With the international week it seems ages since we last crossed swords with anyone in the Premiership. It will be nice to get back to business today with a TV game against Birmingham.
It’s yet another Sky game, our third out of four Premiership games and not one game on Saturday afternoon yet. Although not necessarily approving we should be used to this now but it seems slowly that the footballing calendar is changing once more. Internationals are now on Friday and Tuesday, which should hopefully give players more time to recover, and now Thursday is our European night instead of Tuesday or Wednesday. No doubt Sky will respond appropriately, after “Super Sunday” we’ll have “Magnificent Monday, “Terrific Tuesday” and then, if the Mancs are playing “worthless Wednesday”.
Today’s opponents are Birmingham who have proved difficult for us recently we just keep drawing with them. I think the game last season at Anfield was he first where I thought that perhaps things weren’t to go as well for us as we originally thought. Then of course there was the return at their place in April and that substitution and that frown!
Although the opposition should not be underestimated, today’s game is elevated from just a routine Premiership match by the fact that we could see two more players make their debuts for the club further ushering out Rafa’s era in favour of Roy Hodgson’s. Raul Meireles and Paul Koncheski should take the first team bows. These players, if HRH has his way, might not the only changes. It seems he is in spring clean mode suggesting that the club need to shed more players to make it leaner fitter and more competitive.
“We were unbelievably over-staffed when I came to the club and, if the truth be known, we still are over-staffed. It was just as big a job making sure some of the players who never feature for the first team move on and that we limit our squad to players who are either in the frame to play first-team football or who have a bright future, who are still anxious to play academy and reserve team football. We don’t want that middle group who are too old for reserve football but are not serving any purpose for the first team because they never feature.”
That’s one way of putting it but I guess cynics might say cutting the wage bill is another? Many might also say this flies in the face of claims from players such as Torres who say we need to invest in players, but does it? I see HRH’s point it looks like we have far too many on the books but I guess the key is to make sure we have decent cover for all positions rather than a series of journeymen or foot soldiers, quality but not as much quantity? He can only name 25 anyway?
I also think, as HRH suggests, this will be good for the young element. If the squad is smaller their chances of gaining more experience will be enhanced? I remember when we won the treble in 1983-84, the League, the League Cup (or whatever it was called then) and the European Cup playing 66 matches but only using 16 players. Eight of that squad played 60 games or more. Four, Alan Hanson, Sammy Lee, Bruce Grobbelaar and Alan Kennedy, played the whole lot. All of a sudden it seems that this is an impossible situation for today’s players and managers however, surely with the rest players get in-between games and the facilities they have to enable them to recover from games this shouldn’t be beyond them? I guess there are also advantages to working with a smaller squad in terms of fostering togetherness and team spirit and defining roles so everyone knows what is expected of them on the pitch?
Clearly the downside to this is that injuries will impact more but thankfully, for today anyway, we seem to be OK. Dirk Kuyt is sidelined with his shoulder and Joe Cole is still suspended. Again this seems ages since that “foul” did the action merit him being out for so long? Other than that everyone seems fit which, given the international week, is something of a blessing.
Prediction? Although it happened under Rafa I‘ve no doubt HRH will be aware of our recent inability to get a result against Birmingham and I guess, with the Mancs lying in wait next week, it is all the more important to get three points today? Hopefully we have grounds for optimistic? Torres appears to be getting better with every game, Gerrard appears to have hit a good run of form with England that hopefully he can continue with us and we’ve the new players who will be keen to impress. I guess with the international break and the transfer window closed HRH has had time to give serious thought as to how he’s going to play things over the few months. Hopefully all this will manifest itself in a more potent, creative performance than we’ve seem so far this season? 2-0 to us.
By the way this blog now has an index of match reports since it started in October 2006 so for machinations of previous games, against Birmingham since this date click here.