Blues 1 Burnley 1 .. Ron's Report

Last updated : 11 February 2009 By Richard Barker
Apologies for that, but I've been busy and all the rest of it and this is the first chance I've had to sit down and write anything. Some of my business (I'd never twigged that "business" is to "busy" as "messiness" is to "messy" until I just wrote that - bizarre. I never realised that the two words were linked. How stupid am I?) has been directly linked to the Blues, as once again I felt the need to drown my sorrows (it's always drowning sorrows and drowning joys too…) on the back of yet more ineptitude. Thankfully, that's meant that some of the game is a far and distant memory now, but unfortunately parts of it still stand out in my mind.

Firstly, everyone likes proving a point, don't they? When the other half slips on the ice on the way to work, we like saying, "I told you you should have worn your boots otherwise you'd slip". When Mauro Zarate nets his seventh tournament goal for Argentina at next year's World Cup, we'll all enjoy saying, "I told you we should never have let him go". When all the trees are ablaze, we like to say, "Strewth mate, I told you not to blow on the barbie".

Well, it appears that Martin Taylor too enjoys making a point. When Blues fail to bring in a competent centre half during the transfer window, he enjoyed displaying his complete incompetence, as if to say, "I've shown you enough times that you needed a centre half". Within the opening few minutes (during which Blues never got close to the ball), Taylor inexplicably missed a straightforward defensive header leading to Martin Paterson putting Burnley 1-0 up. Then ten minutes or so later, as if not content with having made his point sufficiently, he strode out of defence, Rio Ferdinand-esque, and then passed the ball to the opposition right-back, Anton Ferdinand-esque. The Burnley right-back, possessing a brain and some footballing ability, then exposed the huge gap that Taylor had abandoned at the heart of the Blues defence, leaving Liam Ridgewell against two Burnley forwards and leaving Blues lucky not to go two down. In truth, that chance should have been making it 3-0, as Robbie Blake had previously missed a sitter too.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I know that people like Taylor because he's fairly harmless and he tries hard and he's a gentle giant and all the rest of it, but, well, he's hopeless. The Ferdinand brother alter-ego thing that I described above has become his trick of choice this season. One season it's been horrendous backpasses, then another it was colliding with his namesake and partner in clowning, and now he seems to have freshened up his act for the new campaigning by striding purposely into midfield then knocking a fine ball to the opposition to set them up for a counter attack in which Taylor's out of it. Brilliant.

Had it been 3-0 to Burnley after 35 minutes or so, there could have been no complaints. However, Blues then got a comical goal themselves that messrs Taylor and Taylor at the other end will have been adding to their notebook as a potential new act for next season (hopefully playing for Rochdale), and they were able to get on the front foot.

Now, I know what some of you will say and probably have been saying. "We did alright at the end of the first half and then in the second half". Well, arguably, yes, we did do "alright" if you consider having plenty of possession and not scoring a goal to be "alright". It was "alright", I grant you. Scott Sinclair was again a threat, and Blues were "alright".

Is "alright" still not good enough though? Blues were at home to a Burnley side who, Cup exploits aside, had lost either four of their last five or five of their last six league games - it's one or the other. Blues had Seb Larrson, Lee Carsley, Lee Bowyer, Scott Sinclair and Kevin Phillips in their side, whilst Burnley had Martin Paterson, Michael Duff, Steven Thompson and someone called McCann who's the third most famous McCann to have played football in recent times. Sorry, but read those names again, and are we really saying that "alright" is acceptable?

For me, it's not. Not by a long shot. I'm fed up of it now. The fact is, we've been less than "alright" for much of the season. Off the top of my head I can recall writing only two fully positive reports all season - Wolves away and Sheffield Wednesday away last week, and neither of them were bloody wins anyway.

Am I being unfair in thinking that the more rare reports, given the strength of Blues' squad should be the ones containing words like "slow", "lethargic", "pedestrian" and "inept"? I don't think so, but those sort of words have appeared in 90% of my reports this season. With all due respect to the players and the management, they've been absolutely awful to watch for the vast majority of the season. It's been as depressing a season as I can remember watching, and that's saying something. I don't want to re-hash everything I said after Blackpool two weeks ago, but the whole experience is now just very depressing. At least when we were crap, it was fun sometimes. At least in the Premier League relegation seasons, we still had the odd good display and/or result that sent you away with a smile on your face. It just doesn't happen now.

As positive as I was after Hillsborough, I'm negative again now. The fact is, "decent" performances like at Sheffield Wednesday should be the norm for this Blues squad. Those should be the regular, week in, week out ones. They should not be the once in a blue moon ones like they are. Just look at Blues' squad compared to the rest of the division and the players that Blues possess. I honestly don't think it's arrogance to say that they should be beating teams regularly. At the moment though, they're not. They're not even getting close to it. And don't even start with your, "but look at Wolves and Reading" argument, as that makes it worse. If Blues were regularly doing what they should do, Wolves and Reading could be out of sight by now.

Each week, honestly, I think "am I being unfair? Is what I'm saying unreasonable?", but you only have to look/listen to the national press. I'm sick to my back teeth of reading, "Birmingham are still up there, but we're not sure how - they haven't really started firing yet". Not really started firing yet??? It's mid-February!!! When are we going to start firing?? It isn't just me and it isn't just Blues fans, which makes me think perhaps I/we aren't being unfair. People whose views I consider to be decent around the country (both mates and football pundits) are all saying the same thing, which makes me think, well, Blues are quite simple underachieving. Yes, they're still in a decent position, but they're underachieving - certainly at present and over the past two months.

I think fans' patience is shaped a little bit by the board of directors of the club they follow. Blues, in the past twelves years or so, haven't been trigger happy when it comes to managers, and I think that's why there's still an element of "let's give McLeish a chance" around. Had Blues got a history of sacking people every other season, I suspect that may be different by now.

I really, really, really am getting to be close to the end of my tether with McLeish. I like the way he talks - he does talk a good game. Still, I talk a good game of snooker, and my highest break is 18, so what difference does "talking a good game" do? Unfortunately, as with all walks of life, the proof is in the pudding. Fittingly enough, given Saturday's conditions, the pitch is the pudding, and the proof on the pitch is that McLeish cannot and will not get the best out of the players at his disposal. I'm about one game away from saying, "enough is enough". In fact, deep down, I think I may be at that point already.

I'm going to stick my neck on the line here and make two predictions:

1) Blues will not be promoted this season.
2) If they're not, and if McLeish stays in charge, he'll have left the club by November of this year.

I hate to sound all reactionary and fickle and all the rest of it, but as I say, things aren't improving in any way (they continue to get worse at the minute), and there is precious little evidence of things improving consistently enough to make me think that McLeish is the right man for the job.