After a geographical discussion about the location of certain places within the West Midlands conurbation, Pete Sixsmith actually visited the area on Saturday and came back deeply unimpressed
What is wrong with this team of ours? We can go to Manchester United and outclass and outplay them. We can take on Liverpool and run out deserved winners in a beach ball dominated game. But when we go to Birmingham City or Burnley or Stoke we surrender meekly to teams who should not be capable of beating us, but do.
Where are we in the Premier League pecking order? Clearly not in the top six i.e. the usual four plus Citeh and the Villa. Not in the bottom two, where Portsmouth and Hull have the look of Derby and us c.2004-05 written all over them. Nor should we be in the Wolves, Burnley, Birmingham group, struggling to maintain a hard won Premier place before the likes of West Brom and Boro claim it back.
Do we fit in with Spurs and Everton as potential break through boys or are we to be forever lumped in with the Blackburns Boltons and Wigans of this world in forever looking over our shoulders at the relegation trap door that would spell doom for our club?
I pose these questions because once again, when the chips were down, we failed. We did it a number of times last season, we had already done it twice this, at Stoke and Burnley, where a lackadaisical approach has cost us vital points, and we did it again at Birmingham.
All three won and those wins were merited. We were not unlucky, robbed or beaten by moments of sheer individual genius. On all three occasions we were beaten by well organised sides who realised that we still have a soft centre and who were prepared to work just that little bit harder that we were.
On paper, Birmingham City are a mixture of once weres, might bes and what the hell are they doing playing in this leagues. They were better than us. They had a prodigious work ethic, used their players well and deservedly claimed all three points.
Ferguson and Bowyer sat in the central midfield and we never, ever got to grips with them. Cana did his best and Henderson looked comfortable on the ball at times, but oh how Cattermole was missed. He would never have allowed Ferguson to sit in front of his back four and pick up the ball and lay it off. He will be a major miss.
The back four was tortured by Benitez. The Ecuadorean has a silly hair cut and rejoices in the nickname ChooChoo. Presumably he is a great fan of Top Cat and has siblings at home named Benny, Brains Spook and Fancy and the local beat policeman is called Officer Dibble. He’s a good player though and he worried Turner throughout, making space for the likes of McFadden and Larsen to come through from the flanks.
Dann and Johnson,their two central defenders, both recruited from the Championship, held Jones and Bent very effectively until the final twenty minutes when they tired and we shook off the lethargy that had affected us from ten past three onwards.
We could, maybe should, have equalised through Campbell and Bent but it would have been an undeserved point and would have left us chuckling all the way home at the sheer injustice of football. But we didn’t.
Instead, two of our travelling band had a heated “discussion” about the qualities of Craig Gordon. One thought he had a good game; the other didn’t and blamed him for the first goal. I would prefer to point the finger at the lack of on-field responsibility that left Jones marking four men and which allowed Ridgewell to come from the back unmarked. Awful defending!
So, what does Steve Bruce do this weekend? Previous managers would have walked the dog, gone on a binge in Yarm or would have been studying the words of management gurus. Steve may well be deciding how he can shake certain players out of a state of complacency that could well cost us dear as the season progresses. Premier League success is not gained by lifting your game against the big clubs; it is cemented by taking points from the clubs you don’t want to be. No disrespect, but I have had enough of being a Birmingham or a Burnley. I wannabe an Everton or Villa – but I fear I may be waiting a while yet.