What should Blues improve on during the international break?

It seems a recurring theme now for Blues fans to look back in retrospect at the current failings going on at the club and ponder on what’s going wrong. Ever since relegation from the Premier League in 2011, there’s always been a negative presence surrounding Blues – whether it be through the ownership or the performances on the pitch.

The contemporary concern in the last year or so, has been towards the managerial aspects of the club, with newly-appointed Steve Cotterill the bearer of current criticism. Fortunately, the international break has come around again, hopefully giving Cotterill an extra week to sort out what can only be described as a shambolic season so far. What should he have been thinking about changing during the international break? 

The Manager

In all fairness to Steve Cotterill, he couldn’t have got off to a better start with the win at home to Cardiff. It was your usual “typical Blues” performance; a hard-fought and solid win that was capped off by a wonderful solo goal by Che Adams. Since then however, the performances have dropped back to their usual standard of the past year. What does Cotterill need to do to get this team on winning ways?

Firstly, it’s common knowledge now that Blues just aren’t doing well in front of goal. Just 8 goals so far are easily the lowest in the Football League and is the height of many issues. With Isaac Vassell ruled out for a while, it’s not going to get any easier. Under Rowett and the start of Zola’s spell as manager, the primary goal scorer was Lucas Jutkiewicz. He’s seemingly been phased out of the starting line-up and is only really being used as a sub, in which he scored with his first touch away to Derby. He benefitted from being up top with Che Adams & is a partnership I feel we should revert back to.

Secondly, it’s the team selections. It appears Cotterill is the only man on the planet who’s failing to see that David Davis shouldn’t be starting, never mind be the captain. Boga has been one of few to impress this season, however Cotterill seems fairly adamant to keep him out the XI. Another face needed in the starting line-up is Craig Gardner. An under-performer since he joined, no doubt, but his passion and desire could be what’s missing so far. Remember his celebration to Jutkiewicz’s goal against Fulham in February? The back two keeps being muddled around as well, and Cotterill just needs to stick to one pairing; and it really should be Dean and Morrison, who haven’t been great but Roberts’ performances of late have been dire. We need Ryan Shotton.

The Players

Performances have been of such a poor standard it makes you question whether these players even want to win. It doesn’t seem like it. No offence intended to Jonathan Grounds, but when he is your best performer, then you know something is wrong.  The players lack the passion and commitment we’ve always been used to from a Blues side. We saw most of it come out during the Second City Derby, but experienced and professional players shouldn’t need a packed-out stadium in a local derby to perform their best. Kieftenbeld, even in his interviews, is the only one who seems as determined as the fans to change things around.

One thing that cannot be questioned about the players is their ability. Many of these players are more than good enough to be at least a top half team. Jota, Gallagher, Colin, Stockdale, to name a few, have solid Championship experience and have proved before being at Blues that they can achieve at this level. If the ability is there, why isn’t it being shown? The mind frame of the players seems a big obstruction of their abilities. Think of Jota’s missed chance against Villa. He’s a cool man, no doubt about that, and his goals at Brentford have proved he can finish. That miss however, stank of Stern John vs Millwall in the 2002 play-offs. It can only be the pressure, instilled by his negative mindset of Blues’ current situation, that got to him and caused the opportunity to go to waste.

The Fans

The players, manager, backroom staff and owners are incredibly lucky to have fans like they do at Blues. We’re never a set of fans to usually call for anyone’s head, or whip out the Villa-style bedsheets when we don’t like what we’re seeing on the pitch. Even with Blues entering the relegation zone (again), we’ve sold out Fulham away as per usual. This is something the players should take a long look at and see what support they truly have, even under difficult times.

All we, as fans, can do is carry on the way we are now. Selling out away games on a regular basis and bringing in a home attendance which is slowly climbing up since the Rowett days. Cotterill so far has been uninspiring, but sacking him so soon will make Blues end up like QPR, who are heading to League One with financial debt before they’re heading back to the Premier League. Things will more than likely get worse before they get better, we just have to keep our support up and hope it’s sooner rather than later. God help us all if we have to endure a final day relegation battle again.

Posted: 15 November 2017

Jordan Marley is a current journalism student at The University of Salford; a long-suffering Blues fan who also writes for the Huffington Post and Quays News.