Monday, 13 August 2012

New Season, New Start, New Blues

With the opening fixture to a new season less than a week away, and a cup tie against Barnet to play first, Blues can look back on a promising pre-season campaign ahead of another promotion push after last season’s unsuccessful attempt.

It was all change at the top, as Chris Hughton departed and in stepped ex-Huddersfield manager Lee Clark, yet the surprising, albeit most promising, situation was the lack of departures from the club; with Ben Foster and Jordon Mutch the only two walking out the exit door thus far – although, I shall try not to tempt fate, as the transfer window is still open.

As for the review of pre-season, let’s start with;

The Manager
It was the polar opposite of the reaction to Alex McLeish leaving the club of summer 2010, with praise galore surrounding the departure of Chris Hughton, who left for Premier League club Norwich taking his backroom staff and, eventually, goalkeeping coach Dave Watson with him; which was another sad loss to the club after he’d done so well with the goalkeepers in previous years. After Hughton’s departure the board, namely Peter Pannu, appointed Lee Clark, meaning we the fans got the man that the majority wanted – for the second year in a row. Since the appointment of Clark, the attacking mentality of the team certainly has not changed if pre-season results are anything to go by, and the players brought in show a statement of intent for the new season ahead.

The Players
Comparing the squad to last seasons, the only player we have lost is Jordon Mutch, as Ben Foster spent the season on loan at West Bromwich Albion. With that in mind, we have bolstered our squad considerably, bringing in David Lucas as a goalkeeping replacement, Darren Ambrose and Hayden Mullins to shore up the midfield, as well as Peter Lovenkrands up front who has already impressed in pre-season friendlies. The addition of Ravel Morrison on loan from West Ham, and most recently Ben Gordon from Chelsea provides Clark with a wealth of options as well as some youngsters to choose from when making his team selections.

The Results
As well as the promising signings off the field, the results on the field in pre-season have been equally as pleasing. A 0-0 draw against Mönchengladbac in the only game of Blues’ pre-season tour to Austria was built upon on the squad’s return to England with a 2-1 victory against Shrewsbury Town, quickly followed by a 1-0 loss at the hands of Cheltenham Town. Yet back to back victories against Bury and Plymouth Argyle were both high scoring – winning 5-1 and 5-0 respectively, showing that Blues have not lost their eye for goal. The visit of Royal Antwerp to St. Andrew’s saw a disappointing but not particularly disheartening 3-1 loss in the last of Blues warm up games. The presence of former Rangers team mates Peter Lovenkrands and Chris Burke on the score sheet throughout their friendly games is a trend that they will hope to repeat throughout the season.

The Expectations
Ever since the arrest of Carson Yeung and the unfolding money troubles, many a Bluenose has reduced their expectations of the club, even a heavy optimist like myself. And with last year's close, but ultimately failed, promotion attempt, I believe that the expectations of this season should be lowered again; a top half finish, no less, but we must aim for promotion - not expect it.


So with a new manager, a new shirt sponsor, and new players, it’s time for a new season. I for one can’t wait to watch this new look Blues in their first proper competitive match tomorrow night, and although a win or a loss won’t have that great an impact on the Championship season, it should give us a relatively clear idea of who Clark sees as his strongest starting eleven.

Last year we had a European tour, the season before we won the Carling cup and in 2009 we finished in the top ten of the Premier League and had a magnificent unbeaten run. No pressure 2012/13.

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