BEHIND ENEMY LINES: Birmingham City

MILLWALL are once again on their travels this weekend. They head to St Andrews looking for back-to-back wins on the road.

After the midweek round of fixtures, the Lions are 12th in the table, five points behind Swansea who occupy the final play-off place and nine points clear of Wigan in the final relegation place.

Alex Grace spoke to Birmingham fan Tom Owens this week.



Twitter: tpfo_football

Why do you support Birmingham?

Like many people, supporting a certain club is a family tradition. I was thrown into a royal blue kit before I could even walk.



What has been your favourite season following Blues?

The season when I really got into football was the 2010-11 campaign, when Birmingham won the League Cup but also got relegated.

However, my favourite season was the following one. In 2011-12, under the management of Chris Hughton, we did brilliantly. Playing in Europe was an amazing experience: Chris Wood’s 99th-minute winner away at Club Brugge was a legendary moment.

We also got to the play-off semi-final and the FA Cup quarter-final while playing some nice football.

And the worst?

This probably has to be the 2017-18 season. It started off with so much promise as the new owners, TTA, gave Harry Redknapp a huge amount of money to spend.

However, the new players couldn’t gel together and we were quickly in a relegation battle.

Steve Cotterill, Redknapp’s replacement, is the worst manager the club has ever seen, in my opinion. The atmosphere at the club became so toxic during his tenure.

Luckily we stayed up on the final day of the season.

It was a strange summer, with Garry Monk departing – what did you make of it?

At first, I was outraged over his sacking as he was loved among Blues fans.

However, it seems like the board had concerns relating to the agent he was using. Monk’s recent behaviour has made me glad that we sacked him: He’s been childish and unprofessional.

Pep Clotet was installed as an interim head coach and is still there – what have you made of his start?

Clotet is a student of the game and obviously has a lot of tactical knowledge.

I’m still not sure he has the man-management skills required to be a top manager. He has made a promising start, Blues have played some great football at times but have also looked pretty spineless.

This is the biggest job of his career so far and I just hope it works out for him.

Former Birmingham Manager Gary Rowett is now the Millwall manager – what are your thoughts on that and do you think he is a good appointment by Millwall?

I think Rowett was a brilliant appointment for Millwall after Neil Harris’ spell at the club came to an end.

He doesn’t play the most exciting football but he seems to excel at clubs where he has limited resources and not the best playing squad.

He did fantastically at Burton and Birmingham and has made a promising start at Millwall.

Yes, he flopped at Derby and Stoke but I think he has learnt from his mistakes and is on his way to rebuilding his reputation within the game.

Birmingham, like Millwall, have been good at home while struggling on the road so far – what is a good season for Blues in terms of a final league position?

I think any signs of progress will be well-received by the fans.

While our ambitious CEO may want to finish in the play-offs, I think we’ll do well to achieve a top-half finish.

We have a playing squad more than capable of reaching the top six but I’m not expecting to see any immediate success.

What have you made of Millwall’s start to the season?

While Harris is a Millwall legend, I think he did the right thing by leaving the club.

At the time of his exit, it seemed like Millwall could have been starting to get dragged into a relegation scrap.

Since Rowett’s arrival, you have improved and are now in a much healthier position. The run-up to Christmas will be vital for Millwall as it will probably determine whether you emerge as an outsider for the play-offs or settle for mid-table mediocrity.

If you could sign one Millwall player, who would it be and why?

The biggest weakness in Blues’ squad is undoubtedly their goalkeeper. Lee Camp has just been dropped after a poor start to the season and the new No.1, Connal Trueman, is inexperienced.

Therefore, I’d like to sign Bartosz Bialkowski. He was one of the best keepers in the Championship before being relegated for Ipswich. The Pole was an astute pick-up for Millwall and he’d be a big improvement of any of our current options in nets.

Who will be your key men on Saturday?

Our midfield is arguably one of the best in the Championship.

Croatian hard man, Ivan Sunjic, 16-year-old wonderkid, Jude Bellingham, and the Midlands Messi, Dan Crowley, have been fantastic this season and will be a tough midfield for any team to face.

Aside from that, French right-back Maxime Colin is highly rated among Blues fans.

Also, look out for two speedy wingers, Jefferson Montero and Jeremie Bela, who will be sure to give your full-backs tough games.

Will you be at the game?

Sadly not. If I was I’d be sitting in the Tilton Kop corner cheering on the boys.

What is your predicted Birmingham line-up and formation?

We have been mainly using a fluid 4-4-2 this season but Clotet switched to a 4-2-3-1 against Huddersfield last Saturday.

I think Clotet will stick with this formation at the weekend. Montero has been bright off the bench and deserves to start. Jake Clarke-Salter should keep his place in the team despite Harlee Dean returning from a three-game ban.

The team I’d play would look like this:

Connal Trueman; Maxime Colin, Marc Roberts, Jake Clarke-Salter, Kristian Pedersen; Jude Bellingham, Ivan Sunjic; RW – Jeremie Bela, Dan Crowley, Jefferson Montero; Alvaro Gimenez.

Finally, a score prediction?

We have been largely impressive at home this season and you have struggled to pick up points away from home. It will be a physical, tightly-contested affair, but I think the Blues will win 2-0.

Good luck and Keep Right On!

Graphic: @ShedCreative 

Staff

(@NewsAtDen)