:

            Well, it sounds like Clark has found his ideal job then – managing at a club where everyone is already resigned to relegation and where dropping points at home against fellow relegation candidates is applauded. It’s a perfect marriage.

          • StaffsBlue says:

            I hope it works out well for him (except for the 6th December.) All the managers who have left BCFC have all done their best whilst they’ve been here and I’ve wished them all well after they’ve left. It would be churlish not to.

          • Luke says:

            Well, I can agree with that. LC tried his heart out for Blues and I do wish him well.

            Seriously though, he’d be better suited to a support role (assistant manager maybe) where his energy and blood-n-guts indefatigableness would be of benefit, whilst someone else does the strategic thinking.

      • mark says:

        staffs football is fine margins really pleased the players are finally showing their potential, absolutely right why they didn’t get the results early on will be a mystery even though others may have their opinions pointing in a other direction. I have mentioned before cut out the individual mistakes, and take your chances when they come……….

    • almajir says:

      Mark if my auntie had bollocks she’d be my uncle mate. Face facts, Clark was a busted flush and you my friend were wrong…

      • mark says:

        Daniel it not about being wrong its about opinions…..

        • Luke says:

          Except that football is, by and large, a game of statistics – goals and points.

          The fans that held the opinion that Blues would do better with a new manager seem to be proven (statistically) to have been right (at least so far). You can draw your own conclusion as to what that says about the fans who held the opposite opinion.

          • iang says:

            Mark it is you who wont let go of the past. Clark had little ideas to start with and had run out of them completely long before he was sacked. We would be adrift with Blackpool by now if he had stayed and all fans including yourself should thanking our lucky stars the owners at last acted. I would suggest with your hero worship for LC you start making that trip north and enjoy continuing watching defeat after defeat. You were wrong on him for a long time , it takes a big man to accept they go it wrong

        • RichardM says:

          Mark, Blues (under Lee Clark) stayed up last season by the skin of their teeth, if it had not been for a freak weather storm at Charlton earlier in the season when Doncaster were 3-1 up before the match was abandoned, we would have been relegated. This is not an opinion, this is a FACT.

        • steve says:

          And your opinions are always wrong Mark.

  • Dave mann says:

    It was fantastic support at Rotherham with non stop singing and our 21st muinite. Applause for the 21 who died in the pub bombings was a master stroke because we got it in before the vile do there bit tonight, great touch from great away fans who support the blues!lol&kro.

    • Bluenosesol says:

      Dave, great support and camaraderie on Saturday and yes the 21 minute tribute was excellent. Rmember the victimes were Brummies, football pales into insignificance, I hope those in Villa Park also do their bit to seek justice for the 21. Now bring on Forest and Blackpool!! KRO.

  • Dave mann says:

    Lets hope so because as you say there were blues and villa fans who died on that night so lets come together and get justice for those victims….on the football side it was a great day out Saturday and a great result and great support and Blackpool a week Saturday will propably be even more intense and more passionate because of the situation involving our manager and and our last manager so into battle we go and another great day to come..I just hope we go there with our unbeaten record intact as forest will be a real test of our present form come this Saturday.lol&kro.

  • Luke says:

    A bit of mindless maths for you: If Blues had taken the same points average under Rowett so far (i.e. 2 points per game) for all 18 fixtures played this season, we’d have 36 points. One point more than Derby…

  • Richard Granfield says:

    I think we are well served in midfield. Defensively we have Gleeson, Davis, Moussi and Reilly. Offensively a reborn Shinnie and Brown. Wide we have Cotterill, Gray, Novak and Duffy.
    In defence, no problem, Eardley and Hancox covering Caddis and Grounds, while Edgar and Hall cover for Morrison and a rejuvenated Robinson.
    Up front we could do with a Jesse Lingard type loan in case Donaldson is injured or loses form.
    All in all the future seem bright, the future is Blues.

    • Luke says:

      Or a giant Serbian perhaps?

      • StaffsBlue says:

        He would certainly offer a different option going into Xmas and the new year.

        • Richard Granfield says:

          I am doubtful that Zigic is effective in a 4-2-3-1 formation. The reason being that playing 1 up front requires the striker being mobile, like Donaldson and Thomas.
          Zigic has many attributes but mobility is not one of them. He is more comfortable in a 4-4-2 formation and I don’t believe Rowett will change to it.

          • StaffsBlue says:

            I’ve always said that he’s more effective off the bench. When we switch to 4-4-2 late in a game, he could make a difference.. especially when defenders are tiring.

  • StaffsBlue says:

    OP mentioned the “deadwood” in the squad. Who do other posters think would come under that description? For me, it would be Olly Lee, Neil Eardley and Jonathan Spector. What the future holds for homegrown players such as Packwood, Hancox and Reilly under the new regime, I really couldn’t guess.

    • almajir says:

      I’d agree with those three and add maybe Mark Duffy, maybe Grant Hall (I think they’ll send him back if they can), definitely Brek Shea and maybe even Lee Novak (although I quite like him).

      • StaffsBlue says:

        I think it would be a bit unfair to Duffy, he’s not really had much of a chance yet, same with Green and Gunning.

        Brek Shea, definitely, but he’s only on loan anyway, as is Hall, who I can’t see wanting to stick around if he’s not getting game time. I think a team (Blackpool?) would have to come in for Novak, because I can’t see him being on the manager’s ‘get rid’ list after reading his thoughts the other day. It seems he really rates Novak.

        • iang says:

          Dead wood for me is Lee (beyond everyone else) followed by Shea , Hall , Spector (due to injuries) , Reilly (don’t think he cuts it despite being home grown) , Novak (work rate but not much else) and possibly Duffy

          Really pleased Shinnie and Gleeson are getting a run out as I always felt they had skill and that Shinnie was constantly played out of position. With our new midfield enforcer in place I really think they will both continue to prosper

          • StaffsBlue says:

            I’d definitely keep Duffy until such time as he proves he’s not good enough. For me, he’s the most direct winger we’ve got. Cotterill, Gray and Arthur all cut inside most of the time, instead of trying to beat their man. Duffy will run at defenders and go either side of them, to cross or shoot. We don’t have another player like that, unless the manager brings one in.

          • RichardM says:

            Don’t agree on Reilly, I think if he can work on his passing game he could become a hell of a player – now he’s got some proper coaching staff, maybe he can reach his potential?

      • BlueSteve says:

        On the subject of dead wood. I don’t think any of the following are threatening the 1st team providing everyone is fit:-

        Neal Eardley
        Will Packwood
        Grant Hall
        Mark Duffy
        Callum Reilly
        Matt Green
        Denny Johnstone
        Brek Shea

        With this being quite long. GR is right. Lets get some out and get a couple of quality players in.

  • Alan Watton says:

    You can’t win in this Clarke argument. His support stated that he was doing a good job n the circumstances. his detractors said he hadn’t a clue. The truth is that Rowett as shown that if you have a clue you can get performances out of ordinary players. The fact is that the players he has were Clark’s and there abilities or standing have not changed. They have be organised and give roles that suit them.
    Rowett has averaged over two points a game this season while Clarke has managed less than one for a season and quarter.

    • StaffsBlue says:

      I think Clark had all the ingredients, but couldn’t put them together. His passion and commitment were never in question, the 4-2-3-1 formation he favoured, although criticised at times, is the same as the last 4 games. Apart from Morrison and the kids, he bought almost all the players to the club.. the same players who have gone on this 4 game unbeaten run. As I said, he had all the ingredients, but he just couldn’t bake the cake… it kept rising halfway, then collapsing. The time was right for a change.

      So, we move on.

      • RichardM says:

        A pretty fair and accurate assessment I think. I do wish Clark well, I hope he realises his limitations and forges a successful career as a scout or a number 2 where I think his true skill-sets lie.

        • StaffsBlue says:

          He can certainly spot a player so, maybe a No.2 or chief scout would suit. If he’s not successful at Blackpool, they may be the only avenues left open to him. Time will tell.

  • StaffsBlue says:

    I love Callum Reilly as a player, but to be honest, I can’t see any improvement in his passing since he made the first team. Surely to God coaches can see that and, if they can, why aren’t they working on that… making it a priority? As RichardM said, he could be a terrific player if he improved that part of his game. I’d love to see him as a future Blues captain.

  • StaffsBlue says:

    Will Packwood has gone to Colchester United on loan until 1 January.

  • Raymondo says:

    GR and his fellow ex-blues mates in his management team are tactically aware in ways that LC never was and never could be. The team will not win every game because however well you play if the other team has a lot of better players you will struggle at times but II think we’ll do well ienough to stay up. Also GR is already aquiring better players. If Clark had stayed we’d be on our knees by now. I now see reasons to be cheerful in spite of the pong from Hong Kong!

  • Hillfield blue says:

    Although I had sympathy for LC given the finances I thought he did quite well getting some of the players he did to the club. Tactically he was a bit lost and it was time for a change although I have to say we had no luck in the first 12 or so games. GR has had a great start but let’s get things into perspective,he isn’t a magician. These players have been put together on a shoestring and there will definitely be a few more wobbles to come this campaign. It’ll be intesting to see just how far GR can go with these players. Forest thumped the dingles at their place last week so it’ll be very interesting again come Saturday.

  • BhamCityJulian says:

    Deadwood? Spector is too injury prone; Reilly if he can’t learn to pass; Eardley unless the Rowett Magic works; Hall; Oshea; Lee

    Duffy; Green; Johnstone surely we can’t decide on so little game time

    History suggests Clark will try for Novak in January. For the right price I’d sell but I wouldn’t let him go cheaply.

  • StaffsBlue says:

    I liked this quote from Rowett in the BM yesterday, concerning Zigic: “Financially obviously he might have to settle for a tiny bit less than his 64 grand a week. He doesn’t need any more so I might hit him with a little bit lower and see how much he wants to play for the club.” :-)

    • Dave mann says:

      That and moussi giving is wages to charity’s migh just sway zigic to swallow is pride and play for blues for his love of the club and the area and not his bank balance.lol&kro.

  • Delboy says:

    Donaldson gave an interview last night which said it all for me. He said that players were no longer frightened to make a mistake. If they make a mistake chase the ball back and get on with it. If GR has done anything maybe he has released the tension and allows the players to play with a freedom they didn’t have before. Playing with a smile on their faces is the phrase that has been used often over the last couple of weeks.

    • Luke says:

      That’s a good point. If there was a lot of tension, that would also provide an explanation why the team looked so exhausted in the last half-hour of games.

  • Agent McLeish says:

    I liked LC, I really did. His style of management reminded me of Kevin Keegan and I’m sure he’ll find his feet again. However the GW era seems to have refreshed the playing side of the club and brought a feel better factor back to the fans. Let’s not forget the BIHL elephant in the cupboard though, they’ll continue to feed off the battered and bruised BCFC body until there is nothing left but a shriveled cadaver.

  • Ssean Thomas says:

    I also liked Clark but we have to be honest his tactical qualities did leave a bit t be desired. What I have noticed with Rowett is his consistency, not so much the players but the team formation. If he makes a change it is normally a like for like scenario, were Clark would bring a player on and change the formation at the same time, which inevitably left the team wondering who was playing were. How can you prepare for a match with a game plan, team formation and tactics, only to change it mid game, it was obviously not going to work. Good luck to him at Blackpool anyway and don’t slaughter him.

  • Blue Lizard says:

    Packwood out on loan to Colchester till Jan

  • Singapore Brum says:

    Encouraging start for sure but the acid test will be when GR loses his first game and how the team reacts to that. We don’t seem to do too well against Forest so we may we find out pretty soon.

  • Dave mann says:

    I think lee Clark is going to need more than luck if he’s gonna keep Blackpool up, more like a miracle and he’s still to win a game there so not looking good but am I bothered, no because all I care about is bcfc and were doing fine at the moment but still 28 games left and 84 points to play for so at this rate were get 56 points to go with the 19 we’ve got giving us 75 points and the playoffs….happy days!! Lol&kro.

  • Chris W says:

    I look at games with more optimism these days, GR has certainly got the players believing in themselves and the engine is beginning to purr rather than splutter and misfire consistently.
    Forest will be a tough test and a close game, keep the wingers quiet and Assombalonga will be starved of their service.

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