Often Partisan

Midfield Questions

With five games left and virtually nothing to play for, there has been a lot of talk about how Gary Rowett should experiment with the team. Following the defeat to Leeds United and the poor display in midfield I wondered if it was in the middle of the park we need to look at options the most.

Three of Rowett’s most consistently selected players are Stephen Gleeson, Maikel Kieftenbeld and David Davis. At times they’ve all had brilliant games but as the season has worn on they’ve struggled a bit more – the first half at home to Leeds being a case in point. The interesting thing is that we don’t really have much first team cover for those positions unless we move someone from another position – is it time to draft a couple in from the development squad to see what they can do?

The recall of Luke Maxwell from Kidderminster Harriers is a very interesting one. I’ve seen Maxwell play for the u21s and I think he’s got something special about him. Although he’s only 18 he’s built like a brick outhouse – but with ability to look for and make passes forward that we’ve been lacking somewhat. It’s going to be a jump from Conference football to Championship – but the reason we’ve brought in Maxwell is because he’s got talent and if we’re going to recall him early why not put him into the squad?

The other player I really would like to see in that sort of position is a slightly more left-field choice. Although Emmanuel Mbende was brought into the club as a centre-back, having seen him play more than once I genuinely think he would be better suited as a defensive midfielder. Like Maxwell, he’s young at 19, raw and a unit – but like Maxwell he also knows how to pass a ball and he likes to stride forwards with it.

Please don’t think I’d throw them in at the deep end – I think it would be a huge call to give either a starting debut. However, as options on the bench I think they could do a couple of things – firstly give Rowett a chance to swap out his midfield without altering his formation (as he did several times against Leeds) – and secondly maybe give the crowd something to look forward to. The atmosphere has been flat of late and although we don’t have much to celebrate right now I think fans would be much more forgiving of a team being beaten if they could see that there was some planning being done for the future.

I’m a big believer in meritocracy – that players should be given the chance only when they are good enough and that goes for young players too. However, I think it cuts both ways and if a player hasn’t been good enough in games then they have to be dropped. Loyalty to players is a nice thing for our manager to have and I think it’s one way Rowett gets the most from his squad; however there comes a point where loyalty blinds you to faults and I worry that there are some players Rowett might feel he can’t drop. That’s never a good point – and I hope it’s one we’ve not reached with our midfield.

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78 Responses to “Midfield Questions”

  • KinverBlue says:

    We have nothing to play for, and they can’t do any worse. Get them in.

  • Walker says:

    Mbende, Adams, maxwell, in

    Cotteril,grounds, Robinson out

    I’m a little confused still as to why other teams can play a 4-4-2 but we can’t.

    • Dan says:

      Absolutely agree with Grounds and Cotterill, sell both of them for a fee in the summer and Robbo, as much as it pains me to say this because he’s been a good servant to the club at the twilight of his career, should retire now, he’s had a good run.

  • atko says:

    I’ve been saying for a few posts now we should mix if up in midfield. I don’t get why we have to play wingers all the time. If GR wants to fit in to the team both Fabbrini and Toral (not really worth it with 5 games left and Toral returning to Arsenal) then he could do without one of them going awol by playing out of position. Do away with wingers and just allow the full backs to push forward. Have two holding midfielders ready to slot in to the space vacated by the fullbacks when they push forward.

    Playing wingers in our situation with our squad means we are limited to the 4-5-1 we started off playing and formations like 4-3-3 with players out of their natural position. Why not play Fabbrini in central midfield with Toral and have Davis and Kieftenbeld as the holding midfielders.

    You could even then put one in front of the back four as added protection and play one up front or simply play two up front with having two holding midfielders. Having them two in midfield with one up front – say maybe used for away games – will help close that gap between the back four and Donaldson or whoever is up front with two creative midfielders able to work it between them to him.

    I think options are there but we have to be willing to explore them. Now is the time to start preparing for next season but before you start bringing in young kids or fresh faces if we ever got any budget in the transfer market, we need to know how we are going to set our stall out tactically or we’ll be in a position like the Fabbrini one, scratching heads wondering how to play him!

    • StaffsBlue says:

      For me, Davis should be the man covering in front of the back four. He’s a ratter, cover the ground quickly, win it and lay it off. That’s his game. That’s what he’s good at. When he’s expected to do other things, he over-eggs it. He’s not a left winger, or a right winger, or a No.10. I can’t understand why Rowett has to play players out of position. We have players for every position, so there’s really no need for it.

      Our midfield has become stale, impotent. Other than the odd game, the creative spark just hasn’t been there the last few months. So why not shake it up, put some fresh blood, fresh ideas in there. For me, Solomon-Otabor and Adams should be integrated into the first team now, they could play an important part next season… and give Kobi Arthur a go in the No.10 role, at least for 20 minutes or so. At the end of the day, where’s the harm?

  • ian ambrose says:

    Last tuesday Rubbish goal keeper and some player was sleep not brilliant game !!!

  • Walker says:


    Spector Mbende Morrison
    Caddis Gleeson Adams Cliff Grounds – (because there isnt anyone else)
    Lafferty Toral


    Packed midfield with adams the sitting play maker, or even gleeson. It needs a change to build on next season.

    After all we cant have a nice new adidas kit and not play well :0)

    • ChrisG says:

      I’m glad you’re not the manager, Spector & Mbende alongside Morrison when Shotton has played well at CB the last 2 games?. Grounds can’t play wing back, he has enough problem playing LB. Although Caddis is great at getting forward I don’t think he’s quick enough to play WB. Gleeson has been woeful of late & should be dropped & i’ve not heard of Cliff. Torel isn’t a striker but deserves to be on the pitch as for me he’s been player of the season. No mention either of Donaldson who has scored in our last 2 games & had a pretty good goal ruled out against Leeds.

      • .KC says:

        I hope Shotton comes off but still not convinced particularly with the high balls.

        • StaffsBlue says:

          Shotton was MOTM again for me. It was Cotterill and Kieftenbeld who were closest to the goalscorer and failed to close down and block the shot for the first goal. For the second, Morrison stood off the goalscorer and let him have a free shot. If it wasn’t for Shotton’s block in the first half, we’d have been 2-0 down before we got started. I think him and Morrison could form a good partnership given a few more games together.

        • jonno11blue says:

          Ridiculous Shotton been MOM in both games. He’s won nearly every ball in the air. If it hadn’t been for him at reading, even allowing for their woeful shooting theywould likely have had a goal or two. In my opinion we may have still be in with a shot of the play offs if Rowett had played him consistently at Centre half since he arrived in January. On Tuesday evening both goals were due to other players not closing down their men and suspect goal keeping. He certainly should have got to the first and if he’d been on his line not 12 yards out for the second he may have been able to tip it over. With regard to midfield Toral should be on the pitch every game.

      • mark says:

        sorry chris imo none of those in daniel poll are worthy of POS….that’s why i abstained from voting…….

    • StaffsBlue says:

      I mentioned the 3-5-2 yesterday. I wouldn’t put Spector and Mbende in together. For me, it would have to be Morrison Shotton Grounds. Maghoma could play left wing back. He’s good going forward and good with his defensive duties, he’s been covering Grounds up and down for most of the season.

  • peter bates says:

    As I said yesterday our season has virtually fizzled out because the squad hasn’t been strong enough or at times good enough and that is down to finances and not being able to compete in the transfer windows although the players already at the club have over achieved but actual points wise eight defeats at home his a massive shortfall good performances away have continually been undone by our home form I would still like to see Gary Rowlett have money to get quality in and only big money will see that happen new owners please over to you Ernst and young kro

    • southcoastblue says:

      Completely agree – the squad has been too small to give GR cover when individual players are not performing. I also think the midfielders have just got too tired to be completely up to the pace. GR has done a good job but has been patching the most obvious
      holes without the money to bring in everyone he needed. It is disaponting to fans that we have lost to plenty of teams we should have beaten – we’d probably have been happier to have beaten Charlton and lost to Derby but overall the squad have overperformed.

    • atko says:

      There is only so many times you can blame the club’s financial situation. We knew what that was like at the start of the season. We were still able to narrowly miss the playoffs and if you think back to last year we weren’t a million miles short then either given where we were when Rowett came in.

      Maybe, it might just be third time lucky next season. The quality of players isn’t always the problem. If you have a squad of honest hard working players you can achieve great things. Where it has fizzled out is when results haven’t gone our way and we still had time to make the playoffs, we didn’t respond in a positive manner. I mean players AND management in that respect.

      Players didn’t look like they were up for a fight and management team selections playing players out of their natural position cost us. You cannot blame the financial situation when we were that close to the playoffs. If you start blaming the financial situation for everything then nobody is accountable for anything then and nobody takes responsibility and the underlying problem is glossed over!

      The underlying problem has nothing to do with finances, it’s the fact that collectively as a management and a squad, we blew it!

  • mark says:

    i will keep this short and sweet we need players with mental toughness whether they are midfielders or CB’s or forwards………win one game when cry off the next…

  • mark says:

    good to see GR come out with comments “Birmingham must learn how to do deal with pressure mounting a sustained promotion campaign” as i mentioned earlier mental toughness they got none….

  • mark says:

    what’s the bets we don’t pick up any further points from our home matches………

    • StaffsBlue says:

      9 wins and 8 defeats at home so far.. 6 of those to teams below us. With Burnley, Preston and Middlesborough all in winning form, it’s possible our only points will come from our two away games.

      I’m hoping that’s not the case though. I hope Rowett turns our home form around and we give a good account of ourselves against the top 2 teams. The fight now, is not to be overtaken by Preston, QPR and Wolves… considering how far they were behind us a few weeks ago.

    • steve says:

      That really wouldn’t be a surprise would it Mark. I don’t think you’ll get many takers for that bet.

  • Dave Mann says:

    We need to finish 9th and get 67 points to better last season so 8 points from 5 games is the minimum required but with Burnley, Preston, Huddesfield , Middlesbro and Cardiff to finish that’s easier said than done . KRO

  • Tony says:

    10-12 you heard it here 8months ago

  • Well I am going to do a GR and go 3+4+1+2 because I’ve not heard anybody mention it yet , bless him , I would have said as staffs as said 3+5+2 but I fear we would end up with 4 wingers playing ,……………..Kus ……………Spector…shotton Morro ……………..cotts..caddis…..gleeson…maghoma……………
    ……………………..Laff……………………the DON…for the Burnley match

  • Paul says:

    I just think having a centre mid fielder in the team who wants to run forward with the ball would make a massive difference to our attacks in games. All that Gleeson wants to do is get rid of it as soon as he receives the ball. None of the Centre mids ever seem to want to take on any attacking responsibility and though Grounds takes alot of stick from fans he never shies away from taking on the ball and trying something. And to be fair to grounds he usually receives the ball of one of the CMs who should be the ones looking forward and picking a pass and not relying on a LB to do it for them. I think it’s time to try some of the youth and get some hunger back in the team for the last five games and give the fans a reason to get behind the team again.

  • mark says:

    15 aug 15……. 2-2 from a winning position at Burnley……..Burnley came from behind twice at their ground…the players missing from your selection from that day is gray and Kbeld, grounds

  • StaffsBlue says:

    The 3-5-2 could work against Burnley. They’re very strong down their flanks and put a lot of crosses in from wide areas.

    Kieftenbeld Toral Davis Maghoma

    What I suspect it will be, is 4-2-3-1: Burnley will come to attack, so we’ll sit back, give them 70% possession and keep our fingers crossed that we can nick one, then keep them out.

    Caddis Morrison Shotton Grounds
    Gleeson Kieftenbeld
    Cotterill Toral Mahoma

    • StaffsBlue says:

      Dunno what happened with that first line-up. :-/ Should have been.

      Morrison Shotton Grounds
      Caddis Kieftenbeld Toral Davis Maghoma
      Donaldson Lafferty

  • mark says:

    how would love to see Benitez Burnley remember him lol

  • oldburyblue says:

    Most Teams have players that are indispensable but I don’t think we have many so I think we should experiment. Morrison is probably the most vital….but even he has been responsible for many of the goals conceded lately. Try the kids, particularly in midfield. As long as they can pass a ball to a colleague consistently they will be an improvement on what we are seeing lately.

  • Mitchell says:

    Our problem with the midfield area is that we are inundated with plodders. Decent players but,generally there is no spark. We had hoped Fabrinni would change that but kinder not to dwell on him. My thoughts do go to Maxwell who I have seen recently at Kiddy. He is strong and good one touch footballer-not quick and doesn’t get into goal scoring positions. He has vision and could be a younger Hoddle-he is that sort but needs a Barton or a Savage in there as well. Imo I would get him in now with MK and Davis. Why wait for heavens sake-he could do Gleesons job on one leg.

  • Richard says:

    From the BCFC official site it seems Maxwell is training with us, eligible for u21s but can still play for Kidderminster. He’s not officially recalled so I can’t see how he can play in the first team.

    • StaffsBlue says:

      That’s how I read it. He’s only training with us full-time. He’s eligible for our U21s, or Kidderminster’s final games if they wish to play him.

  • Andy says:


    Grounds, Morrison, Shotton, Caddis
    Gleeson or Davis, Kieftenbield
    Cotteril, Toral, Maghoma

    Works well but when Donaldson not scoring doesn’t work. So you need another option.


    Grounds, Morrison, Shotton, Caddis
    Gleeson, Kieftenbeld, Adams (Can really see a Tesche could work here)
    Donaldson, Lafferty, Cotterill.

    If we switch to a 4-3-3 we lack that positive midfielder that could offer something.

  • Mind you we keep picking midfield players but unless we pick them with Goalscoring ability we won’t be going nowhere , in the old 4+4+2 system the four midfield players used to have to score around forty goals between them , for those teams at the top , Dack or hourihane are worth a chance..

  • Mitchell says:

    Atko’s earlier comments about us blowing a great chance of getting into 5/6 spot is accurate. Far too long have we blamed finances etc. We were doing ok until the disasterous window. At the time I wish we had a Warnock there pushing us over the line. I really believe he would have. Never have we had a better chance of claiming a spot. I like Rowett but I don’t see him as our manager who has that extra charisma to push on. Will not forget his success last season but he cannot live on that forever-and more important BCFC.

  • Dan says:

    Couldn’t agree more! I commented on the Leeds reflection post yesterday saying I’ve no idea how Gleeson gets anywhere near the team considering his recent poor performances. Although you say a starting berth may be too soon for one of the 2 you’ve mentioned, if they’re good enough to be on the bench then for me, they’re good enough to be in the team.

    As you say, there’s nothing left to play for, Mbende clearly has a good pedigree coming from Dortmund, why not give the lad a chance to impress, he can’t do any worse than Gleeson recently.

  • ZuluVet says:

    Why is it such a ‘huge call’ to give them starting debuts? I totally disagree. You’ve already said we have nothing to lose. What about clubs like Man United who have blooded Rashford and Mensah at 18? I’m not comparing our youngsters to them – but we’re talking about the Championship here not top of the Premier League. Who knows, we might unearth a gem – not all breakthrough stars hit the gold trail playing in the under 21s first.

    We’re only talking about young guys playing football here, not taking a bloody University degree.

    • atko says:

      No disrespect to any of Blues youngsters but have you seen the quality of those at Man Utd? Not only that Utd can afford to bring in a player or two and it won’t affect the teams performance. They have 9 or 10 others in the team who can cover them. A player or two in Blues team can have a big impact on Blues performances which in turn will have a big impact on the player himself if fans start to get on his back.

  • Gerard says:

    a point -whatever GR does is insignificant if you believe the bookies he is even money favourite to get the Derby job , I honestly think the players have an inkling and his mind and body language have been different sincewe beat Derby given the fact he lives near the ground and his family association with Derby add it all in the mix as the Derby job has become available hence our run of poor form only an opinion but I stand by what I say we could be looking for a new manager in the close season plus new investment from where ?, typical Blues I am used to it after 60 years and do not suppose it will change much for the better in the short term KRO

    • Texas Pete says:

      Say it three times in front of a mirror and it will come true.
      If Derby dont get promoted. If he wants to be dictated to . If he is overly ambitious. If he wants to get fired after 3 months. But if GR is committed to building a team, with a long term plan that he is the author of, and with some backing from the club even in difficult circumstances, then he is already set.
      Visit this again this time next year.

      • Darren Brown says:

        If Derby don’t get promoted then Gary’s off to them !!!
        I would like to be wrong but that’s what being said from people within the club.
        My personal view if he goes it’s not good for Blues and Rowett will get the sack at Derby if things don’t go to plan very quick !
        There some quality managers without jobs if we could get new owners with some money to spend.
        CV7 Blue

        • StaffsBlue says:

          I don’t understand all the angst over whether Rowett will leave or not. If he goes, he goes. Just like every other manager, he can be replaced. He’s done a good job since he’s been here. He steadied the ship when it looked like we were going to sink… and I think all Blues fans will be eternally grateful to him for that. But, at the end of the day, if he wants to go, he’ll go.. and he won’t give us a second thought. Life goes on.

          • Darren Brown says:

            I totally agree !!!
            But I feel Rowett has the chance to build the club from top to bottom (Wenger style)
            I’m with you after all the years of hurt and it started for me with Lou Macari (skip to the loo)

          • steve says:

            Gotta be honest,i wouldn’t be too fussed if he went. I don’t want him to but if he goes,he goes.

        • steve says:

          What people from inside the club ? Do you think they would have let him spend in January if they knew he was going? I,m not saying he won’t go,but i don’t think it would be common knowledge.

          • StaffsBlue says:

            Brian Dick summed it up in the BM yesterday.

            He said, “He is an ambitious football manager, not a Tilton season ticket holder.”

            Absolutely spot on!

  • Dave Mann says:

    That’s why I keep saying staying up next season WILL be an achievement . KRO

  • Simon says:

    Hi Dan
    I have been to most home games this season and to be honest most of them have been poor.
    I have said all along that I think our midfield is a bit lightweight. You are right I think we could do with a powerhouse in there and make his presence felt.
    A lot of other teams are a lot bigger than us on the whole.

  • I feel if GR does go Dave I think Nigel Clough would do a good job he set Derby up for others to get the glory , a lot of Derby supporters were upset to see him go , he seemed to do the things that seemed sensible to the fans , without having much to spend ,, or holloway, Kro

  • chudlt says:

    Tuesday proved how much we will miss Jon Toral next season.

  • Optimistic bluenose says:

    My issue is whether home or away we should in general have only 5 defensive players on the pitch & 5 offensive, regardless of formation. With 6 or in some cases with 7 defensive players playing it has been no surprise to me that goals aren’t being scored. If fabrinni had been played on a regular basis in his favoured attacking role, I believe by now we would be seeing the best from him. In a 4-5-1 I would have had a toral, fabrinni and davis central 3 ……. in a 4-4-2 I would have had a kieftenbeld & toral central pairing. The manager wants the players to be brave – but it has to stem from him first and being brave and having faith in his selection of attacking players.

  • BhamCityJulian says:

    If Gary goes so be it bit please can we have a manager who want to entertain us e.g. Holloway.

    Having said Gary has successfully implemented this season’s ‘non-promotion’ plan: BIH/TTA can now finalise the valuation of #BCFC and thus press ahead with the EGM to prepare for the sale; Gary has had the opportunity to work with Shotton, Buckley and Lafferty and thus decide whether to add them to Vaughan and Fabbrini for next season’s squad.

    • StaffsBlue says:

      Shotton: I think there’s a strong possibility that he’ll be with us next season.
      Buckley: Played 5 games and we’ve hardly seen him since. I would say that’s an emphatic no tbh.
      Lafferty: He’ll be too rich for our tastes imo.

  • BhamCityJulian says:

    Buckley. You’ll be surprised. He and Shotton were brought in as cover to consolidate us in this division, not to contribute to a promotion drive.

    Promotion would complicate the sale of the club because it would increase the value of the club so TTA would have to pay too much and would pull out. Better for them to pay less and use the extra funds on the club rather than line CY and BIH pockets. Secondly we’d have to spend all of the TV money to stand a chance of staying up and if we failed we’d have a team load of mercenaries to offload. It would also unfairly tarnish Gary’s CV which is why he’d buy into this strategy

    • StaffsBlue says:

      I’m not sure what promotion or otherwise has to do with what I said. Buckley’s hardly been used, it obviously hasn’t worked out as well as everyone would have hoped. I don’t see the point in keeping him on. Lafferty, I think maybe Norwich would want too big a fee and there’s also wages to consider. He’s probably on Prem wages. Unless he takes a massive cut, I can’t see how we could manage it.

      For me, Shotton has the biggest chance of being taken on.

  • Andrew says:

    Gleeson is the weak link in our midfield.

  • jazzzy786 says:

    We have nothing to lose give the kids a chance. Win or lose it doesn’t matter. Give the likes of Adams, Maxwell, Brown, Arthur and Jones some game time. I still think Harding should be backup CB. Mbende could be the big presence in midfield we are missing. If we’re gonna experiment play Hancox on LW and VSO on right

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