First of all, not all is guaranteed as things stand, there surely needs to be a MASSIVE influx of players, if we’re to take Europe at all seriously, even with a ‘bye’ to the third round of the Carling Cup, and assuming we’re not going to go all the way in the FA Cup, we’ve got an extra eight league matches to play, this coming season.
Rumours seem to suggest we may even lose our manager to Aston Villa…In fact, as I had written this article on Sunday afternoon, it’s actually HAPPENED. As this article is nothing whatsoever to do with McLeish’s departure, I’ll leave the argument as to whether it will be positive or negative for our club or Villa’s (if he ends up there), for the time being. I’ll leave that to other esteemed writers.
I decided, to have the best ‘guess’ at our squad, we were likely to be starting with the new players we have brought in, they surely (?) won’t have been brought in to ‘warm the bench’. The starting eleven would also include the players with the most experience at our club. For that reason, for example, Colin Doyle is likely to be sat on the bench ahead of Jack Butland, but Ben Foster (unless he’s sold, which still hasn’t been entirely ruled out) will be more likely to start.
I decided, in light of Roger Johnson’s agent’s claim that we’re willing to let him go, that we’re not likely to see him in September. Especially when high-calibre Premiership clubs are seemingly interested in him. This suggests to me that he will be sold, where players like Keith Fahey, whilst not necessarily high on people’s ‘keep list’ are more likely (and rightly in my mind!) to remain at our club. There’s not much point selling players with very little prospect of profit.
For this reason, I have speculated that we’ll retain Michel. He was on loan at AEK Athens, but they apparently can’t afford his wages, so (and I know I’m not alone in this) I truly hope we give him an opportunity to impress this season. Until I hear he’s been released or sold, I’ll assume he’s still a Birmingham City player!
The players we released, such as Phillips, Larsson and Bowyer, would have been for two separate reasons; perhaps they were ready to leave, perhaps McLeish saw our future didn’t match their own, and to save money in their wage bill. They had valuable experience, including our previous promotion season, so we’re going to have to rely more heavily on the players we’ve retained who have similar experience.
I chose to ignore goals in defence, they were pretty thin on the ground, anyway, especially as Ridgewell didn’t reach last season’s ‘heights’ and concentrate on appearances, but in attack, I tried to bear both in mind, using a goals per game ratio. Midfield I think goals are a bonus, but I think position is also important. We have to bear in mind that we’re thin on the ground, as things stand, which gives us even more indication that the squad needs strengthening.
I have had to decide in advance that we’re more likely to play a 4-4-2 formation, so if we do go for a Chelsea-esque 4-3-3, we may well need to buy another three strikers. Heh heh.
Substitutes, I felt we needed a goalkeeper, two defenders, two midfielders and two strikers, for added versatility. Of course, McLeish (his successor) is more than welcome to pack the bench with strikers, for added ‘oomph’ in our ‘more attacking’ Championship work ethic. Ha.
NB – Appearances translates as first team starts.
Goalkeepers – Choice: Jack Butland (0 appearances), Colin Doyle (30 appearances, 3 as sub), Ben Foster (43 appearances)
Squad: 1st team- Ben Foster, Bench- Colin Doyle
Defenders – Choice: Stephen Carr (97 appearances), David Murphy (53 appearances, 12 as sub), Roger Johnson (88 appearances), Liam Ridgewell (154 appearances, 2 as sub), Scott Dann (60 appearances), Fraser Kerr (0 appearances), Curtis Davies (3 appearances, 4 as sub), Alpaslan Ozturk (0 appearances)
Squad: 1st team- LB Liam Ridgewell, CB Scott Dann, CB Curtis Davies (ahead of Roger Johnson on likelihood to be at Saint Andrews, not ability or appearances!), RB Stephen Carr (CAPTAIN), Bench- Murphy and Kerr (suggests we need at least a couple of new defenders!)
Midfielders – Choice: Craig Gardner (40 appearances, 12 as sub, 11 goals), Barry Ferguson (83 appearances, 1 as sub, 2 goals), Keith Fahey (62 appearances, 29 as sub, 5 goals), Enric Valles (1 appearance, 1 as sub), Jean Beausejour (14 appearances, 11 as sub, 3 goals), Jordon Mutch (5 appearances, 1 as sub), Nathan Redmond (3 sub appearances), Chris Burke (debut as new signing expected), Michel (3 appearances, 6 as sub)
Squad: 1st team- LM Jean Beausejour, CM Barry Ferguson, CM Craig Gardner (chosen ahead of Keith Fahey on goals scored), RM Chris Burke (chosen ahead of Nathan Redmond, as can’t see he’d have been brought in to sit on the bench, behind a ‘raw talent), Bench- Keith Fahey, Jordon Mutch (gets the nod on appearances ahead of Michel, though I’d expect this to be rotated with Cup/Europe matches!)
Strikers is an interesting category. It’s worth noting the goals/game ratio for each of our players, too. Asante is untested at the top level, but Marlon King (for previous clubs) almost reached a goal every other game for Coventry. Cameron Jerome averages a goal every five games, which isn’t so bad as it includes all substitute appearances. Zigic (calculated as Jerome’s) is a goal in every four, and McFadden’s (as Jerome’s again) is a goal in every six. This to me explains why Jerome is seemingly being considered for a move elsewhere. For the right price.
NB gpa=goals per appearance (incl subs)
Strikers – Choice: Cameron Jerome (144 appearances, 57 as sub, 42 goals, 0.21 gpa), James McFadden (72 appearances, 16 as sub, 14 goals, 0.16 gpa), Nikola Zigic (18 appearances, 16 as sub, 8 goals, 0.24 gpa), Akwasi Asante (0 appearances), Marlon King (debut as new signing expected).
Squad: 1st team- Marlon King and Nikola Zigic, Bench- Cameron Jerome and James McFadden
Rotation Players (cover/injury/etc) – Butland, Ozturk, Valles, Redmond, Michel and Asante. I would suggest (assuming no more players are released with the exception of Johnson) we would need to BUY/LOAN a new defender, midfield seems healthy but we would need two more strikers to cope with the increase in matches to be played next season. I do hope The Board/new manager remember the key to our unbeaten run in our 9th place finish season was an unchanged side. This can be achieved in the League, which surely will be our number one priority, and – within reason – can be attempted with the ‘odd rotation’ in the three Cup competitions. Birmingham City for the quadruple?
My proposed first team, as suggested here, would be:
GK Ben Foster (43)
LB Liam Ridgewell (154)
CB Curtis Davies (3)
CB Scott Dann (60)
RB Stephen Carr (97)
LM Jean Beausejour (14)
CM Craig Gardner (40)
CM Barry Ferguson (83)
RM Chris Burke (0)
ST Marlon King (0)
ST Nikola Zigic (18)
Total number of first team starts for Birmingham City by this squad: 512.
Divided by eleven (to give an average) is 46.
The reason I’ve focused on appearances so much is I think it is critical, that our players have experience, as well as talent, in order to get us out of the Championship. As Premiership experience is surely superior to that of the Championship, I haven’t separated the two, though I’ll concede that this method would be flawed if we tried the same exercise after promotion to the Premier League.
It would seem we’re most blessed with defensive experience, and least with attacking experience, which would probably encourage our manager to build from the defence again. Expect a lot of 1-0 wins this season! Probably from Marlon King goals assisted by Zigic. Perhaps the odd 2-1 too, with a goal from Gardner thrown in!!
46 appearances per player average? How many matches in the Championship? 46. What an amazing coincidence! I think this team of players, in terms of experience for our team (and in Burke and King in terms of experience for their previous Championship teams) have exactly what it takes to win promotion as Champions, at the first time of asking. Let’s hope the Board helps us to achieve just that, by retaining the experience we have, and signing new players to give us a healthy amount of cover and competition!
Keep Right On!