“Much like Cotterill’s last home game, fans queued up by the tunnel as the squad walked off, the shouts and chants were of a very different tone this time though and the visibly sombre players showed their appreciation”
In just 24 little hours, we’ve seen some huge improvements throughout the club that have given Blues fans something to really get excited about.
As Garry himself has said, we have “10 finals coming up”. It’s evident from press conferences, fan interaction, and personal tweets that Monk and his team are up for the challenge mentally and based on Tuesday nights efforts, the boys do too.
Now we wouldn’t be Blues fans if we weren’t at least a little pessimistic and sceptical. After all, many were convinced that Cotterill was the man for the job and that Redknapp’s wheeling and dealing would get us where we deserve to be. It’s fair to say that the intent was there from both managers but much like Boga in the box, the end product was lacking.
Something seems different this time though. Maybe it’s my naïve positivity running wild, but there’s a buzz around the club. Not just the fans, but most of the players too. In fact, interviews with the team are now surfacing that are full of praise for the new manager and his colleagues. This lift in spirits is also being felt in the lower echelons of club staff. Just today I was speaking to a relative of one of the groundsman who said they can feel a change in atmosphere at all levels. (How’s THAT for a journalistic scoop! I don’t see the Birmingham Mail getting their hands on sources like that!)
Regarding the game against Middlesbrough. Well, we lost it. We weren’t torn apart by them, we weren’t played off the park and we weren’t a million miles away from bagging an equaliser. Boro are a very good team playing very boring football. They had a lucky-ish goal line scramble and then parked a fleet of buses and defended it like a fat guy guarding the last cupcake in the office. Unfortunately for us, this proved an effective strategy.
The important thing to take away from Tuesday though, is that we were never out of it. Not by a long shot. The boys were on the front foot for a large majority of the game and though we still struggled to find the net, the chances were there for us. Especially Big Sam who looked hungry for a goal when he was subbed on at the 60-minute mark.
Yes, that’s right, you read that correctly. Birmingham City Football Club made a substitution BEFORE the 80th minute. 20 minutes before in fact! I can’t speak for anyone else, but I was stunned into silence. Part of me felt sorry for the stadium announcer to be honest, no one likes having their boss call them into work early!
Sammy G’s introduction showed Monk’s intent to go after the game and chase a result. In fact, as soon as we kicked off the lads looked like they had fireworks up their backsides as they proceeded to treat us to the most attacking half of football we’ve seen down at St Andrews all season. Quite frankly, it was refreshing to see the fans excitement mirrored on the pitch as well as the dugout and the crowd showed their appreciation for a valiant effort after the final whistle. Much like Cotterill’s last home game, fans queued up by the tunnel as the squad walked off, the shouts and chants were of a very different tone this time though and the visibly sombre players showed their appreciation. Garry in particular looked gutted with the loss, but proud and determined at the same time, safe in the knowledge that if we play like that throughout the rest of the season, then we have little to worry about.
Having said all that, the response from the players on Tuesday could be a case of new manager enthusiasm syndrome. We may fall behind against Cardiff on Saturday and once again heads may drop. However, I’m impressed with the positive changes Monk has made in such a short time in charge. He may have lost his first game, but the guy only had 24 hours with the team and as the old saying goes; “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
We fans aren’t so delusional that we think this turn around in fortunes isn’t going to be difficult. We have a hill to climb and the trek starts properly on Saturday. Cardiff will be a challenge, but we’ve already put them to the sword once this year. With a few more days on the training ground, who knows what further changes we’re in for. ‘Arry always said that the squad we have are capable of great things and maybe he was right. Jota in particular was sublime against Boro, as was J-Mags. Gardner’s improving and the team played as a unit in much the same way they did over Christmas. The only disappointment for me was Che, but the guy’s got a little ring rust to shake off.
In conclusion, regardless of the result, the performance against Boro was massively encouraging to watch and I am confident that if we can make sure it wasn’t just a one off anomaly, we will survive this horrific season and put it behind us once and for all. After all, we all know what good a Gary can do for the club, no matter how many Rs are in his name.
By Mark Watson