Often Partisan

The Nicolai Problem

Since signing from Randers for a reported GBP400,000, Nicolai Brock-Madsen has made five sub appearances totalling 71 minutes match time; all of which (bar his debut against Gillingham) have come when Birmingham City have been losing. Having signed on a four-year deal for what is in Blues’ terms a significant chunk of cash – what’s happened?

It can’t be easy being a striker at Birmingham City. Blues have consistently played with one front man for over a year now – coupled with the form of Clayton Donaldson this has made it very, very difficult for any other striker to get a sniff of a look in. We’ve seen Wes Thomas and Lee Novak head out on loan in search of first team minutes and at the moment Blues have just two front line forwards plus Alex Jones, who has yet to make his senior debut at any level.

I can see the dilemma Rowett faces. Donaldson is consistently one of the best players Blues have and is pivotal to the way the team plays – he holds up the ball, runs the channels, batters defenders and creates space for the wide players and attacking midfielders to get in on the act.

I’ve spoken (to derision in some quarters) about the lack of a “plan b” but for me it’s more than just putting in Brock-Madsen or playing two up front. The last few games show that Championship teams are figuring out not only how to play Blues but how to keep Donaldson quiet. He got manhandled so much against Wolves that the embroidered poppy came off his shirt – and yet the referee was uninterested in his protests. Teams know what Donaldson brings – if they see Brock-Madsen on the teamsheet are they going to set up the same way?

I’m not saying Brock-Madsen is the answer. I have no idea if he is or not, as we have seen so little of him and when he has come on it has been when Blues are chasing the game. I’d like to see what he can do though – and I think part of the challenge Rowett faces is how to deal with when his better players are struggling. He’s talked about being loyal, about how you can only improve a player if you give them a chance even if they make mistakes and I think that’s commendable – but on the flip side, it means you’re not giving the other players you’ve brought in a chance.

The young Dane’s chance could come soon. Donaldson has been called up for the first time to the Jamaican squad, and with matches against Panama and Haiti in the upcoming international break could struggle to make it back and fit for the Charlton game. I have to be honest and think that barring a delayed flight, problems with customs or an injury Donaldson will play against the Valiants – but wouldn’t it be nice to be able to think Rowett would consider an alternative?

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78 Responses to “The Nicolai Problem”

  • fingles says:

    From what I have seen he is a very different player from Donaldson.

    No where near as strong, although his first touch is good.

    If he starts I can only see him as part of 2 up front,which GR clearly does not like.

    There are however few options for Blues, so he may just try him on his own, but with closer support with either of the wide players tucking in more.

  • Dave Mann says:

    What to do with him God knows … He’s not strong enough or intelligent enough to play as a loan striker in my opinion , won’t play two up front and can’t play anywhere else .. He’s our half a million pound reserve striker and will only come of the bench or play if the Don gets injured or gets delayed with Jamaica ..what else can we do ? Kro

    • CarlBlue says:

      Dave, from 71 mintues of football, all sub appearance’s, I really don’t know how you can make that assumption about him. Nobody knows how he plays because nobody has seen him long enough to judge.

    • jonno11blue says:

      Dave how do you know what he can or can not do? If you go to every game, including the pre season friendlies you will have, like myself, watched him for less than 90 minutes. In that short a time no one can say what class of player he is. Yes I’d like to see him get at least 30 mins in two or three consecutive games, playing along side someone but not Donaldson.

  • Ed Lane says:

    The truth is we don’t know how he can play, he has not had sufficient time to show what he can do. He can’t be happy with the situation he finds himself in and it wouldn’t surprise me if he asks for a move away at the end of the season. GR needs to give him a chance, we are not scoring goals and he may be the answer to the problem.

  • Matt Simpson says:

    Quite surprised by the negativity towards him already and how everyone has made all these decisions about him having seen 71 mins of football.

    For me he is certainly in the mold of a striker who could play the lone role, but slightly different to how Donaldson plays it, more of a target man then an all rounder (ie Zigic when he was up top on his own). He is good in the air and his flick ons and knock downs would undoubtedly bring the wingers and attacking mids into the game. It irritates me that Rowett more or less refuses to bring him on unless were loosing, Donaldson has clearly flagging in some games and Rowett just leaves him on rather then bringing a fresh striker on.

    Hard to drop Donaldson from his starting slot when he can do everything though, run the channels, his aerial ability is ok, he can hold the ball up and run with it as well. I’m looking forward to seeing Brock-Madsen get a chance, more just so we can see what we have got, because so far its been hard to tell with the 10 min sub appearances.

  • Nikolai Berchev says:

    Guys you are forgeting about the add-ons we have to pay if he plays regularly. Its just finance reasons which Garry have to consider. And the dane is just 22 he have time to develop. KRO and regard from Bulgaria

  • Hillfield Blues says:

    From GR’s point of view he is going to play whoever he thinks is going to give him the best chance of getting 3 points-period. Not only is Donaldson our most effective player but he never seems to tire or get injured.With our style of play we only have one attacking birth which also further limits BM’s opportunities.On top of anything else I don’t think we’re a side that has the luxury of being able to take off our main goal threat to give a rookie some game time because all our matches are tight one goal affairs.Ultimately its points that count.

  • Stan Moye says:

    How negative some of you are. Has no one ever bought a house or a car to improve over time. Whilst Broc is not the finished item yet, GR and his team have obviously seen some sort of potential hence the significant outlay by our current standards. Of course l’d love Blues to be able to bring higher profile players in, but we all need a reality check, it’s not that long ago we did not know if we’d go to the wall. Let GR do his thing, keep our feet on the floor and who knows what the future could bring in the coming months.

  • Richard Granfield says:

    The jury is still out regarding his abilities as he hasn’t had enough playing time.
    My concern is his goalscoring potential, because in the games he has played for the Development team he has only scored a single goal.
    On the positive side he seems good in the air and is physically strong and at 22yo his best is still to come. We cannot expect wonders from a £500k valued striker.

  • Blue Lizard says:

    Time?? that’s a luxury we don’t have..if I had limited money to spend on a car I’d buy one I could drive straight away rather than one that needed work doing to it..lets hope GR looks into the loan system for midfielder who can hold the ball and pass the ball to a blue shirt and a striker (a back would be nice to replace grounds but thats being greedy)

  • Mitchell says:

    Majority of teams today don’t play with a big target man.Hull,Derby,Middlesbrough,Burnley etc. Dying breed? perhaps. Zigic,Horsfield and latterly Adam Rooney and Chris Woods faltered after bright starts.We have been blessed with Donaldson who continues to be a threat but after him I would not like to see another big man. Quick and agile appears to be the modern day footballer unless you come across a Lukaku or Kane. BM is probably a decent player and may well be a Blues success.GR knows what he can and can’t do – just a pity we don’t have the old Football Combination league when reserve team football was almost twice weekly and players such as BM would have relished the games to impress the manager.

  • ChrisG says:

    In the second half on tuesday blues played the ball more into Donaldsons feet, i’m so used to seeing the ball hoofed in the air to him i’d forgotton how good he was on the floor, it’s no wonder GR favours him so much. I think the Brock will get his chance I can’t understand people saying he’s not strong enough as whenever he comes on he seems to get stuck in. It’s difficult for any player to come on when you’re losing but when you’re not fully used to the rough & tumble of the championship as he’s not it must be even harder. The time to judge him is when he’s started a few games regularly.
    The player that’s impressed me most of late is Davis, he’s really been putting himself about, winning headers & doing the defensive stuff, he got cramp on saturday from running so much but it still didn’t stop him on tuesday & with a bit more composure could of got himself a goal.

  • Barny Blue says:

    Way too early to judge young Brock-Madsen. From what I have seen, probably due to the timing of his arrival on the pitch i.e. chasing the game late on in proceedings, we go way too direct, long, and high to him (aka how we used Zigic). I would much rather see us play the ball in to his feet and allow him to bring our main threats in to play, or even try and get him in behind the centre-halves. He appears to have good touch and awareness. Just needs game time, understanding of his team mates that he is more than just a ‘head on legs’, and some time and understanding from the fans that he is still learning his trade in a foreign country.

    Would love to be able to bring in a proven scorer, but for me Toral, Shinnie, Cotterill, Gray, and Maghoma need to start getting their shooting/ scoring boots on, because they way we set-up we cannot rely on our single striker to carry the burden of goals (Donny has only scored in two matches all season). In a 4-2-3-1, it is the attacking 3 behind the striker that carriers the greatest creative and goal threat, and their dip in form has coincided with the teams lack of goals.

  • Mineheadblue says:

    I’ve been wondering what Brock-Madsen must be thinking right now. He can’t be very happy, can he? I mean, he was a promising young striker who was well thought of in Denmark and he finds himself sitting on the bench with little or limited prospect of a start. Did he realise that GR was always only going to play with one striker and it was always going to be Donaldson ? I think a lot depends on how he sees things. If he’s prepared to wait quite some time for his chance to come then fair enough. And if and when he gets that chance, the pressure to perform well form the off will be considerable. Will he be allowed time to grow into the role or will he be back on the bench after a couple of starts?

  • zxcv says:

    If we lost the Don for Charlton I would rather stick Lowrey up top, at least he is big strong and can head a good ball like the goal he scored for us in his first and only game. Can also drop back and help out if needed. Anyone remember Kenny Burns doing the very same.

  • Mirkwood55 says:

    I know you can read too much into statistics but it is still a fact that Donaldson has played in 15 Championship games this season and only scored in two – the hat-trick against Bristol City and one at Brentford. That’s 13 games without a goal. He may well be the holder, the provider and the layer-off but we are not exactly profligate in the scoring department – our goal difference of +4 is among the lowest in the top half. While not suggesting he be dropped I would nevertheless like to see Brock given more playing time and on a regular basis. A sub appearance here and there proves nothing and performances on the training field are nothing like being in a proper game.

    • Texas Pete says:

      I totally agree with that 55. We need goal’s scored. I think it is ignorant to condemn the dane without seeing him play. He needs to be a straight swap for Donaldson at least for 20 mins and then increase it over a few games or put him on for the first half. The Don is not good in the air and is not picking up those occasional striker goals for just being there. So the difference is only perceived as workrate and holdup/lay offs which is untested. For all of that we are still lacking goals from others. There is no difference between the two players serving in the lone role but they are different. Let the young dane have a go at the defenders and get the occasional goal as a striker.
      One thing I am frustrated with (one only) is GRs late use, or lack of using all three subs.

  • Dave Mann says:

    It amazes me how we’re 6th in the league when we have a striker that’s scored in only 2 games, 2 wide players who blow cold more than hot, 2 holding midfield players who keep giving the ball away , 2 full backs who can’t defend properly , only one centre half of note and calamity keeper !!! .. Jesus Christ if we get those problems solved were win the league at a canter … Tongue in cheek but worth a mention :-) kro

    • StaffsBlue says:

      Tongue-in-cheek maybe Dave… but there’s a lot of truth in what you say. We’re 6th now, if we strengthened our weak points, we’d take some stopping.

      As for the striker/goals dilemma, well, we all saw it coming didn’t we? (except maybe Mr Rowett?) Getting rid of all our strikers and going with only one recognised target man was always going to cause us problems at some point. I’m just surprised it’s taken this long.

      Not one of us know if Brock-Madsen can cut it, so give him a chance and let’s find out.

    • Ed Lane says:

      You forgot, a centre forward that doesn’t score goals.

      • Ed Lane says:

        Oh no you didn’t, I have just read the first sentence again. sorry.

        • StaffsBlue says:

          No worries. But I see your point. :)

        • StaffsBlue says:

          I would also like to point out that Donaldson, in this present system, isn’t a striker, he’s a target man… which is why a rarely scores. If he was playing in a 4-4-2, he’d be a striker, but in the 4-2-3-1, he can’t play both roles. So we need the three behind him to step up and weigh in with a few goals. Cotterill, Gray, Toral, Shinnie and Maghoma have scored 6 league goals between them, nowhere near good enough.

  • Jaffa says:

    It was obvious on Tuesday that the Blues needed another striker.Donaldson had to go hunting for the ball and in doing so kept giving away silly free kicks.There was no one there for him to feed off.

  • zxcv says:

    In case you had forgotten up until our two recent defeats we were second highest scorers in the division, and any Manager will pick his team based on the players last performance and what type of week he has had in training ie attitude, work rate, Remember the Clark and Zigic episode. Its spot on what someone said above, Donaldson does not seem to tire in games runs his socks off even in the dying embers and never seems to get injured, all he needs is a decent ref with some decent contact lenses. He is the most honest genuine bloke you could wish to meet. You just wait and see how we miss him if he ever does miss a few games.

  • Agent McLeish says:

    Any player needs a run of games to show their potential. I remember Donaldson not looking so great when we first signed him until he got the run he needed.

  • AF says:

    I am unable to comment on the relative merits of Nicolai BM, I haven’t seen enough of him. However we all seem to be ignoring the short term picture. As we know and have heard so many times Blues have very limited resources to spend on players. So we spend £400k on a player to sit n the bench and hope in the longer term he will be an excellent purchase but we don’t really know. Its speculative and for me too risky for our financial position. I’ve made the point elsewhere that centre back alongside Morrison remains a massive weakness. Most teams in the Championship would not have Spector or Robinson as a first choice for this position, but we speculate on a forward who might not/or he might make it here. I would have liked to see the money spent on a player that would have fitted in immediately into a role, especially with such limited resources at Blues disposal.

  • andy says:

    I am amazed Birmingham paid a fee for a player who does not get games!

    • AF says:

      That’s the key to this, if we only have £400k to spend then we need instant results from that money and not somebody that sits on the bench with the hope that he comes good.

  • KC says:

    Dave Mann.your last comments are absolutely bang on. Could not agree more.But in the current situation somehow GR has to get what he has got playing above their general skill levels again and looking more like an organised unit. Hopefully we shall be surprised by B-M and understand why he was signed at what is big money for us at this moment of time. Will need to somehow come from a starting position and can never see him and Don working together. Crying out for a nippy establised striker who gets it right in the last 3rd. Being positive someone must be out there at a snip. Never a fan of Novac. Although Thomas was very limited and not for the future he would come in handy at the moment. Hope Toral and Gray (2nd half ) can pick it up where they left off on Tuesday.

    • Dave Mann says:

      Thanks KC and yes second half Toral & Gray did look dangerous .. Let’s hope they do it at Fulham where they might get more time on the ball .. Brock is only 22 and though I’ve upset one or two by by giving my opinions on him Ime only looking through Rowetts point of view .. 71 mins or not it looks like our manager doesent trust him .. He signed him and Lee Clark signed Donaldson .. Interesting really !!! Kro

  • garconsavage says:

    GR obviously doesn’t see a problem. Im(humble) opinion he has proved to be right 99%+ of the time!!

  • andy says:

    Waste of money!

  • Dave Mann says:

    andy , we don’t know that yet do we ? Kro

  • Hillfield Blues says:

    When you consider that Keiftenbild apart,our usual starting 11 is what it was last season goalkeeper excluded. Which isn’t any different from Lee Clarks side apart from Morrison,it’s unbelievable how far GR has taken us really.Lets hope he hangs around long enough to see the takeover completed and he can properly express himself in the transfer market with some proper money like some of the other championship sides.

  • andy says:

    You are correct Dave but if I am honest, in the bit parts he has played, I am not impressed. Gary Rowett needs to give him the opportunity to show why Blues paid a fee that they can barely afford!

  • Dave Mann says:

    That’s the problem andy , where is he going to get the game time .. While Donaldson is around fit and available he ain’t gonna play , fact .. So it’s a problem but while we stay 6th I don’t worry about it to much , Fulham Saturday as its our next game is the one that I worry about and the result of that game is my main priority .. Individual players are not my concern to be honest imo . Kro

  • zxcv says:

    In that case Dave the only question is why was that money not spent where it was really needed, on or towards a half decent centre half. your spot on he won`t get a sniff of replacing Clayton.

  • Dave Mann says:

    zxcv, your right ofcourse .. That money should have been spent on a centre half and that’s where we’re struggling with out question .. I welcomed the signing of Brock – madsen but it just hasent worked out and sometimes we just have to admit that we as fans and Rowett as manager don’t always no it all do we ?? .. He might come good one day but that day is not now . :-) kro

    • zxcv says:

      In all honesty Dave there was so many people shouting from the roof tops for Gary to get in a striker and I think it may have lead to a panic situation and Gary may well of thought my god if Clayts does get injured the fans will slaughter me. I was a bit surprised he allowed Thomas to go out on loan tho as you really need 4 strikers ideally, but yes spending what little money we did have on anything other than a c/half was a waste imho.

  • Mitchell says:

    As previously stated-if only we had a Central League or Football Combination for reserve games. In the past reserve team football numbered 42 games per season.This enabled much game time and gave players a decent chance to show what they could do.

    • StaffsBlue says:

      Absolutely agree. Reserve team football is desperately missing these kinds of competitions. It’s no wonder teams are relying more and more on buying players in, rather than producing players capable of first team football. Young players have to go out on loan to Leagues 1 and 2 to get competitive football now.

  • atko says:

    We’ll get to see Brock Madsen soon enough. You can guarantee he’ll start in January in the 3rd round of the FA Cup.

  • Mitchell says:

    Game time is the only way for any player. This poor sod must dream of a few decent games. He is experienced at a decent level as we have seen by way of video clips.Short of sending him out on loan with immediate recall if necessary, I can see little hope of his self esteem being bolstered.Problem is that we don’t score freely enough to get a decent lead and then get him on for a half or two.Big dilemma for GR as his original plan was a back up for Don.but probably should have gone for a goal sniffer in the mould of Philips/Billy Sharp/ Shane Long type.Big CF guys rapidly becoming a dying breed.

  • Mitchell says:

    What may be very ironic about the BM situation is that he could be leading the line much sooner than any of us expect. At nearly 32 Donaladson made it clear in the summer that he wanted Blues to be challenging up the table this season- after keen interest by a number of Championship clubs. Hopefully we can oblige him, but come January don’t be surprised to see an offer come in from a few challenging clubs at the summit of our table. It would be hard to resist a substantial offer.

  • AdamTrueBlue says:

    I don’t. Know what Donaldson is bringing to the table this season, his goal tally is not good enough, if GR sticks with only 1 upfront then that 1 needs to know where the goal is! I would be starting BM and letting Donaldson warm the bench, we wouldn’t be any worse off and might find BM growing into the role with the increased confidence in him.

    • Mitchell says:

      Adam. You may well be right. Too much reliance on Don.can be counter productive. Problem is the system GR plays. Up to now he cannot be faulted- given another 5/6 games and our pattern continues- then a different game plan will have be implemented.Fulham will be a good leveller. Both teams unsure of what they will deliver on the day.

      • StaffsBlue says:

        As I said earlier, in this system Donaldson is nothing more than a target man, for the team to lump the ball up to… as proved the case with Zigic before him. In 44 league starts last season, he scored 15 goals. So far, he’s not even on target to reach that. This is why the 3 playing behind him are so important, goals-wise… and why Rowett needs to get the selection right.

  • It doesn’t matter what system we play as long as we average 2goals per game with practice ,it is easier to turn a striker into a midfield player than turning a midfield player into a striker, as long as the passing ability is there, as it is we need to try some thing different perhaps put Donaldson behind another striker , kro

    • StaffsBlue says:

      … and that other striker would be… Brock-Madsen or Jones? If Rowett had any faith in either of them, you would have seen them in the team by now.

      But, in just over a year, we’ve played, almost exclusively, with one up front. I’d be very surprised if we deviated from that for the rest of the season. Rowett obviously prefers that system and the lady’s not for turning it would seem.

  • Shirley Blue says:

    Its all very well saying GR should not have spent the money on Brock-Madson but should have got another centre half in but what if Donaldson had got injured early on in the season and we were left without a target man/centre forward. Everybody would have criticized him for not getting a forward in. The defence has not been that bad but yes another centre back as good as Morrison would be great with funds available. Ideally we would have been in game situations where we were two or three up and the points safe and then B-M would have been given 30 minutes on the pitch. To say the kid has been a waste of money is just plain stupid and ignorant. He will get his chance – Donaldson is not indestructible. In a tight game that could go either way would you take one of your best players (if not the best) to try B-M out – of course you wouldn’t and that’s the situation GR has been in in virtually every game.

    • StaffsBlue says:

      I agree. None of us knows yet if the money was well-spent. How can you tell when he hasn’t had a chance to prove it? It’s not his fault he’s not in the team. Whether he’s doing well in training or not, he’s not going to get in front of Donaldson except through injury or suspension. As has already been said, the only time he’s got game time, is when we’re chasing a game. Not ideal.

      The selection against Charlton will be very interesting.

      • AF says:

        I have to disagree, I don’t think the spending is a waste of money and its not a criticism of the player at all, or a judgement. My view is that if the club only has £400k to spend, its money that has to produce results immediately, and not in 12 or 24 months time. We don’t have the luxury of being able to let the player develop, but we should be receiving instant rewards on the investment. If we had more funds available then it makes sense, but from a financial and business angle it doesn’t.

  • perthdave says:

    We need someone like a Tony Evans, a speedy little fella who can feed off the target man and can poach goals.

  • Dave Mann says:

    AF, your saying that spending the money is not a waste of money on a player that won’t Play yet your saying he’s 12 /24 months way and it as to produce results instantly .. Explain !! Kro

    • AF says:

      The problem is we don’t know if its a waste or money or not if he doesn’t get a game, or is a long term project.

      In a couple of years he could be worth £2million, or £400k still, or we could be selling him back to Denmark for next to nothing? Who knows??

      I just think that if this was the limit of our spending the rewards in terms of team improvement and priorities needed to be immediate. Young players yes, but players who could have fitted in straight away.

      • Shirley Blue says:

        And if Clayton Donaldson gets injured keeping him out for a while then Brock-Madson starts and could well be worth every single penny of the £400k – who knows. GR however had to get cover in for Donaldson. £400k is peanuts for a forward even in the Championship. We couldn’t afford the finished article so he went out and got what he could.

        • AF says:

          At the time of arranging the deal for Brock-Madsen we already had Wes Thomas as cover. Lets face facts with such limited financial resources we needed to use that £400k on a player that would fit in immediately. My view is that its not a waste of money as we just don’t know but the overriding priority for the money should be to strengthen the first team and we haven’t strengthened – we have paid it out for somebody to sit on the bench and may not be ready yet. .

        • AF says:

          What if we had paid £400k for Bradshaw at Walsall as an example, he would have adapted a lot more quickly?

          • Shirley Blue says:

            Faultless logic AF except for the fact that Walsall wouldn’t have let a prolific goal scorer like Bradshaw go for anything close to £400k and that is all I expect GR had to spend. That is why he went abroad for B-M and Keltenbeld because that is where he believed he would get the most value for money for what little funds he had at his disposal.

  • Jazzzy786 says:

    Valiants? I thought Charlton’s nickname was the Addicks

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