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First Team

Hot Off The Press: Birmingham City

Brian Dick of Birmingham Live previews tomorrow's opponents

14 February 2020

Birmingham are sat comfortably in mid-table after Tuesday’s 1-0 win over Barnsley and now look to have seen off any lingering threat of relegation with 14 games left to play. What have you made of this season so far?

It’s been really quite a disjointed campaign. The start was interesting because they were finding their style and trying to implement a new passing philosophy and while that was attractive, it didn’t really produce many results. Things went south when a couple of centre-backs – Marc Roberts and Jake Clarke-Salter - got injured and they went on quite a long run of just losing and drawing games. I think the future looked pretty uncertain at one point this season; when they lost at home to Wigan on New Year’s Day things looked quite ropey. But they’ve gone back to Birmingham City basics now, are playing a bit more direct and they seem to have a bit more balance in the team. Signing Scott Hogan was a really good piece of business and the return of the two centre-backs has really stabilised the side as well. All in all, they started off a bit wobbly, got worse and now things are going really well, so it’s been a really strange season so far!

The Blues are on a six-game unbeaten run at the moment and really seem to have upped their game since the turn of the year. There’s still a fair distance between themselves and the top six, but is a push for the play-offs beyond the realms of possibility?

It’s possible, but I just don’t think it’s very probable at the moment and I say that for a few reasons. There are still quite a few teams above them but they also don’t have a very deep squad, so if something was to happen to Hogan or Lukas Jutkiewicz, for example, I think they’d struggle for balance again. It’s on a knife-edge. It’s possible they could stay on that knife-edge right until the end of the season and give it a go, but they’d need a lot of luck to get there. If they do it would certainly eclipse the run that Aston Villa put together last season, which ended up with them reaching the Premier League. It would be stunning if they reached the play-offs from where they were on New Year’s Day and how things looked.

One of the top stories of the season has been the emergence of 16-year-old Jude Bellingham, who is no doubt the player to keep an eye on today. The fact he’s a Man Utd target speaks for itself, but just how good is he?

He’s come into the side and has been breaking record that were set by Trevor Francis 40 years ago and Trevor Francis went on to set transfer records, to play for his country and to play in Serie A. I think we are talking about that sort of generational talent at the moment. Obviously, he needs things to go his way with injuries and wherever he goes, if he does go, but in terms of the raw potential, the maturity and the personality to make sure he does the right thing, I think he’s well-placed to have a stunning career.

Since joining Birmingham a couple of weeks ago, former Brentford frontman Scott Hogan seems to have rediscovered the form that earned him that big money move away from Griffin Park. How impressed have you been with him?

I’ve been really impressed. It’s safe to say there were doubts about the transfer initially because his career hasn’t been brilliant for the last couple of years but it was all about tapping into the Brentford Hogan and finding out if that guy was still there, to be honest. It wasn’t obvious to everybody that he would be the player he was. Just 90 seconds into his debut, he took 20 yards out of a Nottingham Forest defender to win the ball and win the Blues a throw-in and that really spoke volumes about how well he wants to do during this loan move. I think he realised that chances were running out. Ever since that, he’s been really enthusiastic, his finishing has been good and he’s brought balance to the team, to the point where people are thinking whether negotiations can be done to make the move permanent in the summer

How is Pep Clotet likely to set up his side at St Andrew’s?

It will be a 4-4-2 and my predicted line-up is as follows: Lee Camp in goal, Max Colin right-back, Roberts and Clarke-Salter at centre-back and Kristian Pedersen at left-back. Jude Bellingham will be on the left wing, Jeremie Bela on the right, Gary Gardner and Ivan Sunjic centre-mid and then Hogan and Jutkiewicz up front.

What’s your score prediction for Saturday’s game?

I really rate Brentford, to be fair, but I’ll go for a 2-1 home win.

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