Panic on the streets of Birmingham
In little over a fortnight, Birmingham City entertain Norwich City in the curtain raiser for the new season. With World Cup drama dominating the summer schedule, many of us are still checking our calendars wondering where the time has gone.
74 days have passed since Blues confirmed their Championship status with a 3-1 win over Fulham. Since then, England have battled their way to a World Cup semi-final and M&S have made a killing in waistcoats.
But, perhaps more tellingly, only one player has been added to Garry Monk’s first team squad. Kristian Pedersen signed from Union Berlin and was expected to be the first of many arrivals. That, as we are acutely aware, hasn’t panned out.
While it’s easy to become downbeat at the lack of new faces in the ranks, one look at the current squad gives me genuine cause for optimism.
Whether Garry Monk feels that way is another matter entirely. The Blues manager was promised financial backing. David Stockdale, Tomasz Kuszczak and Jonathan Grounds were informed that they are surplus to requirements as Monk made eyes at his transfer targets.
Of course, that financial backing hasn’t yet materialised (sound familiar?) as the club, led by the seemingly clueless Xuandong Ren, battle the transfer embargo imposed on them by the Football League.
Yet, for me, Blues are one ball-playing midfielder short of a very competitive squad.
Maxime Colin, Kristian Pedersen (assuming he is registered) and Wes Harding represent adequate quality in the full-back areas while Harlee Dean will be partnered either by an established Michael Morrison or a hopefully-improved Marc Roberts.
Jota and Jacques Maghoma will be ordered to do more of the same from their respective wide attacking berths. Their attacking prowess pulled Blues through another relegation scrap and they will surely have a big part to play once again.
If Viv Solomon-Otabor can show his true ability after his return from a loan spell at Blackpool, he gives another dimension and offers much needed competition over a long, gruelling campaign.
In the middle of the park is where Blues suffer a severe lack of class. With Maikel Kieftenbeld, Craig Gardner, David Davis (when fit) and Cheikh Ndoye, there is bite in abundance but, as has been the case for many a year, a composed technical craftsman is missing.
If that can be rectified, along with the situation between the sticks, a fully fit and firing Che Adams (which, admittedly, we haven’t yet witnessed) will be a decent bet to bag 15 plus goals and Lukas Jutkiewicz will give his usual workmanlike performances.
Isaac Vassell’s return to fitness will feel like a new signing in itself and promising youngsters could also make the step-up to give the squad more depth.
Winning football matches is the only way to create a positive atmosphere and Garry Monk has proved that he can make that happen.
Blues will no longer be ‘scared’ of playing at home. They will no longer be trotting out of the St. Andrew’s tunnel like lambs to the slaughter. They will no longer be fending for themselves while looking to their manager for direction which is never forthcoming (see Steve Cotterill).
The powers that be must ensure the embargo situation is dealt with one way or another if only to keep Monk happy. I can’t take another managerial merry-go-round – can you?