Birmingham preview and pub guide: Harlee Dean/Maxime Colin/Jota – the return

Birmingham preview and pub guide: Harlee Dean/Maxime Colin/Jota – the return
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Tuesday promises to be an interesting night at Griffin Park with the return of Harlee Dean, Maxime Colin and Jota with Birmingham for our last midweek home game of the season.

As has been well documented, we lost all three to St Andrews right at the end of the summer transfer window and enjoyed our victory in the West Midlands at the start of November.

That night saw Dean sit on the bench for 90 minutes, Colin stretchered off injured early on – to sympathetic applause from all four sides of the ground including the away end – and Jota playing a peripheral role and being substituted around the hour mark.

Blues were struggling then but after Boxing Day they enjoyed an upturn in form which has lifted them out of the relegation zone by winning four Championship matches, drawing one and losing two.

However, that run ended in a 2-0 derby day defeat at Aston Villa the Sunday before last and they suffered a second successive defeat when Millwall beat them 1-0 at St Andrews on Saturday.

Things have changed for the ex-Bees trio since this season’s first meeting as Dean is now captain, Colin has returned from his injury lay-off to fill both full-back roles at various times and Jota has appeared regularly as a substitute – finally breaking his goal duck with a brace in a rare start at Sheffield Wednesday at the start of the month.

They also took Premier League Huddersfield to a replay in the fourth round of the FA Cup, only succumbing to a 4-1 defeat in extra-time to miss out on a home tie with Manchester United as a result.

Birmingham have only won two of their 16 away league games this season – one the match at Hillsborough where they triumphed 3-1 against nine men and the other 2-0 at Reading at the start of January. They have drawn four and lost the other 10.

At St Andrews, they have won six and drawn two of their 16 games.

This is the Blues’ seventh consecutive season in the Championship – they finished in the play-offs once, just avoided relegation once and have been in mid-table the rest of the time.

They have had seven seasons in the Premier League over three spells with a best place finish of ninth in 2009/10.

They also won the League Cup in 2011, after beating us on penalties in the fourth round, but were relegated from the top flight at the end of the season.

WHO’S IN CHARGE

Steve Cotterill took charge of Birmingham in September, replacing Harry Redknapp.

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Cotterill was Redknapp’s assistant for the final three games of last season when the pair kept City in the Championship. He turned down the chance to stay on in the summer, but agreed to return to become the club’s fourth manager in a year following Redknapp, Gianfranco Zola and Gary Rowett.

Former Brentford caretaker boss and development squad manager Lee Carsley is Cotterill’s assistant.

Birmingham are the ninth club Cotterill has managed following Sligo Rovers, Cheltenham, Stoke, Burnley, Notts County, Portsmouth, Nottingham Forest and Bristol City.

He took Cheltenham into the Football League in 1998/99 and also won promotion with Notts County, into League One in 2009/10, and Bristol City, into the Championship in 2014/15 – the same season he guided them to Johnstone’s Paint Trophy success.

As a player, he was a striker for Cheltenham, Burton, Wimbledon, Brighton (on loan) and Bournemouth.

WE’VE MET BEFORE

Last season’s two games with Birmingham, played within a few short weeks of each other, resulted in two away wins.

A penalty from ex-Bee Clayton Donaldson in the first half and a goal from Ryan Shotton midway through the second half set up City for victory at Griffin Park at the end of November, with Scott Hogan’s 77th minute reply not enough to prevent a 2-1 defeat, and our third consecutive loss.

The result moved Birmingham up to fourth in the table, while we dropped down to 16th.

City had changed manager from Rowett to Zola by the time we visited St Andrews on 2 January.

Despite a first half goal from Lukas Jutkiewicz, a second half strike from Scott Hogan, which turned out to be his last for the Bees, an own goal by David Davis and a clincher from Nico Yennaris gave us a 3-1 win.

We could even afford the luxury of a missed penalty by Hogan when it was 1-1.

Birmingham had moved nine points ahead of Brentford after the Griffin Park encounter, but this result moved us within two points and one position of them in 13th and 14th in the table.

The away win theme continued into this season as Brentford won 2-0 at St Andrews at the start of November.

Neal Maupay proved to be the match-winner – coming on as a 70th minute substitute to within four minutes win a penalty, converted by Ollie Watkins, and then double the lead himself in the 84th minute to give the Bees our second successive away win in five days.

Brentford’s recent record against Birmingham at Griffin Park is woeful – we have failed to beat them in eight matches at home in the league, with our last home victory being 2-0 on 13 March 1954 in the old Second Division (now Championship).

OPPOSITION VIEW

BBC WM’s Birmingham City reporter Richard Wilford assesses the Blues’ season so far, discusses the changes made by manager Steve Cotterill and discusses the impact made by Messrs Dean, Colin and Jota at St Andrews.

Q – How would you assess Birmingham’s season so far?

A – Challenging – it’s definitely been challenging. A summer of many newcomers, a debatable pre-season regime and the departure of Harry Redknapp early on simply added to the downward spiral of last season. Steve Cotterill and his staff have brought the squad they inherited together and through hard graft they have started to gain some very positive results since Christmas. They are a better organised team now, for certain.

Q – What were the pre-season expectations – promotion or play-off push, mid-table or relegation battle and why?

A – Expectations were high given Redknapp’s previous track record at this level and the supporters were understandably optimistic given his galvanising effect last spring. The board backed him financially with a view to making a promotion push, although it wasn’t easy to see how the various players arriving were going to fit together coherently. The fact that local rivals Wolves and Villa have done so well has done nothing to ease the situation.

Q – What has sparked the recent revival in form, despite the Villa and Millwall results?

A – Hard work has been the key over the last four months – Cotterill rightly emphasises that the upturn wasn’t achieved overnight. Fitness levels have been improved hugely, a system that suits the players has been employed successfully, the pressing game has paid dividends and the confidence of the players has markedly grown. A squad brought together by four different managers appears to be largely on the same page.

Q – How confident are fans/the club that Blues will stay up this season?

A – More confident than they would have been six weeks ago. The back-to-back wins against Leeds and Reading at the turn of the year were a massive shot in the arm and sparked a run of 13 points from six games. There is still a lot of hard work to do, but Blues have been on an upward curve.

Q – Now the inevitable question. How have Messrs Dean, Colin and Jota done so far? They certainly seem to be doing better than when we met at St Andrews in November with Dean now captain, Colin a regular starter and Jota a regular off the bench.

A – To be fair the ex-Bees walked into a difficult moment for the club, so bedding in was never going to be easy. Harlee Dean showed leadership qualities even before he started deputising for Michael Morrison as captain – he clearly feels defeats as badly as the fans do and has been a steadying influence at the back. You don’t need me to tell you that Maxime Colin is a fine full-back, and his willingness to switch to the left when injury and suspension requires it has gone down well. Jota has found it tough, but the hope is that his two goals at Sheffield Wednesday will bring him on. The way his team-mates celebrated his first goal was a sign of how much they want him to succeed.

Q – Which other Birmingham players should we watch out for?

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A – Loan striker Sam Gallagher has done really well lately – he’s very mobile at 6’4” and is becoming an increasing handful for Championship centre-backs as he learns to use his physicality. Jeremie Boga and Jacques Maghoma have also been effective out wide, using their pace to put pressure on opposition defenders.

Q – Which Brentford players will you be wary of?

A – As always I will have more than a passing interest in Romaine Sawyers as I much enjoyed his time at Walsall under Dean Smith. Oh, and I’ll always be wary of the Bees’ gaffer – he always seems keen to put one over on Birmingham!!!!

Q – Finally, are you able to give me a possible Birmingham starting line-up and formation too please?

A – Stockdale; Jenkinson, Roberts, Dean, Colin; Ndoye, Davis, Kieftenbeld; Maghoma, Gallagher, Boga – generally a 4-3-3 formation with the central midfielder and forward pushing up high. Out of possession it can look more like a 4-2-3-1 when they press.

IAN WESTBROOK

@ianwestbrook

PUBS IN BRENTFORD

For Birmingham fans coming to the game, you are probably aware there plenty of pub options pre-match and all are most welcoming and away-fan-friendly (as it should be).

We are now back to the traditional four pubs around the ground, following the reopening of the Royal Oak.

The Griffin is closest to the away end (like 30 secs walk) and is very popular with away fans – but also very, very busy. The New Inn is on the other side and is also popular with away fans. The Princess Royal and the Royal Oak are the other options.

Other pubs slightly further afield for the more creative amongst you include (and this is by no means a definitive list) …. The Globe (Windmill Rd) is the Beesotted pre-match pub. This boozer & The Lord Nelson (Enfield Rd) are both incredibly friendly and cosy away-friendly pubs and about 1 min walk from each other …. frequented by ‘away fans in the know’.

The Plough (Northfields Ave) in Northfields is a decent stop-off if you are coming by tube to Northfields. The ‘Northfields run’ makes a much better pub crawl route than South Ealing – getting off at Northfields station, turning left and stopping off at The Plough (2 min walk), The Lord Nelson (10 min walk from The Plough) & The Globe (1 min walk from The Nelson) en-route before ending up at The Griffin (8 min walk from The Globe) by the away turnstiles.

There’s also a relatively new tiny microbrewery pub in Northfields called The Owl and The Pussycat (Northfields Ave)– right turn out of the station away from the ground as opposed to left.

There is a pub right by Brentford station referred to as … the Pub by Brentford station.

For ale head to the Magpie and Crown pub on Brentford High Street. The Royal Horseguardsman (Ealing Road) can probably hold 15 of you at a push.

The Brewery Tap (Catherine Wheel Road) is a cosy boozer by the river. And if you are super adventurous, get off at Kew Bridge and visit One Over the Ait (Kew Bridge Road) – a spacious boozer right next to Kew Bridge with a beer deck overlooking the river – and The Express Tavern (Kew Bridge Road) – an ale pub with a retro feel.

A quick Google search and you’ll find them all. There are many many more too if you have a look around.

Parking is pretty easy away from the ground going up towards and over the A4 Great West Rd (ie. North) via Ealing Road or Windmill Road.

Getting to Brentford from town – many fans get the tube to Waterloo (Northern, Jubilee lines) or Vauxhall (Victoria Line) then take the Overground train to Brentford.

This is relatively straightforward but can actually take longer than if you get the tube due to waiting times (overground trains come every 15 mins and the journey from Vauxhall or Waterloo to Brentford is 30 mins on the fast train – 51 mins on the slow train – so you could find it takes you over an hour including the journey from Kings Cross/Euston/Paddington).

Many fans choose the tube over the overground. It’s 35 minutes to Northfields station from Kings Cross or Euston (less from Paddington) and then 15 minutes walk to Brentford from there (4 mins on the bus) – more if you take the Northfields to Brentford pub crawl outlined above (Plough, Lord Nelson, Globe, Griffin) of course. If you’re feeling lazy you could take the E2 bus from outside Northfields station to either outside The Globe pub (3 stops – serves The Lord Nelson too) or Brentford FC (4 stops).

You can check out Transport for London’s guide to travel on the Tube and Overground.

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About The Author

Ian Westbrook

Bees fan since 1971 - been through all the ups and downs. Written about, reported on, commentated on and wittered on about all things Brentford in that time as well as watching hundreds, if not thousands of games, and loved every minute of it!

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