Let’s be honest here, I don’t think anyone could quite have predicted the way things have gone at Blues under Lee Bowyer. However, I don’t think we realised just how bad things had got under Aitor Karanka either.
Just like when Gary Rowett replaced Lee Clark and when Garry Monk replaced Steve Cotterill, simple organisation did the trick. Who knew that working on shape in training and giving players defined roles would make that much difference?
As much as I’d like to dig out Karanka for making us suffer for the last few months, I’m a believer that as we can only affect the future, that is what we should worry about.
With that in mind, I want to offer some thoughts about what I think we should hope for this summer.
Let’s not worry about fancy football
While Blues have been winning, I think we have to accept that there hasn’t been much sexy football.
The first half against Derby was as bad as I’ve ever seen; however, Bowyer showed us that good in-game management and substitutes can make all the difference. Maybe it’s the manager who should worry about concentration more than the players?
In the aftermath of people enjoying a win that sees Blues safe and Derby firmly in the doo-doo, who remembers that crap first half? There’s been a few duff halves but none of it matters if Blues grind out a positive result.
As Douglas MacArthur might have said if he’d spent his time on the Tilton Road end rather than in the Korean War, there is no substitute for victory in football.
However, I think it’s deeper than that.
I’ve not backed this up with any stats, but I don’t think it’s necessarily that sexy football equals wins; rather the reverse is true.
A good run of wins brings confidence to players; it helps them to believe in what they’re being coached and their own ability. Confidence helps many players to play better, which then equals better football, which makes the team even harder to beat in a virtuous circle.
I think rather than concentrating on bringing in players to play “sexy football”, we should work with the players we’ve got so they’ve got the confidence to grind out results.
We’ve seen in the last six weeks we’ve got the players to beat almost anyone in front of them. Let’s build on it.
Let’s not worry about making ambitious signings
So this point kinda follows on from the first, but my big hope this summer is that we see an end to the trolley dashes of recent years.
While the last set of Blues accounts were reasonably okay and the Bellingham money will ensure that this year’s will be fine, I think we have to accept that football right now is a money pit and it’s not good for Blues to keep adding to the money that is owed to parent company Birmingham Sports Holdings, Oriental Rainbow Investments and whoever else might appear in the future.
I’m willing to accept that there has to be some transfer movement. There are some players out of contract who will be moved on, maybe some who are deadwood who Blues will try to push out the door… but I really don’t want to see a wholesale raft of replacements.
I understand that I’m out of step here with all the Blues Twitter types who like to post about “huge dubs” and memes of how we’re going to piss the league, but the months following the last summer transfer window showed that in the grand scheme of things all of those things mean the square root of fuck all.
Likewise, I can imagine there are more than a few fans who have got a bee in their bonnet about a particular player who they’d like to see booted from the squad. I’d like to see more patience towards those players, because it’s possible the change in management might help them to get to the levels we expect of them.
A good example here is Mikel San Jose.
I’ll freely admit that I thought San Jose should be sent to the glue factory following his last few performances under Karanka but we saw on Saturday that given the right role and the right situation he can play.
I’m still a little bit underwhelmed with him particularly considering the wedge San Jose is no doubt on but I’m willing to accept that maybe, just maybe he could be a good piece in our squad.
Another good example is Lukas Jutkiewicz. How many people wanted rid of him in January?
Let’s hope for the best coaching support Bowyer can get
One thing that has surprised me is how well Lee Bowyer has done with just a few staff.
When Karanka brought on board his team of staff I thought it was proof of how much attention to detail it meant the Basque was going to bring to the role. It didn’t work out like that though, did it?
Bowyer has been the opposite; he’s had Craig Gardner, goalie coach Tony Roberts and Academy coach Paul Harsley on the bench with him. Yet it appears that less has very much been more, with the players looking much more understanding of their roles and the formation asked of them.
I also think I owe Craig Gardner an apology here. I never really rated the former midfielder as a coach, and when he went to Sheffield Wednesday to work with Tony Pulis I will freely admit I kinda shrugged it off as a “so what?”
Yet from talking to people who know better about these things, Gardner has been instrumental in helping Bowyer to succeed. It helps the two of them were team mates at the club and knew each other well; and that Gardner knew the current crop of players well when Bowyer came in.
I’m loathe to upset a winning formula, but I do think if Bowyer says he wants a couple of other staff Blues should bend over backwards to bring them in for him.
Bowyer’s success in the last six weeks has shown just how important it is to get the coaching staff right and I think the club needs to pay attention to that this summer if needed.
While we should be happy that the last two games of the season are dead rubbers and that we’re safe for another season, it’s important that we’re not in a similar situation next year.
That means learning from the mistakes of the last few years and concentrating on building on what we have rather than trying to recreate Barcelona in B9.
It might be boring, and the football might be less sexy than a night out with me, but I’d take that over another season of almost relegation.