Despite their shock win against Leeds United, Birmingham City’s season seems to be very similar to what Brentford endured last term: impressive football without the points that should accompany it. Is that a fair summary of the opening month?
That was a parallel I’ve been pondering, actually, without suggesting that Blues are playing anything like as expansively as Brentford can, and did, last season. It would be absolutely right to say they haven’t been getting the tangible rewards for their performances. There have been a couple of games – Middlesbrough away and Queens Park Rangers at home – where they were below their best, but in the other games they’ve been a perfectly functional, competitive and decent Championship side. The only real shortcoming has been scoring goals. If they can resolve that issue, they are certainly strong enough in defence to be able to go on and do alright this season.
What is the mood like around the club, given widespread reports Blues could be subjected to a 12 to 15-point deduction for breaching Financial Fair Play regulations?
Everyone is being as balanced as they can be about it. The First Team group have their heads down and are focusing on what they can control. There have been so many obstacles put in front of Blues since the summer and, for some of these players, over the last 12 to 18 months. It is almost that the pitch is their happy place; winning football matches is the only thing they can control, so that is what they are focusing on.
Former Bee, Jota, seems to have recaptured the form that earned him his move to the Midlands in the first place. Is he the biggest danger Brentford fans should be aware of?
Yes, Jota is playing the best football of his Blues career. He’s settled down into an organised and functional team and if there is a player to unlock a defence, it tends to be him. He’s only got one goal in the first nine games and hasn’t registered an assist, but that’s down to the fact that Blues have been missing the chances he’s been creating. In terms of his role, the way he’s playing and his energy levels, he’s looking increasingly like the player the club initially thought they were signing.
What sort of style do Blues employ and can you give us any early indication of team news?
They are pretty direct and unashamedly so, I’d say, as they don’t have an abundance of natural footballers in the side. They play to their strengths; it’s the most organised Blues side I’ve seen since Chris Hughton was in charge in 2011/12 and, as such, they also don’t concede many goals.
At the time of speaking, the back four have started every game this season, so the defence and goalkeeper will almost certainly be the same: Lee Camp, Kristian Pedersen, Harlee Dean, Michael, Morrison and Maxime Colin. The front two, Che Adams and Lukas Jutkiewicz, will probably be retained and the two wingers, Jota and Jacques Maghoma, will probably start. It just depends who is fit in central midfield; Gary Gardner went off injured against Leeds United and Craig Gardner picked up an injury in training just before the West Bromwich Albion game. If fit, Charlie Lakin and Gary Gardner could play there. Maikel Kieftenbeld is unavailable.
Can you give us your score prediction?
I say this with the fear of being proved wrong, but I don’t see anything like last season’s calamity befalling them again this year. I’m going for 1-1.
For the full chat with Brian plus interviews with Kamohelo Mokotjo, Ivar Ingimarsson and Marvin Williams, pick up a copy of BEES matchday programme for just £3.50