Monday, January 31, 2011

Don't Take No Notice

It's been an interesting couple of weeks for the Blues, and I am delighted to point out that I said, after the Villa game, that we were showing signs of improvement. I was right, everyone else was wrong. A pulsating night against West Ham saw us through to the Carling cup and a somewhat soporific afternoon saw us safely through to the next round of the FA Cup, where we will play Sheffield Wednesday. It's all been a pleasant diversion, but the proper business starts again on Wednesday and I am intrigued.

There were people who were thrilled when Eck named a 4-4-2 for West Ham but I wasn't, because I couldn't see where the midfield creativity was. I predicted lots of aimless chasing and I was right, and we conceded, which meant we had to score 3. Gulp. When do we ever score 2, never mind 3? (yes, I know, Millwall, but that doesn't count). I doubt if I was alone in believing that the game was up. But the game wasn't up.

Eck changed it at half time bringing Zigic on for Derbyshire. I continued to disapprove, still believing that we needed more creativity in midfield but the change worked. There are some who say Zigic changed the game and there is truth in that, but he didn't change it on his own. The midfield were much more involved and involved higher up the pitch. In short, we took the game to them, and we won. The crowd roared. You don't get much roaring down the Blues, and, even allowing for the fact it was a semi final, it was the committed, attacking performance that got the crowd going. We need more of it. I hope and pray that Eck doesn't go back in his shell, but I suspect he will.

It's been a good window for Blues, with Bentley and Martins joining. I have no thoughts either way on Curtis Davies. Zigic has shown that despite all the opprobrium heaped upon his head, he is a class act . Bentley has already shown what a truly exciting player he is, and in turn he seems to have invigorated the much maligned Hleb. Martins we don't know about yet. He clearly had something a bit different and special once, hopefully he still has it. If Eck picks all 4 of these, we will stay up comfortably, but I am convinced that he will remain  more concerned with what the opposition might do to us, rather than what we can do to them. It's all good though, never a dull moment.

I started the new James Lee Burke earlier, he had put me in a bad mood before I got to the end of page 2. Why can he not give his characters normal names? I have had a bit of a bad run with books, and ended up reading a Grisham and a Turow for the first time. Last time too. Those blokes just don't know when to shut up. I have the new Nesbo, but I can't bring myself to read it, I want to save it and savour it. Mind you, it has had some duff reviews. It would be nice to be on the sick for a few days. Too sick to work but not too sick to get stuck into a book. The house to myself. Peace. Quiet. Whatever that is.

There are redundancies at my old place of work, announced in a very uncaring and unprofessional way, apparently. It's a shocker anyway, but the bigger shock is that they seem to be getting rid of the more experienced social workers. Another area, not unadjacent to here has cut pay. None of us are safe. We are little more than paper tissues, to be tossed aside, at the whim of some fat faced berk in a shiny arsed suit. Already, we are told that we should think ourselves lucky, we have no cause to complain, just think, we could end up down the road, like the others. The subtext being, obviously, "shut the fuck up".

As usual, Unison has played a motherfucking blinder. I was being facetious there.

Twitter,  a repository of the instant and inane thoughts of chumps like me, who think that the world is desperate to hear their half arsed opinions, but it comes into its own at momentous times like this when the heroic people of Egypt are rising up and helping us put the goings on down St Andrews into a bit of perspective.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Make Me Smile

It’s been an eventful few weeks for the Blues. We had a good result against Blackpool, in which we played fast attacking football, until we took the lead, at which point we took our collective feet off their collective throat, and allowed them back in. Still, we won and we played well. The players demonstrated that they can attack, if given licence to do so.
I thought at the time, this will never catch on, because we were a bit leaky. I surmised that Eck would be more alarmed by the chances that Blackpool created than thrilled by the chances we created. And I might have been right.
We went to Milwall for the cup and bugger me scored 4 goals, something I never thought possible with our current manager. I didn’t see any of this game, but apparently we were not all that good, but, job done, and Derbyshire, who looked impressive against Blackpool scored two, surely a good sign, especially as we seem to be having a bit of trouble getting even mediocre strikers to sign for us.
West Ham next and all was woe. Back to the cautious, ultra defensive style that has served us so poorly all season. Eck even joked about it beforehand. We lost 2-1, which was lucky, because it could have been worse; they created  thousands of chances. We did actually improve at the start of the second half and had them shitting themselves. Same players, but they played further up the pitch, with a bit more urgency. As I have been saying forever, these players can do it, if allowed to do it.
We had the Villa yesterday. It’s a shame we didn’t win, but I seem to be in a bit of a minority in thinking that it was hugely encouraging performance. We started with Hleb and Bentley in midfield. Only one striker, Derbyshire, who I prefer to Jerome, but Bentley and Hleb in midfield. That is 2 skilful, attacking players in our midfield.
Bentley made a difference. He looked like he was enjoying himself for a start and always looked to move it forward. He also seemed to bring out something in Hleb, who looked up for it. The truth is, we still didn’t create much, certainly not in terms of clear cut chances, but Hleb and Bentley were brilliant at relieving pressure. It was great to see Blues players take delivery of the ball calmly and  assess their options calmly; it was great to see Blues players looking comfortable on the ball and passing it to someone wearing the same coloured shirt, rather than just shifting it on, straight to an opponent.  
So long as they stay fit, they should improve. Their own fitness levels should improve and their awareness of each other and the rest of the team should improve. With a fair wind and good coaching, the whole team will develop a rhythm, with Bently as conductor and Ferguson as orchestra leader and Hleb as chief violinist. 
If Eck persists with Derbyshire up front (which I very much doubt) he will improve too. Already he has shown greater awareness and touch than Jerome. He doesn’t have the same muscular presence or speed, but that is irrelevant. For all his pace, power and work ethic, Jerome neither scores many, nor creates many. We have piano players in the team now, as well as piano shifters, Derbyshire is better equipped to apply the coup de grace than Jerome, and it would be a betrayal of the talent of Hleb and Bentley to persist with the willing, but limited Jerome.
There are those who are willing to forgive Jerome his limitations, and will point out that he still young, still learning and the team is not set up to make the best of his assets. They will point out that Derbyshire has missed at least two good chances in recent weeks, but I think they are missing the point. Derbyshire is also young, the same age as Jerome in fact, but hasn’t benefited from an extending run in a settles team in the same way that Jerome has, and I am convinced that he has more awareness and footballing nous than Jerome ever will.
He has missed chances, yes, but all strikers miss chances, and the salient point is that he has been in a position to miss ‘em, and overall, he is a much more comforting presence as a footballer. The goals he has scored have been good goals, the goals of an instinctive scorer,  and he has also been aware enough to provide chances for Jerome to miss. Jerome will chase lost causes down to the corner flag………..all well and good, but, ultimately pointless. Jerome has demonstrated over a long period of time that he can’t quite cut the mustard; Derbyshire has shown in a short period of time that he has something about him, and he deserves an extended run to show what he can do

Saturday, January 01, 2011


The Low Anthem - Apothecary - A Take Away Show from La Blogotheque on Vimeo.

At the risk of sounding a bit shrill, Blues were horrible tonight. There will be those who will say we competed quite well in the first half and that if we hadn't been victims of some very bad refereeing, the whole dynamic of the game may have been different, and they would probably be right, but we would still have been horrible, because, lets face it, we are horrible. To an extent, being horrible is OK, and it can be hilarious when you are beating Chelsea, but I have had enough of it.

Regardless of the ref, we would never have won that game. As Steve Forbert sings, you cannot win, if you do not play, and we do not play. We attempt to stop the opposition playing, but we don't really play ourselves. This is not just about today, this is us. Every week, whoever the opponent is. For me, our style is barely tolerable even when we don't lose, but finding ourselves in the drop zone, has put me in a bad mood. This shitty style clearly isn't working, so why persist with it?

Eck said something the other day about Barcelona and Arsenal and the way they pass and retain possession and alluded to the fact that we cannot expect to emulate that style with the players we have. It is obvious that he does not trust our players to do anything other than fight like dogs. We only ever commit men forward after we have conceded. We play a percentage game of harrying and pressing the opposition into mistakes or fouls, we play for territory. It's like watching fucking rugby. Punt it upfield and try and win the second phase

As Steve Forbert also sang, it doesn't have to be this way. Other teams with limited players show this on a weekly basis. Blackpool take the game to the opposition, and, my oh my, they score goals. Bolton have been transformed by Owen Coyle and are much more pleasing on the eye than they once were. Both teams are comfortably ahead of us in the table.  Mainz are a team of extremely hard working artisans, but are very direct when they have the ball and are doing brilliantly in Germany. I refuse to believe that our players are incapable of attacking with a bit more purpose.

We are in a situation where we are playing unlovely football, losing games and have been travelling with Plummet Airlines to the foot of the table. Eck speaks highly of the team spirit and the work ethic, but it takes more than that. He has to have more confidence in them, he has to let the off the leash a bit. Playing 5 defensive midfielders is humiliating. If he doesn't trust the regulars, he should try others. Hleb isn't getting a start, Michel had disappeared off the face of the earth, Zigic can't get a start, Derbyshire may as well turn up in pyjamas, because he sure as shit isn't going to get anywhere near the pitch, Phillips is only ever allowed 10 minutes or less.

The sad fact is that the players are failing, the defence isn't as good as it is cracked up to be (look at the stats for goals conceded from set pieces if you don't believe me) the midfield cannot create chances, nor hang on to the ball to relieve pressure and our main striker couldn't score in a barrel of fannies. Yet players that Eck has bought, presumably having done his famous due diligence, can't get a game. It is baffling.

The window is open, we need to bring some talent in, but, if Eck doesn't play the new guys, or if he doesn't  change our mind set, it won't matter who he brings in, because we will be fucked.