Writer: Carl Eustace
Date:Tuesday July 8 2014
With the season fast approaching and the pre-season fixtures beginning it is important for manager Lee Clark to find his best eleven for the season ahead. With nine new additions to the squad and with rumours continuing to rumble about one or two more arrivals yet things are looking good for the blues this season. The squad in full as it stands is listed here.
I am going to be picking my starting eleven using a 442 diamond shape.
In terms of goalkeepers it is a very simple choice with Randolph retaining his starting role in between the sticks as he is a good keeper and only conceded so many last season due to the quantity of chances going through at him. Despite this some chances could have and should have been prevented see the final game of the season against Bolton.
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The defence was a weak area for the blues last season and manager Lee Clark will surely be keen to prevent the same weakness this season. With Neal Eardley returning from injury he can be seen as a new signing and it will be interesting to see him and Paul Caddis fighting it out for the Right full back role. Both players boast the speed needed to overlap the right mid and the ability to produce a quality cross as well as being defensively solid so this will be a good duel to see throughout the season.
The pairing of centre backs will be crucial if fans hopes of a high finish are going to be met and Lee Clark has got to be able to get this correct early on and let the pair gel together. I feel will Packwood has to be selected on the basis he has all the qualities of a future top centre back so I feel he needs to play and gain experience.
The problem with this means it gives Clark an issue on who is the second centre back is. Paul Robinson club captain, leader and veteran has been a key player for the blues last season and looks set to carry on with this however that was until the arrival of David Edgar. Edgar is younger then the skipper and has bags of experience in the championship winning promotion with Burnley and making 21 appearances for his former club.
With Robinson being captain it looks set for him to stay lodged at centre back however when it comes for a changing of the guard or multiple matches a week don't be surprised to see the new signing ready to make the position his own.
The left full back role should be a safe bet to remain with Mitch Hancox the Birmingham born left footer has provided plenty of passionate performances leading to him having his own song from the fans. With plenty of pace Hancox is difficult to defend against as well as attack and with the passion comes committed tackles which normally disposes opposition attackers. With this in mind it makes the left full back pick a no brainier.
The holding midfielder needs to be a warrior who is willing to tackle for 90 minutes breaking up play. Also they have to have the engine to keep going and play simple passes to the more creative members of the team. Despite this they can't be a constant anchor defensively they have to be pushed forwards when necessary to help create more pressure.
The players who will be competing for this role is: Callum Reilly, Olly Lee, Jonathan Spector, Tom Adeyemi, and Stephen Gleeson. Last season Clark tended to operate with two holding midfielders in Reilly and Adeyemi. With the dual role not being considered for my formation I will have to sacrifice one to the bench. With Spector's injury prone nature he isn't considered for my match day squad.
Olly Lee in my opinion is not up to the standard for a championship club who want to push back up the league lacking the technical ability of his team mates. This means it will be fought for between the duo of last year and new recruit Stephen Gleeson. With this in mind my selection is going to be difficult to choose between as all three possess the potential to suit the role.
The winger will need to have certain abilities to be a successful replacement for the now departed Chris Burke. The qualities needed are: pace, the ability to deliver an accurate cross as well as the legs to track back to help out the full back and also a good ball control to attack the defence when dribbling with the ball.
The player who is picked will need to fill not only the boots of Burke but also make the role his own as the man to stand where club heroes such as Larsson and Redmond have previously stood. The candidates for this role are: Koby Arthur, Demarai Gray, Mark Duffy and David Cotterill. All candidates have these abilities in bags and will be fiercely competing for this role.
The creative presence that will be sat behind the strike force will need to be able to pick a pass as well as be able to create space for a shot and win free kicks for his team. The players I am considering for this role are: Lee Novak, Andrew Shinnie, Reece Brown, and Stephen Gleeson. Novak`s work rate and ability to strike from distance is proven at championship level makes him a strong pick for this role. Reece Brown only made a few appearances for the team last season however one was against Swansea in which he more then looked capable next to Premier League players.
Andrew Shinnie showed form in the pre-season but never seemed to demonstrate this in competitive environment in any of the domestic competitions last season. Shinnie does have potential should he be given time however with a team that needs to have a good start can Clark afford to give him this lenient policy. Gleeson is an unknown player at this level of football so any performances during the pre-season period will have to be taken with a pinch of salt which is why he will be not included in my eleven.
The striker`s role will be simple convert chances that are presented and made from those around them however it isn't as simple as that. They will also need to make chances for each other as well as learn each other`s game to form a partnership and follow the play of those around them. The strikers who are available for this are: Lee Novak, Clayton Donaldson, Matt Green and Wes Thomas. My first pick is Clayton Donaldson as he is the oldest option of the 4 and has experience at different levels and leagues.
This is needed as it means he can adapt to different styles of defending and also a variety of ways of playing as part of a team. The final player of this team is being competed between for Lee Novak and Matt Green as both have youth on their side yet to hit their peaks. I will elect for Novak as he is versatile and finished as Birmingham's top goal scorer with 11 league goals.
Date:Tuesday July 8 2014
Clark: Horrible Week for Injuries (Monday September 15 2014)
Wednesday Proving Solid (Monday September 15 2014)
Clark: Draws to Wins (Monday September 15 2014)
Highlights: Birmingham 1-1 Leeds United (Monday September 15 2014)
Martins Reviving His Career (Monday September 15 2014)
Arthur Recalled From Robins (Monday September 15 2014)
Reaction: Koby Arthur recalled (Monday September 15 2014)
Sheffield Wednesday Impress Before Blues Game (Sunday September 14 2014)
Gray: There Was Contact (Sunday September 14 2014)
Clark: Players Responded to Wigan Defeat (Sunday September 14 2014)
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