Championship so far: Birmingham City

Birmingham City

In the second installment of the “Championship so far series”, it is Midlands outfit Birmingham that will be looked at.

After managing to experience a hugely successful campaign last term which saw them finish in 4th place, the Blues missed out on the chance to return to the Premiership after suffering a defeat in the semi-final of the playoffs.

It would be fair to say there has been plenty of upheaval at St Andrews since then, with the popular Chris Hughton replaced by Lee Clark – a man who has yet to prove himself at Championship level.

 

The Results

As most people read this, they will probably be thinking of Birmingham’s most recent outing.

It would be fair to say that the Blues fared disastrously and despite playing against a Barnsley outfit who had recorded just one point out of the last thirteen away games, the club were hammered in 5-0 style. That defeat also put an end to a long unbeaten run at home and it will certainly be interesting to see just how the Blues fare in their game at the weekend.

Prior to that, their form had been average to say the least although they had at least managed to record successive home wins over Peterborough and Bolton. However, it is clear to see that there are big problems on the road for Clark’s men, with the club picking up just one point out of three Championship away games.

Clark…. struggling.

Now that the home record has been blasted to pieces, Clark certainly needs to reshuffle his outfit and sort out this form on the road.

 

The Summer Buys

It could be said that Birmingham’s major piece of business during the summer was bringing Clark in and at the time of writing, his position is certainly questionable. Nevertheless, we’ll now move onto players and the Blues certainly did manage to bring in several experienced heads during the summer months.

Darren Ambrose was arguably the most impressive purchase at the time although on current viewing he has struggled to replicate the form that saw him become such a hit at Crystal Palace and has chipped in with just the one goal.

It would be fair to say that most of Clark’s additions have struggled for game time, with the likes of Ben Gordon, Peter Lovenkrands, David Lucas and Ravel Morrison all struggling to establish themselves in the first team.

At this moment, Hayden Mullins seems to have been the most impressive purchase, with the former Portsmouth defender proving valuable with his versatile performances.

Mullins…. impressive addition for the Blues.

Recent signing Paul Caddis also made an immediate impact, although his career at St Andrews has stuttered somewhat in recent days after he was forced into surgery for a dislocated shoulder.

 

The Verdict

With Birmingham currently positioned in 19th, Lee Clark certainly hasn’t experienced the start that he would have hoped for at his new club.

Moreover, the fact they were humiliated in 5-0 fashion in their most recent clash is unlikely to have endeared him to his own supporters and for this reason, we have major concerns about the Blues.

They looked absolutely dreadful in the game against Barnsley and now the home record has been broken, it remains to be seen how much pressure will be on their shoulders in their away fixtures.

 

Author Biography

Liam is a huge follower of football and writes his views in his own bonus sports blog. As well as covering football, he likes to watch tennis, golf and rugby league.

 

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Emile Heskey: The Man, The Myth, The Legend

Heskey

Emile Heskey. Emile William Ivanhoe Heskey. Born in Leicester, Heskey is a professional footballer that played for Leicester City, Liverpool, Birmingham City, Wigan Athletic, Aston Villa, and currently plays for the Newcastle Jets, in Australia.

He made 696 appearances in English football, scoring 151 goals in a span of 18 years. He also played regularly for the English national team, winning a total of 62 caps and scoring 7 goals.

Heskey may have received his dubiously fair amount of critics over the years (even comedian Michael McIntyre had a go at Emile and the England team during one of his shows), but the fact remains that Heskey has to be considered one of the most successful English strikers of the past decade.

Emile Heskey started off his playing career at Leicester City, his hometown club, making his first appearance against QPR in the month of March, 1995. However, Heskey had already been submitted to criticism early on; after only scoring 6 goals in 98-99 season (4 less than last seasons total) he was condemned for a low scoring ratio.

This didn’t discourage certain key people, such as Michael Owen, and the England U-21 manager, Peter Taylor, who saw Heskey for the talent he could be.

Heskey joined Liverpool in 2000 for 11 million pounds, a Liverpool transfer record at the time. The 22 year old didn’t take long to settle in, and scored 3 goals in 12 appearances during his first season with the Reds. Heskey played his best football at Liverpool, complimenting Owen and Fowler superbly, and was an integral part of Houllier’s team.

During the 2000-2001 season, Heskey had arguably his greatest season of his professional career, notching 22 goals, as the Merseyside club secured the FA Cup, the League Cup, the UEFA Cup (now the Europa League) and the UEFA Super Cup (in which he scored in a 3-2 win against Champions League winners Bayern Munich).

Despite the fantastic season, it was only really downhill from then on for Heskey, who, at the end of the 2003-2004 season, departed for Birmingham City.

Heskey signed a 5-year contract worth around 4 million pounds with Birmingham City for the 2004-2005 season, but failed to make the impact that he was once penned to make. Despite a good first season, winning both the fans and players player award, his second season at St. Andrew’s was poor, scoring only 4 times as Blues were relegated, and Heskey moved on.

He went back to the Premier League with Wigan Athletic, who paid 5.5 million for the 28-year old. He stayed at the club for 2 and a half years, years which were unfortunately plagued by injury and rumors of a transfer back to Liverpool to play Champions League football, rumors which turned out to be false, as in the January window of 2009, Heskey signed for former team Birmingham’s rivals, Aston Villa.

Heskey’s career never really picked up after Liverpool, and he will continue his football at Newcastle Jets, in Australia.

Heskey, while never praised as much as he should’ve been, was never undaunted, and kept playing his football; something many footballers should think about doing today.

In a world where big-scoring strikers and fast wingers make the headlines, Heskey remained a solid and stoic reminder that the under-thanked are sometimes the one that should be idolized.

Thanks Heskey, and good luck in Australia.

 

Written by Cormac O’Brien

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Scouting Report: Jack Butland (Birmingham City)

Birmingham City's Jack Butland

 

The facts:

Full name: Jack Butland
Date of birth: March 10th 1993
Club: Birmingham City
Position: Goalkeeper
Height: 1.96m
Weight: 94.5kg
Squad number: 1

 

Jack Butland has only come into the public eye in the last few months when he produced simply fantastic performances for Team GB during the 2012 Olympic Football tournament.

In July Birmingham reportedly turned down a £6m offer from Southampton for the 19-year-old. The Birmingham manager, Lee Clarke, said it would take a “crazy” offer for the club to even consider selling the England international.
Outstanding performances at youth and now senior level has attracted the attention of reputable clubs such as Liverpool and Tottenham. One of the more memorable performances of his career came against Brazil (see video) for Team GB in a friendly before the Olympic games.

 

This goalkeeper is the best I have ever seen for his age and could become one of the greatest in the world. Potentially over taking Manchester City ‘keeper, Joe Hart, as England number 1. Despite playing in England’s second division it is clear to see to all who have watched him this man will achieve great things.

 

Butland has represented England at all youth levels from the under 16s. He enjoyed great success at youth level winning the UEFA Under 17 European Championship.

 

My ratings:

Reflexes- 83/100, potential reflexes 93/100
Handling- 79/100, potential handling 89/100
1-on-1s- 80/100, potential 1-on-1s 90/100
Positioning- 76/100, potential positioning 84/100
Defending set-pieces- 78/100, potential defending set-pieces 83/100
Punching- 72/100, potential punching 80/100
Composure- 88/100, potential composure 96/100
Market value- £14m-£18m, potential market value £30m-£40m.

 

The summary:

 

With reflexes to match the likes of Neuer and Casillas, and a brilliant ability to get down low to make saves Birmingham are quite literally in safe hands with the youngster in goal.

 

Here are some links to the player in action:

 

Butland vs Brazil for Team GB

Butland vs France, under 17 European Championship

 

Report written by Thomas Munson

Follow him on Twitter @Eltomo71

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