Luton travel to the West Midlands on Saturday with the aim of continuing their fine recent form, and to get revenge on Birmingham City for the reverse fixture Kenilworth Road. We get the views of Blues Breakdown ahead of the fixture...
Tell us a bit about you and your Blues supporting background…
I have a childhood friend to thank for my love of Blues, rather than a parent. None of my family were particularly big football fans, but my best mate and his family were all massive Bluenoses, and, for a birthday in primary school, they took me along to St.Andrews and I’ve been hooked ever since. I started this account a couple of years ago after following the brilliant Jay Socik (and of course Luton Town Head of Recruitment Analysis) for some time. It started out sharing some very basic visuals and a few opinions but gained some traction during a transfer window when I put together some scout report-style graphics on players we’d been linked with. My missus says I spend far too much time on Twitter but I really enjoy talking and debating all things Birmingham City.
Birmingham seem to have become a perennial bottom half Championship side in recent seasons. The trend continues this season with the Blues sitting in 18th. What are your thoughts on the season so far?
We seem to be stuck in a continual cycle of hiring and firing managers. The last manager to oversee 3 transfer windows was Gary Rowett, and he left the club in 2016. This has led to there being no stability at the club whatsoever and a constant turnover of players. We always seem to be at the beginning of a new cycle or plan and it’s become somewhat tedious. Bowyer came in at the back end of last season and maintained our Championship status. This was followed by a busy summer transfer market where we signed 8 new players including Tahith Chong and Troy Deeney. There was some early season promise in terms of results, and despite a run of 1 win in 9 games following our 5-0 victory at Kenilworth Road, the performances suggested we deserved more. However, injuries to key personnel including Tahith Chong - who’d been something of a talisman up until that point - started to see a drop off in performance levels, which eventually led to a drop in results. Just 2 wins in 16 games since our victory at home to Bristol City have seen us once again entrenched in the lower reaches of the table.
Former Blues favourite Lee Bowyer took the reins at St Andrews towards the back end of last season and, despite getting off to a reasonably good start, seems to have fallen away. How do the Blues fanbase feel Bowyer is doing as Birmingham boss?
Bowyer has a lot of credit in the bank with Blues fans for everything he achieved at the club as a player and for the work he did in keeping us up last season. I think the majority of fans would say he’s doing a decent job considering the circumstances. He’s working with a board and ownership structure that are notoriously difficult to deal with and have by all accounts reneged on certain promises to Bowyer already. The core of this squad has been together for a number of seasons now and as mentioned before has consistently underperformed and languished at the lower end of the table. Some of the additions this season have made positive contributions and raised the overall quality but it’s generally a poor squad of players that lacks any real mental toughness and fight. Bowyer has in patches managed to squeeze some attractive and effective football out of the squad but it’s been all too fleeting.
Despite the indifference this season, Bowyer seems to be building an interesting squad, strengthening again in the January window. Who are the Birmingham “Ones to Watch” for Saturday’s fixture?
Lyle Taylor has hit the ground running since joining on loan from Nottingham Forest in January with a debut goal away at Derby, followed up with another against Sheffield United at home. Bringing Juninho Bacuna in from Rangers during January was something of a surprise to Blues fans, not least because it was a permanent signing (we’ve heavily used the loan market this season) but also because the club paid a fee for him. His technical quality on the ball far exceeds anybody else at the club and has been a breath of fresh air in our usually turgid midfield. Onel Hernandez being recalled by Norwich from Middlesbrough and immediately joining Blues was also a surprise because we’ve relied on wingbacks to provide width this season, not wingers (albeit he played as a wingback on occasion for Boro) His pace, directness, and quick feet, combined with superior technical quality to most in our squad has filled the hole left by Tahith Chong’s injury earlier in the season. He’s an exciting player who gets bums off seats whenever he’s on the ball.
You’ve had the better of recent history against the Hatters, with the previous fixture ending 5-0 at Kenilworth Road. From the outside, how do you see the Hatters progressing in the Championship?
Seeing Luton improve on their league position in 7 out of the last 8 seasons is really quite impressive and doing it in a style that is attractive also. It would be easy to look at our recent record against Luton in the Championship and say they’ve not particularly impressed but the bigger picture is that Luton are a club that are heading in the opposite direction to us. Smart recruitment, stable ownership, consistent management. I think Luton will continue going from strength to strength and cement themselves as a top-half Championship club over the next couple of years
Time for some predictions - who do you think (i) will get automatic promotion, (ii) make the playoffs and (iii) get relegated?
Automatic Promotion - Fulham, Bournemouth
Playoffs - Nottingham Forest, Middlesbrough, Blackburn Rovers, QPR
Relegation - Barnsley, Peterborough United, Derby County
Finally, give us your score prediction for Saturday’s game…
My score prediction for the weekend is 2-2. We’re conceding goals for fun at the moment and our 3 senior centre-backs (Roberts, Friend, and Mengi) could all be out injured. However, we do look a threat going forward so I’ll think we’ll grab a couple of goals.
With thanks to Ben from Blues Breakdown. For more, check out @Blues_Breakdown on Twitter or visit www.bluesbreakdown.com.