Notts Forest 1 Blues 1 .. Ron's Report

By Richard Barker
Last updated : 10 November 2008

James McFadden had put Blues ahead, but James Perch equalised for the home side shortly after half-time and Blues were left hanging on at times.

It seems that there's two types of Blues fans at the moment - moaners and moaners. The first set of moaners feel as if the football is poor, the performances aren't good enough and generally that things aren't going too well. The second set of moaners moan about the first set of moaners, pointing out that Blues are second in the league, haven't lost many games, etc.

Of course, there'll be some people in between the two camps and I'm probably looking at it a little simply. However, as painful as it may be to accept for some people who aren't able to go to the games, the best judges are those fans that are watching the performances in full and are seeing the full 90 minutes of games. It's just logical that those fans are probably best placed to comment.

As such, the fact that a significant number of the 3,000 or so Blues fans at the City Ground booed the team off at the end (after getting a 1-1 draw away from home), and that there were highly audible groans of discontent all the way through the game, well, that tells a story. Once again, I'm afraid, Blues did not perform as they should. This was not good enough again, just as too many games this season have not been good enough.

Now, that second set of moaners I mentioned earlier will probably be cyber-sharpening their cyber-pencils ready to moan about me moaning. I'll be referred to as "a doom and gloom merchant" or something along those lines. Well, sorry, but I don't see that it's "doom and gloom" to point out that things aren't as they should be. As I say, those fans who see a lot of the performances are the ones saying, "hang on a second... this isn't good enough...", and they're not just doing it for the sake of it - they're saying it because, well, it's not good enough.

Alex McLeish talks a good game, but I'm beginning to wonder whether it goes any further than that. After QPR we were told to expect a backlash against Coventry. After Coventry we were told to expect a backlash against Notts Forest. We'll no doubt be told to expect one against struggling Charlton next week. We read positive things in the papers and on the websites, and everything sounds great. On the pitch, however (which is where it counts), things aren't great.

Now, I've said before that I don't want to appear to be arrogant in suggesting that we should turn up at places like the City Ground and just turn Notts Forest over - I'm not. However, when you're 1-0 up and on top in a game, and when you're serious title contenders, and you're playing a team who are second from bottom in the league having just been promoted, well, I'm sorry if I'm being arrogant in expecting better from the players and the side. Notts Forest may have been a big club once and may have won the European Cup when no proper teams were involved in it, but nowadays they're not very good. Their strongest side is not very good, so when they're absolutely decimated by injuries, suspensions and illness, well, their side is even worse. Nathan Tyson aside (possibly), it's a bunch of players that will never play above this kind of level, managed by a manager who will never manage above this kind of level. Again, I'm sorry if that comes across as "arrogant", but it's true.

You then look at the Blues side, and the Blues bench and the Blues management team and the wages that Blues pay to players who have been established Premier League players and established internationals, and, well, you really have to say that you want more than what is being given. Forget the arguments about lack of investment from the board, etc, when it comes to the 90 minutes on the pitch. Marcus Bent should get the better of Wes Morgan. Radhi Jaidi should get the better of Joe Garner. Go all over the pitch, and you can say the same thing. They're not doing so though.

Back to McLeish, and the team selection and tactics here baffled me. Blues picked three centre halves for their 4-4-2 (ish) formation, with one of them, Liam Ridgewell, playing left-back. I can only presume that Franck Queudrue was injured. Then, even worse, in midfield Blues picked a right-footed central midfielder in Kemy Agustien on the left flank (in front of a centre half) and gave Nigel Quashie his first start for the club. This is the Nigel Quashie who has barely played football for two years and in two substitute appearances for Blues has done nothing to suggest that he's any better than Agustien, Lee Carsley, Mehdi Nafti, etc, etc. Up front there was Bent and McFadden.

It smacked to me of panic and desperation on the part of McLeish, after two defeats. Wholesale changes to the team (at the expense of any kind of consistency and balance to the side) were not necessarily what was needed though. What was needed was some kind of address of the way that Blues approach games - the system, the purpose, etc.

Quincy was (bizarrely) an unused substitute. No sane person in the world could possibly argue that a midfield of (from left to right) Quincy-Carsley-Agustien-Larsson would not be more productive than a midfield of Agustien-Carsley-Quashie-Larsson. It was madness. Play people in their positions and don't panic. This wasn't so much putting round pegs in square holes, it was putting dolphins in apples. It was madness.

So, as it became obvious that it wasn't working in the second half, Cameron Jerome limbers up. Excellent, you think - get a bit of pace and power up front and get Forest going backwards a bit more. Oh no though, Jerome comes on to play on the left flank... It's been obvious most of this season that Jerome simply cannot play wide, on either flank. Yes, he might have a good run, but that's it. He doesn't have the intelligence or the footballing brain to play in such a role. He's a striker. A centre forward. Nothing else. Then, on the bench (and unused) you have Quincy who was brought in to play in a left-hand side role, who's been doing it for a few years and who's been successful there this season for Blues. What possible explanation can there be for bringing Jerome on to play there rather than Quincy?? I wouldn't have objected to Jerome coming on up front, but for him to come on to play wide left was ridiculous.

The team selection was bad enough, but as I've said, Blues lacked any kind of system or purpose. Even when they led and had just about been the better team, they hadn't been good. They'd just been better than poor opponents. They hadn't carved Forest open or anything like that - they'd just not quite been as hopeless as Forest. With respect to system or purpose, with the team that McLeish put out, I literally cannot see what the purpose was. Teams surely go out for games with instructions in mind to achieve something. They must have some sort of purpose to their play. I generally have no idea what Blues' purpose in this game was. I'd love someone to sit me down and say, "look, you can see here what we were trying to achieve", because to me it looked like eleven players on a pitch in matching shirts, and that was it.

Even then, with the (supposed) quality that Blues have, you'd expect those players on the pitch to make a decent fist of it. In the mad midfield, Blues did have four of what you'd call "proper" midfielders, who like to get stuck in and make a tackle. However, they were second to every 50/50 challenge and Forest absolutely bossed them. Whilst Forest's goals came from a rubbish decision from Phil Dowd as he awarded a free-kick for Jaidi winning a header, don't get me wrong, had Forest not have scored it would have been an injustice. (Dowd, by the way, is rubbish, and was for both teams.)

When you pick a strange team and set up with no kind of intention, you're going to struggle, and Blues did. Indeed, one positive is that Blues managed to get a point out of the game. As I say though, the reaction of the travelling fans speaks volumes - this just isn't good enough at the moment.

Finally, I don't want to start some sort of vendetta against Nigel Quashie, but for me he epitomises the current situation. He's a tired, "been there, never quite done it" midfielder who always threatened to be half useful, but was really just punching above his weight and is on his way back to where he belongs. Honestly, for those of you only concerned by the league table, almost the exact thing may be being said about Blues in six months time. Sod the league table now - being second early in November gets you nothing. If Blues' performances continue in the same vein, then it'll be play-offs at very, very best. Things need to be freshened up, and sadly signing and playing the likes of Nigel Quashie is only going to take you one way, and it's not forwards.

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