I read the match preview on the Blues site for this weekend’s Middlesbrough game and a key question stood out to me, “If the lack of pressure to get a result against a high-flying Middlesbrough team may help his [Gary Rowett] own side…” and it’s an interesting concept to suggest there are any games with a “lack of pressure.”
Blues currently sit in 8th place in the league after the weekend, a mere point outside of the top 6. Middlesbrough are 2nd in the table and while Blues come off the back of three straight defeats Middlesbrough have only lost one league game in five. Blues are struggling at the moment and so I do understand that expectations have reduced slightly and the team aren’t expected to win at the Riverside or even realistically come away with a point but that doesn’t mean there is no pressure.
Three straight defeats for a team that has started with such promise is pressure. Expectation is reduced but Blues still need points; they still need to win games or scrape draws, they still need to aim for that top 6 spot while they have the chance and they still need to end this poor run. To suggest there is no pressure is almost ignorant.
Blues have suffered injuries to key players which has had a slightly negative impact on some of the other players, especially one or two of the more inexperienced, but I also don’t think the speculation surrounding Rowett’s future helped with Kieftenbeld in particular being quoted as saying “Of course it bothered me.” I think, deep down, it may have affected Rowett as well, it’s quite easy to say you have a job that you’re focused on but I’m sure he would have been offered a better financial contract at either of the clubs or other benefits he can’t get at the Blues which would have distracted him slightly but the club has adamantly denied his departure.
Questions will start to be asked if Blues don’t pull off a decent result soon which will put further pressure on the players. Hopefully with a reduced expectation they will seek out other ways to break down the opposition or even Middlesbrough themselves will be complacent expecting to win. There’s no knowing what to expect though with Blues, we tend to pull off results against teams we’re not expected to and lose when we should win.
A selection headache has cropped up though, Rowett was already without Cotterill, Donaldson, Robinson and Koby Arthur but has today revealed that he has concerns over Jon Toral who has suffered a dead leg against Huddersfield which has since swelled up, Brock-Madsen took a “whack to the ankle” and Kuszczak has been ill this week. Once again this is when fans will question Rowett’s insistence on such a small squad as one bad week can wipe out a large proportion of the squad.
This does however mean that Blues youngster Charlee Adam has been called up, the player has developed well and was well received at Conference Premier Club Lincoln where he scored his debut professional goal in the Lincoln Grimsby derby. Tomorrow will also be the first opportunity loanee James Vaughan has to play for the club and I expect we will see him at some point.
All in all today’s game is not a “no pressure” game, if anything Blues need to surprise people in my opinion, we need to pick up something to keep that top 6 spot in sight. I think tomorrow will be extremely difficult but I’m going to predict 1-1 but as I say who knows with the Blues.
Finally I’d also like to congratulate Jacques Maghoma and his wife on the birth of their child. KRO!