Often Partisan

That Was The Season That Was Pt III

The third part of my season review looks at December and January.

Blues continued their poor form into December, starting the month off with defeats to Cardiff City away and Hull City away (again after taking the lead) and they fell to fourteenth in the table – albeit with two games in hand. The mutterings of Europe being a distraction got louder as people started to worry if Blues could mount a promotion challenge despite a campaign that was already at a minimum 56 games. There were also murmurings of potential administration in January as it became apparent just how much relegation had cost Blues and BIH, and the newspapers were full of who Blues would have to sell in the January transfer window just to stay in the black – particularly as it had become public that the overdraft Blues had had been withdrawn along with the news broken first on Often Partisan of the debenture agreed on all the club’s assets by HSBC.

However, Blues returned to winning ways with a good 2-1 home win against Doncaster despite going behind as Marlon King found the net twice. King had been quiet in the first few months of the season having had spent all of his pre-season on the treatment table, and this was one of the first games where we saw glimpses of the player he can be both in effort and goalscoring ability. However, we also saw the bad side of the fanbase with isolated booing of Keith Fahey as he came on for a substitute appearance. Blues then went to Crystal Palace where they went down 1-0 in a televised clash which once again showed some of the frailties within the team. At home Blues looked assured but away there didn’t seem to be the same finesse and Nathan Redmond in particular struggled to recapture his home form. However, on Boxing Day Blues showed good resilience to come back against West Ham United to secure a draw with another goal from David Murphy before wrapping up 2011 with a 3-0 win over Blackpool which was capped off by a fine goal by Nathan Redmond.

Blues also bowed out of the Europa League in December despite beating NK Maribor 1-0 at St Andrews – Adam Rooney scoring early on from a delightful Redmond cross – as Brugge and Braga played out a 1-1 draw in Belgium. However, there is no doubting that Blues secured many plaudits in the media for the way they played in Europe and for being desperately unlucky in not qualifying despite gaining 10 points in their group. Bearing in mind our brethren from over the expressway were taunting us how we were going to get thumped by Europe’s finest I thought Blues acquitted themselves well and showed the strength of the English second tier by being able to compete with the previous year’s Europa League finalists and becoming the first English team to win at the Jan Breydal Stadion. Hopefully it won’t be fifty years until we’re doing it again.

In Hong Kong things were gathering pace as Carson was back in court once more, this time for a pre-trial hearing in relation to his money laundering charges. I don’t think it went down at all well when it was confirmed that he wouldn’t stand trial until November and it only increased the uneasy pall of uncertainty over St Andrews. The Hong Kong Stock Exchange also made their feelings regarding the trial and the overdue accounts aware, making certain stipulations upon BIH to fulfil before shares in the company could be relisted.

Blues started out January slowly with a 1-1 draw away at Peterborough, thanks to a last minute Marlon King penalty, before beating Ipswich at St Andrews 2-1 thanks to a Nikola Zigic brace. Zigic really came into his own at the New Den though – although he didn’t score his presence and his, ahem, winding-up shall we say saw two Millwall players sent off, the Serb taken off for his own health and Blues ran out 6-0 winners, giving rise to a new verse of the Obafemi Martins song – “Who put the ball in the Millwall net? Half the f*cking team did!”

Blues went rampant in the second half of the month, dispatching Watford 3-0 with Davies getting a brace of headers to make it four goals in five games and then Zigic going two better with all four in a 4-1 away win over Leeds that took his personal tally against them for the season to five and got Simon Grayson the sack. However Zigic also took a blow to the knee which was to rule him out for a few weeks. With four wins and one draw, sixteen goals for and three against that month there was no surprise that for the second time, Chris Hughton was named Championship manager of the month.

January also saw Blues in their fourth competition of the season – the FA Cup. Whilst the 0-0 against Wolves at home was a slightly drab affair (and the only game the whole season that Chris Burke took no part in), it was livened up by a class double save at the death by Colin Doyle. The replay at Molineux wasn’t much better but Blues took a small revenge for the previous season’s relegation by beating the lupine types on their own patch thanks to a scrambled Wade Elliott effort and another couple of great saves from that man Doyle. The fourth round saw Blues head up to Sheffield and feeling bouyant after stuffing Watford and Millwall along with the aforementioned win in Wolverhampton. Again, Blues ran riot, scoring four including a goal that can only be described as Barcelona-esque by Rooney after a sequence of something like 19 passes. It also saw the first team debuts of prospects Callum Reilly and Eddy Gnahoré as Blues continued to groom their academy stars for the future.

Behind the scenes however things weren’t brilliant. Liam Ridgewell had agitated for a move pretty much all Autumn and after much speculation in the press finally made it, heading off to the Baggies for an undisclosed figure. With Jean Beausejour also shipped out to Wigan, and no players brought in Blues looked dangerously lopsided with a dearth of left-footed players. Rumours of financial meltdown weren’t helped when the accounts were delayed again – this time until the end of April.

Check back tomorrow for the fourth part, covering February and March.

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