Home is where the heart is. But for Birmingham City it’s more like ‘home is where the games are lost’. St Andrew’s is like ‘a home that the fans dread’. Why did Blues struggle so badly in front of their own fans?
Two league games were won at Stan’s last season (meaning adult season ticket holder’s paid £200 per win) and typically, I missed one of them. In those two games, eight goals were scored by the boys in Blue with just one reply. So, scoring obviously wasn’t the problem. Now I notice that both the wins came before January, the month in which the spine of the team was ripped apart. Blues lost the services of Dan Burn, Kyle Bartley and Jesse Lingard, and seemingly, also lost their ability to win at home.
Some quarters have suggested it is the intimidating home atmosphere, which cannot be true as attendances have dwindled and an atmosphere has been hard to come by at times. Could it be the way Blues play? Are we set up to play away from home? Setting the tempo of a game isn’t Blues’ style, despite what our Lee tells us. We are a counter attacking side that are dangerous on the break. The problem is, our defence isn’t sturdy enough to take pressure, so by the time we get a meaningful attack / goal, we are usually two-nil down!
Most teams will come to St. Andrew’s, sit back and invite pressure. That is where Blues come unstuck because we lack ideas and invention and often get caught out on the break. Away from home, Blues can sit back, invite pressure and pounce when we get the opportunity. See where I am going with this? Of course, this is my opinion and there is nothing to say I am right. But this is the only clear difference I can find between home and away games.
But then I flip the coin and think about Blues’ style of football under Chris Hughton. We were very much a counter attacking team back then too, so why did Hughton have such a formidable home record? Firstly, the back four and midfield were pretty solid. Blues soaked up pressure and hit on the counter. A fair few wins under Hughton were narrow margins, and I don’t buy the myth that we were a fluent attacking side under his leadership. We were solid, hard to beat and organised and tactically he was very astute. That season, only Nottingham Forest and Braga were successful at St. Andrew’s.
Lee Clark will start a rebuilding job, once again, this summer. He will have no control over the ownership situation, nor whether he will be in charge should a takeover happen. What he has to do is look at Blues’ many weaknesses and address them as an urgent priority. The back four needs sorting out. We need some creative spark in midfield. We need a few strikers as we are losing Nikola Zigic, Federico Macheda and Peter Lovenkrands. It doesn’t matter how you dress it up, this is a massively difficult job and it warrants a lot more financial backing than is currently available. Let’s hope Stan’s can be a place we once again love to spend our Saturday’s.