I trust in Eck to sort our club out!

Here is another article from Chris Quinn this time about Eck! There has been a lot of talk around tactics and transfers, here is a point of view from Chris.

I can’t believe I’m even typing this sentence, but feel compelled to.

Is Alex McLeish still the right man for Birmingham City?

Take one look at any message board related to the club and you would think Armageddon is fast approaching.

On the official message board of the club – there is a thread entitled ‘The McLeish Debate – Stay or go?’ Currently, it has seven pages. To save you having to pull your hair out, I have sifted through to gauge a general consensus of the thread.

Another unofficial forum makes the first ridiculous point of the thread: “yep spot on, no striker in the world can work alone upfront. 1-0 up should of bought Phillips on kill game off.”

Now, he may not agree that 4-4-1-1 works for Blues, and I would be partial to agree in some instances, but to say that no striker in the world can play as a lone striker is ludicrous. The Spanish team that won the World Cup had only one striker, David Villa, and although he was heavily supported, he was a lone striker. Didier Drogba has played the role for years and won trophies galore in that system.

Formation seems to be one of the main gripes amongst Blues fans regarding McLeish. Last season, during our fantastic unbeaten run, we played 4-4-2 and it was rather successful as opposed to the start of the season when we played 4-5-1. But lets get one thing straight; Blues fans did not convince McLeish that we should switch to 4-4-2. This decision would have been taken by Big Eck himself, maybe after conversing with his back room staff.

Christian Benitez was part of that strikeforce, and McLeish has also often been slated for not keeping ‘Chucho’ on board. In 21 starting appearances, ‘Chucho’ scored a dire three goals. People will often point to his contribution elsewhere on the pitch, especially his assists, but his replacement Nikola Zigic has scored two league goals so far this season, and is being slated, when he does play, for not scoring enough. If Benitez was still here and had scored the same amount of goals as Zigic, would he be deemed a flop? It seems that our fans were willing to be patient with Benitez as he had raw pace, but not Zigic as he is tall and less agile. He is ironically cheered when he wins a header, yet booed when he doesn’t win one. It is not even his best attribute, yet his whole career at Birmingham has been based on this one facet of play. McLeish is working hard with Zigic on the training ground, trying to get him in dangerous positions, and it is slowly working with him.

Take Arsenal away, Keith Fahey whipped in a great ball to Zigic and he rose and nodded home a superb header at the back post, the position McLeish has been training him to take up.

“…and his positioning at the back post for the other one in the second-half, we’d like to see him get in those positions more,” McLeish told the Birmingham Mail.

Also, cast back to Spurs at home. A ball was hung into the area and Zigic pulled onto the back post, where he towered over Benoit Assou-Ekotto and nodded across the face of the goal for Craig Gardner to head home. McLeish is working closely with Zigic every day in training.

Our 9th-placed finish last season was not because we played 4-4-2, it was down to the fact that our defence was unbreachable. Last season, we still were one of the lowest scorers in the league. This season, we still can’t score, but we concede more sloppy goals than last season. Our 4-5-1 is more of a 4-4-1-1 and is pretty attacking as it is. Alex Hleb is given the licence to roam and has no defensive responsibilities, so is effectively a deep-lying striker, much like Dimitar Berbatov often finds himself doing for Manchester United. Our widemen are encouraged to get forward, and if they cut inside Stephen Carr and Liam Ridgewell both get forward to provide the width.

Against Villa last weekend, a lot of fans were angry that we never played two up-front and went for the kill. I can see why fans felt this way, but we need to look at how teams line-up against us too. Had we played two in the middle of the park on Sunday, presumably Ferguson and Gardner, then we would have been over-run by Downing, Petrov and Reo-Coker, especially as Ferguson sits so deep in front of the back four. I concur that, as the home team, we should be looking at ways to make the opposition think about our formation and not the other way, but we have been over-run too many times in the past by Villa’s midfield three that it would have been suicidal to adopt that philosophy again. I’m all for being positive, but we can’t go gung-ho every game.

When McLeish feels we are able to let loose a bit more, he does switch to 4-4-2. For example, Blackpool at home. A poorer team came to St. Andrew’s and we out them to the sword and stifled their attacking threat well. Did McLeish get any praise for getting his tactics spot-on? No, everyone just moaned that we hadn’t played that way all season.

Chelsea came to Blues and we set-up 4-4-2. Yes, we did win 1-0, but remember the game itself? We had one shot and scored, Chelsea had over 30 shots at our goal that day and it should of been about five or six to them, had it not been for Ben Foster’s heroics. If we had conceded a lot of goals, no doubt the message boards would have called for his head once more.

Simply, he’s damned if he doesn’t, but he’s damned if he does.

Would we rather go back the kick-and-rush days of Bruce? Eck likes us to get the ball down and play and we’ve often been praised for our approach to the game. Think back to goals like Barry Ferguson’s goal away at Everton in the cup. Fantastic build-up play and a lovely sweeping finish that was reminiscent of Argentina’s lauded goal in the World Cup from Esteban Cambiasso.

Not only do we knock it about well, we are disciplined and have a fantastic work ethic to complement. I agree that we don’t score enough goals, but clean sheets, as proved last season, are a more successful foundation to build upon.

I’ve also heard murmurs of discontent towards McLeish, and Blues’, lack of activity in this transfer window, especially our inability to land players such as Robbie Keane. How anyone can have a go at his transfer policy is beyond me. This is the man who has turned Roger Johnson and Scott Dann from Championship defenders into England contenders. The man who took a chance last season and, alongside our fantastic goalkeeping coach Dave Watson, nurtured England’s number one goalkeeper for years to come. Joe Hart stayed at Man City at the end of season so McLeish managed to nab the player who is now challenging Hart for his England jersey. Everyone said that Barry Ferguson was past his best and wouldn’t thrive in the Premier League after an average first spell at Blackburn Rovers. Ferguson ended the 2010 calender year completing over 2,000 passes and having the highest successful pass completion rate in the Premier League. He also coaxed Stephen Carr out of retirement and turned Liam Ridgewell into a marauding left-back. He has also showed ambitions in his transfer activity and intent to take the club to the next level. The acquisition of Aliaksandr Hleb proves that. Unsuccessful pursuits of Moussa Dembele, who chose the bright lights of London, and Fabricio Miccoli, dodgy knee, have not helped McLeish’s cause.

And finally, who would we get to replace him? O’Neill is too power mad to work with this board. Sam Allardyce’s style of play is exactly the reason a lot of people want Eck out as it is. Chris Hughton is inexperienced. Who else could we get that would take this club to the next level and do a better job than McLeish could? The fact that McLeish was even talked about for the Liverpool job says a lot about the job he is doing here.

I will end this post by listing the good work that McLeish, and a fantastic backroom team (that Eck has assembled), have done since taking over:

1. McLeish took over a sinking ship and narrowly missed out on keeping Blues up. He followed that up by getting Blues promoted at the first time of asking.

2. He then made some inspired signings that helped the club to their highest league position in 50 years, embarking on the longest unbeaten run in the history of the football club in the process.

3. We are currently sitting in our first semi-final appearance in a decade, with a very realistic chance of reaching a cup final and giving the supporters of this club a day-out at Wembley that a lot of them don’t deserve.

We are going (positive) places with Eck in charge, we just need to be patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day and we need to establish ourselves firmly before we get too big for our moaning boots.

I know this post is going to cause controversy amongst some fans, so feel free to comment below and I will endeavour to discuss any points you think I may have missed!

Keep Right On.


Discuss this post, and other items, in the Joys and Sorrows Forum.


21 Comments on I trust in Eck to sort our club out!

  1. You talk a lot of sense chris. If someone (Gardner) had been following in Derbyshires shot a bit quicker we would have been 2-0 up and gone. The frustration is part of the game we come to expect as Bluenoses, always have and always will. However, it is not good for the club to have the likes of Keane stating we are only publicity seeking. We have missed out on all the so called first choice strikers we have gone after in the summer, and again now in January. If Jerome was to just put away half the chances he has we would not be in this position. There are a lot of positives for us, keep the faith, hopefully the board will back AM, and just remeber there are far worse sides in this division than us

  2. I totally agree. Good points well made.
    I have a bigger issue with our board…or at least I think I do. Its all smoke and mirrors…so I cant tell…but what I think that does is focus peoples attention on McLeish…which is wrong.

    The only downside I currently see is financial. We seem to be scrapping around in bins for the next saviour…and that can only be down to the board.

    I see Asante has just signed a pro contract, and he was solely responsible for embarassing Spurs youth in October…is it time to bring him through…? Maybe as a super sub to start with…

  3. Some good points but the fact that the scouts that he and the board employ are just not cutting it. Maybe the scouts are finding these gems but the board havent the money to fund them.
    I personally would go back for chucho but play him as the out and out striker. He was played mainly as a link up player for cj thats why he has so many assists.
    Anybody who watches the blues would know we have a lack of pace which every other team seems to have. We have cj but he hasnt got a footballing brain or the ability to provide that bit of magic needed in the premier. Thats not his fault for one minute but thats why I only see him as a good champiosnhip forward.
    As much as I dont like the guy nzogbia is worth the extra 1ok a week. If we shifted out players eck doesnt play ie phillips, michel, doyle then that would have made enough back to fund such quality. yes we have a good united team but where is that getting us exactly?

    Ill always support the blues like I did when we were in div 2 with gates of 6k. But the yeung era seems to be full of false hopes.


  4. Kevin,

    I can not beleive that you have writen this blog in such a pro ECK format!

    in response to this starting with your last 3 points if I may!

    1. we were not in the relegation zone wheen he took over and it was his tactics that took us down I know I went to almost every game that season and yes we were poor before he came but we actually got worse!
    2. We got promoted not through the quality of our performances but we had greater quality of player that got us the results. We were Poor, no VERY POOR!
    3. We are in the semi final of the Carling cup….. Rochdale, Mk Dons and Brentford, all at home and we made hard work of Rochdale and should have been beat by a much better Brentford team! We met a very poor vile side that we out battled (for once, since Eck took over).

    As for other points you make, We are a better team playing 4-4-2 as we really do not have the personel to play any form of 4-5-1. We are statically better results wise playing 4-4-2 no argument!

    As for last season we did finish 9th and we played 4-4-2 and yes the defence and goalkeeper must take a lot of the credit but! We did have a very consistant team which complimented each other and we had a great deal of luck with injuries and that the same 11 players made for a good and well balanced team. Not the prettiest but hard working but it did have pace and power!

    I would say I do agree that he isn’t bad at picking players from his scouting network, Zarate, Choucho, Dann, Johnson, Carr, Furguson, Gardner, etc

    His Tactics are not as good as you make them out to be, sorry I beleive his are more like tictacs.

    Who would replace him Allardyce, maybe his results are better and style of play not that much different and I do a round trip of nearly 300 miles for a home game (season ticket Holder, Gill Merrick Upper) the jouney is always better when we’ve won or played good football none of which I get much of at the moment.

    feel free to argue these points but I base my argument on watching come rain or shine and having to suffer suicidal Baz in the passenger seat when we lose!!

    This has been my opinion for a long time not just based upon theis current run of form.

  5. I agree with every word you have written here. As for Keane, I thought Pannu explained away very well the fact that we couldn’t afford to pay his wages, that he was a top-class striker and that therefore he could demand such an amount. Pannu didn’t for one moment suggest that Keane was greedy, so it was rather churlish for Keane to say that Blues were after a publicity stunt. To me it seems more than reasonable to try to find out whether he would prefer to receive his massive amount of money by sitting on the bench or to play regular football. The answer to that question is now blatantly obvious.

  6. I also think that we are generally too negative.
    I watch all Blues matches home and away. At West Ham for example in the first leg of the seme final, when they went down to 10 men, we should have immediatley brought on another attacker and pressed for an advantage.
    Instead we leave it to the last few minutes – after we have gone behind again.
    Same on Sunday – we bring on Zigic with less than 5 minutes to play.

    We have shown time and again this season that if we attack teams then we can and do score. Started on the first day at Sunderland 2 – 0 down. Similar stories many time WHU at home etc.

  7. Let me put it this way….
    We beat Blackburn playing with 2 up front
    We beat Blackpool twice playing with 2 up front
    We beat Chelsea playing 2 up front
    We beat Villa in the cup with… wait for it…….. 2 up front.

    If we set out to attack, we’ll lose more than we currently do but we’ll win more too! Draws won’t keep us in the league.

  8. Chris I’m glad you have a couple of gents agree with you at least you won’t be lonely in that big old ground come April, turn the lights out on your way out mate! McCleish is not the answer not by a long way

  9. I agree. Alot of sense spoken and McLeish has done alot of good for club however playing Derbyshire on his own up front did not make sense nor did not changing it earlier again by bringing Zigic on.

  10. Can’t believe what I’m reading! Bad attendance due to arm chair supporters. Most teams our size drop attendance when the games on SKY. West Brom won’t be any different!

    The majority are mentioning a lack of belief in Big Eck. Look at our results! How can we complain at a 1-1 draw with Villa! I’d of took that pre-game! That’s a result if you forget there manager problems etc. Admittedly losing to Wolves 1-0 isn’t the best but we had a bad day.. It’s going to happen!

    About signings. I also get frustrated with names being mentioned and then being outbid for them by other clubs.. Miller being the latest but Zigic is used to playing a completely different game and league.. Not at as good (hense him scoring) but no different to Robinho at Man City. I also get frustrated at a man taller than any player in the box not winning every header but I tell you what he’s getting better! Give the guy a break! Chucho was suppose to of been amazing.. He wasn’t! CJ is a championship player that I could out run and score more than and needs to be sold but until we replace him we won’t. Why would anyone want to join a club that boos there own players!! Ludacrous! Wayne Rooney doesn’t even score every other game let alone every game.. We come down to hard too fast!

    For the person that said drawing games won’t win the league have you seen the League table this season..!! Man Utd will win the league by keeping draws over losses. Drawing isn’t our problem its not scoring!

    My honest opinion is we build up the lower league team games thinking we will go in and win without a doubt and pressurise the players and managing staff to the extent that we make mistakes. Whereby when we play Chelsea, United, Liverpool etc we go in with an open mind of trying to atleast get a drawer and we get results.. Think about it!

  11. How can we trust a man who doesn’t seem to trust himself.He has signed several players that he doesn’t seem to want to play.Micheal 3 million quid is he not good enough can’t say he’s to young at 26,so was he a waste of money ?.Jiranek Iternational centre back,last weekend just what we needed with Dann being out injured , did he play no is it his age 31 is he past it , don’t think so.Or could it be after his 31 international & 136 Spartak Moscow appearances he just doesn’t have the experience.I could go on but I think you’ll get the jist.



  12. Hi folks, glad to see the post has stirred up a few reponses. I’ll try and go through each person’s views and address them:

    First and foremost, it’s been three years now, can we please learn how to spell ALEX McLEISH? It’s not that difficult! (Personal pet hate of mine…)

    Post 3 – by ‘Walker’.

    I think that our scouting network is fantastic! McLeish and Paul Montgomery have regularly pulled out gems for us, so much so that Montgomery was rumoured to be being head-hunted by Chelsea for their Sporting Director role! With regards to Chucho, I’ve heard he is pretty close to joining Celtic, but the fact that no other Premier League club came in and took a gamble after watching him for a season speaks wonders to me. Also, N’Zogbia; I would be prepared to wallow our pride and go back in for him. he is potentially world-class and could provide the natural width and pace we seem to lack.

    Post 4- ‘Will G’

    Don’t shoot the messenger! Kev has published this work on his site, but the piece was written by myself! Yes, our performances were pretty dire in the Championship season, but it is no use going down a level and trying to play our way back up. Look at Charlton, Leeds, Southampton etc. They would all loved to have bounced straight back up following their relegations. Fact of the matter is, our mission that season was to get promoted, regardless of how it was done – McLeish spoke of this himself. However, we are going to hugely disagree with your Allardyce point. ‘Not that different in style of play,’ couldn’t be any further from the truth. We do play a few long balls, but I would say the majority of our play is on the deck and goes through the likes of Ferguson, Gardner, Fahey & Hleb who all like to keep the ball on the floor. Allardyce used to say Paul Robinson was his best free-kick taker because of the distance he gets from his long punts!

    5 – Alan Richards

    I agree with every word RE: Keane. I never wanted him from the off and his attitude throughout negotiaions only enhances that view. I think it is prudent of Pannu not to pay a journeyman striker high wages in the twilight of his career.

    6 – Danny Garvey

    Against West Ham, there was no need to change the formation. We had equalised and were stretching their 10 men all over the park, we were creating lots of chances and dominating play. One counter-attack and fumble later and people blame McLeish? We should have had a blatant penalty, Murphy put a decent chance wide and Foster fumbled. On another day they would have gone our way we’d have left 1-3 winners and McLeish would have been lauded a tactical genius.

    7 – Pete

    Pete, I’ve already referred to the Chelsea game – we were beyond lucky.

    The rest of your examples are all against poor teams that we can afford to play 4-4-2 against, i stated in the piece that if McLeish feels it is necessary to play two-up top against weaker teams, he will do.

    8 & 9 – Figo

    You’re blaming McLeish for empty seats? You do realise the Midlands is in the middle of a huge recession? Villa don’t sell out, Wolves don’t sell out, Baggies don’t sell out, is that McLeish/Houllier/McCarthy/Di Matteo’s fault too?

    Villa was empty as it was early on a Sunday, broadcast live on television, in the middle of a recession and with Christmas just gone – who could afford to pay the extra money?

    I won’t turn the light off as I won’t be the last one out, we have a hardcore support that will support the club through thick and thin, regardless of the manager, so will never need to turn the lights off.

    11 – Bluenose

    Points well made, agree with a lot of what you say.

    12 – Dean64

    Michel hasn’t been a success, granted. But what manager gets every single signing spot on? He was pursued by Blues for 18 months, so must have something in his locker. It seems he hasn’t settled too well and Ferguson’s imperious displays have meant he hasn’t got a look in. I hope his loan move is productive and he comes back (if the option to purcahse isn’t taken), and stakes his claim for a place in the team. Jiranek hasn’t started a league game yet, but you want to throw him straight in at the deep end against Villa? Had he of made his debut and scored an own goal like Ridgewell he would have been hounded out the club and already called a flop.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment guys, whilst I may seem highly defensive about McLeish, I do believe he is the right man for this club. It is always good to hear other people’s views as well though. KRO.

  13. I have to smile about the Zigic comments , ” He’s getting better ” ” Give him a break ” ” He played in a different league ” etc .
    Different league is accurate I suppose ! because he’s certainly not in any players league that I’m watching. It’s got to such a degree that if he manages to ‘control’ and somehow successfully ‘ping’ the ball to a blue shirt he’s the bees knees.
    Now this is in danger of turning into another of my rants about Zigic , that’s not what I wanted to do today , or ever again come to that ! but lets stop all pretence that he will EVER turn in to a footballer .He’s the only sub that opposing teams supporters cheer when he comes on ……….

  14. Sorry Kev…… thought you had written this.

    I agree with the Zigic comment he is getting better and this league takes time to get used to and we need to give him time, but find someone to make an immediate impact to help the fight up front. Zig maybe better next year.

    Sorry Chris I can’t agree with much of what you wrote. We are poor! and we lack tactics, i’m affraid

  15. People talk about 4-4-2 as if it’s some magic button that when pressed will lead to exciting games and goals. These people are missing an important point which is that we don’t have two decent strikers at the club. 4-4-1-1 suits are squad better as it gives Hleb a free role and should allow a couple of our more attacking midfielders to get forward. The mistake that McLeish makes is thinking that Keith Fahey can be one of those attacking players. With him, Hleb and Ferguson dropping deep and playing short passes the midfield simply gets in each others way and the attacks go nowhere.

  16. I hope Blues win the League Cup and McLeish sods off to the ‘big’ club that comes calling for him. Bunch of slack-jawed, lily-livered tarts….

  17. The 4-5-1 debate to me seems simple, it works….providing you have a striker who can hold the ball up with his back to goal and a midfield with pace that can get up in support quickly. Derbysire tried to do this but it’s not his natural game. The problem of course is that with a 4-4-2 we face the danger of being over run in midfield by the better teams. The answer, Ferguson needs to play maybe a yard further forward, playing too deep merely attracts teams on to you, this will naturally move the midfield that yard forward and means they can link quicker to the lone striker, Hleb needs to keep in touch with the forward at all times. We have a great defence, yes they have made some errors but everyone does, trust them to do their job, give them the space to do it and keep the pressure on the opposition by not allowing them to get too far forward.

  18. just see us playing and blackpool who would you say plays the better football without fear fast paced attacking football no matter who they are playing and with a bunch of players that wouldn’t be out of place in division 1 and have cost less than zigic the difference is disire and mcleish doesn’t seem to be able to create the desire i wouldn’t have a problem with us buying from lower divisions instead of making us look mugs when we get laughed off by big time charlies so long as they want tocommit to the blues and play their hearts out and if the board ain’t got any money just say that to the fans im sure we’d all prefere that just be honest and lastely mcleish has had like you say 3 years to sort it out and hasn’t time to move on and nobodies mentioned valles

  19. The transfer window is on the ‘ final straight ‘ and guess what ?……. yes , nothing.
    Now I don’t want to see Blues ‘ splashing millions ‘ on journeyman players , players who have been there and done it , and now are looking for the final ‘ pension ‘ payout !
    But the simple fact is , we can’t seem to attract ANY type of half decent player , even on loan ( Bentley excluded of course ! ).
    Personally I think the loan scenario is perfect , you have a player in , who’s usually out of favour at his club ( for whatever reason ! ) and he either does a job for you ( for the cost of his wages ) or he doesn’t , you then either keep him ( if you can ! ) or back he goes to his club’s bench , absolutely ideal.
    Okay , we’ve got Bentley , and after Sunday’s bright debut , you’d have to be optomistic that he will do us some good , the spark is there. But I’m afraid that’s it , and the flip side of the Bentley acquisition is , it obviously means we’re losing Larsson ! and say what you will about Seb , and I certainly have in the past, his effort input was always there , he will be missed when the chips are down.

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