It is rare for me to follow Blues away from home but certain games capture the attention when the offer comes about. Wolves was one of them. A Sunday early afternoon kick-off and a raucous atmosphere guaranteed, it was also a fixture that was thoroughly enjoyable back in early November 2014, otherwise known as Gary Rowett’s managerial debut in an all Birmingham City dugout.
One other player made his debut that afternoon. Michael Morrison.
We know why Rowett immediately brought him in following his appointment. A ‘proper’ centre-half was required for a group who with the best will in the world lacked leadership and intelligence in defence. Paul Robinson was beginning to show signs that age was catching up on him, David Edgar looked okay without ever looking like a mainstay and Grant Hall seemed to lack all the key elements of a central defender. There was also the small matter of an 8-0 pasting at Bournemouth the week before.
So Morrison joined and fans immediately agreed with the decision. Questions were raised about why Charlton Athletic were letting him go but such are the politics at the East London club, it wouldn’t be controversial to state his departure may not have been a purely footballing decision.
Blues had not looked so organised in defence all season. Bear in mind, and credit must go to Rowett for his faith on that day, that Morrison was in a defence featuring Paul Caddis, who had only just been restored to right-back after a prolonged stint in the middle of midfield, Paul Robinson and Jonathan Grounds, who was being questioned by a large section of supporters. There was also the timid frame of Stephen Gleeson, who endured a difficult start to life as a Blues player, holding in midfield with David Davis. Wolves were in form too, the result keeping them 4th in the table.
Having spent the entire game on the back foot, we somehow held firm amid a little bit of luck. A solid start and the results continued to rise. Through those first two months, Blues were not just winning games but we were so resolute defensively that the news of Michael Morrison’s permanent signing on a three and a half year deal was a welcome piece of news. Ever since, he has been the rock we have built on defensively.
It is telling that at the start of the campaign he was made ‘team captain’. While Robinson would continue to see to things behind the scenes, Morrison would remain the on-field leader, the organiser, the man with the armband. It was also partly due to the fact that the former Cambridge United, Leicester City and Sheffield Wednesday defender would be the first name on the team sheet each week. While every position has been up for debate during the campaign, nobody has dared look at Morrison.
The role has not come without its difficulties. Inconsistency has been rife throughout the campaign. For starters, he has not had a regular partner all campaign. Jonathan Spector and Paul Robinson have shared the duties, doing well for spells before performances dip and change is required. Paul Caddis and Jonathan Grounds have mixed sound defensive displays with occasional vulnerability. Stephen Gleeson and Maikel Kieftenbeld have largely been solid but have had challenging games.
Yet Morrison always remains calm. He relishes a physical battle and rarely comes off second best. Largely dominant aerially, intelligent for a defender of his stature and the level of football he has spent the majority of his career playing at and almost always composed in possession of the ball, his performances have been by far the most consistent of any Blues player in what has been a very impressive season to date.
Underrated in many quarters as far as the league is concerned but wholly trusted by his team-mates and those watching from the stands each week, he joined the club to provide organisation, quality and leadership. He has done much more. He has played an enormous role in giving us a sense of pride in our team once more.
A top professional who is the embodiment of our growth under Rowett, he is set to be a mainstay for many years to come and the platform on which this group can continue to build upon.