Blues much improved, but points deduction threat lingers - Interview
Friday, 8th Feb 2019 11:49 by Clive Whittingham
A better than expected season on the pitch brings praise for Garry Monk, but the threat of a points deduction continues to hang over Birmingham City and our man at St Andrew’s Matthew Elliott from the WeAreBirmingham website.
Surprised at how well you’re doing this season, how would you assess it?
Yes. It’s been pretty good all things considered. Taking into account the quality and the size of the squad, I think the team are punching above their weight. They’ve played well in about 75% of games (not the home game against your lot though). Even at the start of the season when the team were drawing a lot and not scoring much, the performances were there and they looked fairly dangerous. Consolidation was always the key this season and everything seems to be on track.
For those that haven’t seen you, how do you set up and what’s the style? What’s the key to the success?
It’s been a flat 442, for the majority of the season, but Monk switched things to a diamond against Forest which worked well. The players work hard off the ball, they won’t have much possession, but when they do they get up the pitch quickly. They do go direct occasionally, but we play some decent football at times too. The work ethic and team spirit is like nothing I’ve seen amongst a group of players here. It’s amazing the difference compared to previous seasons. They really look like they care.
Lots of theories on how many points you’re getting docked, what’s the inside word?
Pick a number between 1 and 21... I’ve heard various things, I’m not sure what to believe. I am of the belief that Blues will get a fine and a points deduction and partly deserved maybe. But what it looks like..? I don’t know. The important thing to remember with this hearing is not just the breach of FFP, it’s the behaviour and conduct of the club during that period. Ignoring communication with the league, bidding for players even though Blues were embargoed and then signed Kristian Pedersen even though the EFL wouldn’t let the club register him. They did in the end though, so something forced them to soften their stance.
And what is the present ownership/board situation? Presumably they’ve shot their load now with that mad Redknapp summer where do you go from here?
Not much has changed since last time as far as owners or board members. There has been a lot going on with the parent company BSH (Birmingham Sports Holdings). I think things there will become clearer as the year goes on. It sounds like they are willing to back Monk in the transfer market, problem is the money can’t be spent and due to FFP it’s highly unlikely the club will be in a position to spend money next season either.
Che Adams linked with some big money moves in January - good Championship striker or more than that?
If you’d asked me this 12 months ago, I wouldn’t even have referred to him as an average Championship striker. It was clear he had talent which he showed in flashes, but something seemed to be lacking with him. This season he took a couple of months to get going, but he’s really come on. James Beattie and Garry Monk need to take a lot of credit for for his turn around. Everything about his game has improved. Like the rest of the team he works hard, but he also finishes well, he’s strong, his movement is good and he’s starting to hold the ball up and bring others into play as well. Lukas Jutkiewicz has helped him a lot too. They’re probably the best strike partnership in the Championship so far this season. 26 goals and 13 assists between them (Adams 16 goals, 3 assists & Jutkiewicz 10 goals 10 assists)
And presumably nothing but good things to say about Monk? Any criticism?
I’ve said to you previously, I wasn’t convinced of his credentials prior to him coming in, but it is very hard to pick any faults with him. He gets the club, he gets the fans.. it really feels like he belongs here. The only thing I’d criticise is maybe his choice of subs or timing of subs and occasional loyalty to players. The latter probably sounds a bit daft and it’s probable that it’s due to the squad being so small and not having a lot of options, but sometimes I think change has been needed due to poor form or tiredness and it hasn’t happened. Maybe a little harsh. He’s great though, he’s really brought the club, players and the fans closer together.
Stand out players and weak links in the side?
We’ve mentioned Che Adams already, he’s the obvious one. It’s tough, because it’s very much a team effort with this lot. They’ve all played well throughout the season. Kieftenbeld and Jota were both very good last weekend in the diamond. The defence have been brilliant at times. Gary Gardner has been impressive, enough that the fans warmed to him quickly despite coming from the mob down the road.
Lee Camp, I still consider a weak link. He divides opinions between our fans. I’m not going to say too much because he’s been a lot better than I expected, but he still bothers me. A lot.
How do you see the rest of the season going?
We’ve got a decent amount points on the board. Certainly better than I could have expected. I don’t think we’re good enough to make the play offs and I think any points deduction would kill that idea anyway. With that in mind, we’ve probably got enough on the board to keep us away from any threat of relegation too. As the season rolls on and we have nothing too much to play for, I think we might see a few youngsters feature and a few tweaks in formations. However it pans out, we could do with Che Adams hitting 25 goals to put his price tag to £20m+
The Twitter @loftforwords, @matthewblue1875, @wearebirmingham
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