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Birmingham City preview

Filed: Friday, 11th December 2009
By: Preview Percy

Preview Percy has a quick look at tomorrow's match at St Andrews.....

Next a trip up the M1 and M6 (or, if you prefer, the M40) for a 3pm Saturday kick-off away to Birmingham City.

City currently lie in a healthy 9th place in the league having gained 21 points from their 15 matches. They’re in useful nick at the moment, being unbeaten since 17 October when they went down 3-1 at Arsenal. Since then they’ve won four and lost two of their last six matches, a run which has included winning their last three in a row, away at Wolves and Wigan and at home to Fulham.

Birmingham’s former owners are, of course, messrs. Gold and Sullivan who, if the papers are to be believed, have formally presented proposals to buy in at the Boleyn. Having made their initial pile from what is euphemistically called the “adult entertainment” sector, should they gain control, there will be a certain appropriateness to the situation, given that many of our performances this season will have to carry an “X” certificate when they come to compile the end-of-season DVD. The current owner, Carson Yeung, finally took over the club in October 2009, having first appeared on the radar as far back as 2007. It is to be hoped that whoever ends up buying us is a little quicker in closing the deal.

In goal they have Joe Hart who is spending the season at St Andrews from Man City having lost his place in the Eastlands starting line-up to Shay Given. In front of him has been a fairly settled back four (whatever one of those is) which has ben fairly solid in recent weeks. The line-up includes former Hammers youth player Liam Ridgewell, who made the unusual move across Brum from Villa Park in 2007. This was apparently the first transfer between the clubs for 23 years. (Des Bremner in case you were wondering).

City fans seem to have forgiven Ridgewell his Villa Park past. Similarly their feelings toward another ex-Hammer seem to have mellowed in recent times. There was a certain amount of disquiet back in 2005 when City were linked with a move for Lee Bowyer, then on Newcastle’s books. Online petitions were raised as fans protested against signing a player with such a chequered past. The deal eventually fell through and Bowyer returned to the Boleyn for a second spell in claret & blue. By January 2009 he had become surplus to requirements and he was shipped out to Birmingham on loan, the deal becoming permanent in July following the expiration of his Hammers contract. Bowyer has been amongst the goals in recent weeks, having netted the winners against both Fulham and Wolves.

Up front they have been fielding Ecuadorian international Christian “Chucho” Benitz. Apparently “Chucho” is Spanish for “no relation to Rafa”, though I have a feeling my sources may be a tad unreliable on that one. His transfer from Mexican side Santos Laguna during the summer was not without problem. The initial fee was said to be set at £6m rising to £9m. However, the player’s medical uncovered unforeseen knee problems which led to Benitez arriving with a much reduced fee, the bulk of which was rumoured to be appearance-based.

McLeish’s options up front have been limited of late by injuries to Gary O’Connor, who is a long-term casualty, and to veteran Kevin Philips, though Philips may be set to return this weekend. Those of us of a certain age who grew up watching Monty Python’s Flying Circus will never be able to hear the name “Kevin Philips” without mentally adding the suffix “Bong” in honour of the Slightly Silly Party candidate who polled no votes at all at the General Election. Or is that just me?

So what of us? Ok nobody was really expecting a comeback from Dean Ashton but even so 26 is a shockingly young age at which to be calling it a day. Whilst he will, no doubt, be comfortably well-off what with insurance, compensation and the like, anyone who has ever played the game at any level will appreciate just what a blow this will be to the lad and our best wishes for the future go out to him and his family.

Injuries will, as usual, be a feature of our squad this weekend. Up front, We’ll be missing Zavon Hines who spent the last five minutes of the first half last week hobbling about with a knee injury that may keep him out for some time. I don’t think that Franco is suited to playing as a lone striker but I have a feeling that Zola may well play him as such this weekend. This is partly because we don’t have anyone left that the management seem to trust up front (Frank Nouble anyone?) and partly because Zola might feel that the extra man in midfield might help to bolster a defence that last week folded quicker than an origami expert holding a crap poker hand.

It was thought that the defence might have been bolstered by the return of Matthew Upson who, presumably, would have resumed the role of captain though personally I prefer Parker in the role. However, seconds after this article went live it was announced that Upson would not be fit to face his former club after all, necessitating a quick edit. Hopefully nobody noticed.

Mark Noble may have recovered from his virus, likewise Robert “looking a bit” Green who lost his lunch on the pitch last week in spectacular style.

We’ll be up against it this week. We face a team on a bit of a roll whilst I suspect that those involved in last week’s debacle may still be shell-shocked. The Ashton news won’t have improved the general mood in the camp either. Many of the goals we have let in during recent weeks have shown a depressing similarity in their construction – opponent gets to by-line, defenders fail to cut out cross, opponent taps in from six yards. That this should be the case should be ringing alarm bells somewhere and, whilst I don’t forsee us getting torn apart in quite the same manner as last week, I also can’t see us coming back down the M6 and M1 (or, if you prefer, the M40) with much in the way of points or goals. I’ll therefore predict a 2-0 defeat in the hope that I am my usual inaccurate self. I wouldn’t bank on it though.

Enjoy the game!

Last season: n/a.

Danger Man: Lee Bowyer. Bowyer has scored in two of the last three matches and there is always that unwritten law that former players come back to haunt you.

Referee: Lee Mason. Not seen much of Mr Mason for a while. I last recall him officiating in our 2-0 win in the cup up at Hartlepool last season. Before that you have to go back to the 6-0 defeat at Reading in January 2007. he's averaging a shade under four yellow cards a match this season if that's any help.

Spread betting on football is certainly a man’s game and as always it is best to do your research before making a play. There’s not a hugely telling history between Birmingham and West Ham however it was 2002 last time Birmingham beat the Hammers. However it is extraordinary that at St. Andrews this season there have seen a total, yes TOTAL, of just 9 goals in 7 games. Therefore the sports spread betting price of Total Goals on the game of 2.4-2.6 with extrabet has to be considered.

“Amongst the goal-happy Premier League playpen, St. Andrews has been a ground of no-pass this season” says extrabet’s Chris Shillington.

Birmingham can be backed at evens on extrabet with the draw 9/4 and a West Ham win 12/5. Where stats sometimes don’t add up is when you simply look at players v players and surely West Ham have a chance to improve on their 1 away win this season against Birmingham. The sports betting community certainly think so as all the money has been for Zola’s team this week.
- Chris Shillington, extrabet.com

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

Your Comments

by Preview Percy
09:16AM 15th Dec 2009
''Sorry lads - that was a slip of the pen/keyboard. That should have read won 4 drawn 2. Now won 5 drawn 2.


by Alan Richards
06:23PM 11th Dec 2009
''Blues have not lost at all in their last six games. The defence is equal 4th in the Premier League. Apart from that I enjoyed your article.''

by Tell it how it is Charley
04:27PM 11th Dec 2009
''What about playing Parker in a more attacking role and putting Kovac and Noble in central midfield? The 4-5-1. No doubt you watched the Man United game last week but the defending issues are more than the back four as your writings imply Preview Percy. Time and time again Man United would attack down the wings but there was no one tracking off the ball players runs. I think last week showed serious discrepancies with the defending of Collinson and Stanislas although Kovac got turned very easily for the first goal.

You look at players like Rooney, he's back in midfield hastling midfielders into mistakes - that's the type of commitment we need from our forward players. And well Preview Percy, what about Green's distribution? How many times did he needlessly give possession away with aimless long ball kicking? You're just asking for problems.''

by bumpyfunk
03:29PM 11th Dec 2009
''Very thorough... Impressed. Nice to see a considered fan page for a very nice change.

But...Blues have not lost in 6...rather than won 4 and lost 2 like you so eloquently say...

I think Blues will win, but only by a solitary goal. May the best team win. Not having Carlton will, I think, be your downfall.

Blues fan Bumpyfunk.''

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