Aiming to start the season strong, Luton Town host Birmingham City on Matchday one of the EFL Championship.
ORH spoke to Birmingham City fan and the founder of the Blues Focus Podcast, Adam, to get an insight into his thoughts for the upcoming campaign, and a Blues' perspective ahead of Kickoff on Saturday.
Tell us a bit about you and your background as a Blues fan…
Hello, I’m Adam, I’m 25 years old and I’m the founder of Blues Focus, the number 1 Birmingham City fansite and channel. I first became a Birmingham City fan when my uncle bought me my first ever season ticket. I was only 9 years old at the time, but I can remember the excitement leading up to the Premier League season to this day. I have very fond memories of being a Blues fan early on, however my uncle has always apologised for dragging me down every fortnight ever since. I remember the first match was against Manchester City at home (1-2) with Nicky Butt opening the scoring 7 minutes in and I just remember the place absolutely bouncing and the fans going into delirium. I fell in love with the club right from that moment.
After a poor campaign last season and a 20th placed finish, how are your hopes for the upcoming year?
This season nearly everyone has got us on their relegation list, so I hope for us to prove those doubters wrong and finish in a comfortable higher-mid table spot. However, I do feel less optimistic this season than last but I’m sticking to the saying ‘Don’t expect anything and you won’t be disappointed’ and maybe Blues can surprise me.
Having taken over the manager role in July, how much of a difference do you think early signs show John Eustace has made to the side? And are you at all worried about his lack of experience?
I think the standout difference he’s made is the whole entire vibe around the place – everyone seems to have got a smile on their face and the recent interviews from the players show there is a clear plan from Eustace that he’s put in place and implementing, and everyone is on board with it. These are some small things that can make a huge difference and to try and install some belief into the squad – something that was evidently lacking last season under Lee Bowyer.
In terms of his lack of experience as a head coach I think working under Mark Warbuton is why he’s been able to get the job. Also, although he doesn’t have that experience as a head coach that many other managers in the Championship will possess, his experience from his playing days as a captain will hold him in good stead and his relationship with the players will be more personal and he’ll know how the players are feeling and the required changes to make to the team as he’s been there done that in terms of captaining a side very often and reading the game infront of him while in defence.
Birmingham have only made a handful of signings so far this window, but are there any that particularly excite you? Who do you think will have the biggest impact? And how do you think your departures will affect your season?
I would have said Placheta from Norwich but following his one pre-season game so far I’m going to say the loan signing of Auston Trusty is exciting me. He obviously has that X factor as a player and is highly rated to have a club like Arsenal knocking on his door. I’m really excited to see him play at the back and see what partnerships he can make. However, I think Placheta will have the biggest impact as he’s got a lot to prove to his parent club Norwich and so far he’s looked very lively and also scored a goal so hopefully he can kick on from here. In terms of departures the only real ones that could affect the season are Ivan Sunjic and Ivan Sanchez. Sunjic would be a valuable and solid backup to have in midfield and Sanchez can create something out of nothing which not many of the current players will be able to do this campaign.
With the first team squad looking thin, how do you think your youngsters might impact the coming season? Is there anyone in particular you would recommend us to keep an eye on?
I think it’s a massive season for our youngsters. The likes of Jobe Bellingham, Jordan James, and Nico Gordon have already showed their capability and that they’re ready for the challenge of Championship football which we all know is very physical. I’d recommend keeping an eye on both Jobe, who I think will be involved a lot more this season, and also Jordan James who will most likely be a regular starter in a midfield three.
Birmingham handed Luton two heavy defeats in the previous season, rather a surprise given where either side eventually finished in the table, but with the last matchup between the teams coming in February 2022, what do you make of Luton Town's progress since then and how do you think they'll fare this season?
I’m looking forward to seeing how Saturday’s game plays out. It is worth noting though we no long have Tahith Chong which to put it lightly torn you guys a new one last season in the first fixture… However, I think you’ve strengthened very well in this summer window. Cauley Woodrow and Luke Freeman for me we’ll have to be very wary of as they’re very experience and good solid Championship players. I think you’ll certainly be in the top half come the end of the season, I’m just hoping we can stick another 8 goals past you again!
Time for some predictions - who do you think will (i) get automatic promotion, (ii) make the playoffs, and (iii) get relegated?
I think Watford and Sheffield United for the automatic spots. The Blades were unlucky to face a class Nottingham side last time and I think they have enough quality to get a automatic spot. For the playoffs I think Norwich will win them but the likes of Huddersfield, Millwall and Burnley will be up there too. To get relegated I think Rotherham are a certainty and I think both Reading and Wigan will also go down.
Finally, give us your score prediction for the Weekend's game…
Although I want us to stick another five past you again, I think it will be a more cagey game and Blues will set up hard to break down without possession. I’m going with a 1-1 draw.