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FF: Birmingham supporter talks of their struggles that make Sunderland’s seem insignificant

Rory caught up with Chris Pugh of Tilton Talk Show (he also appeared on this week’s Xtra Podcast with Graham - click here to listen to it, it’s cracking). Chris gave Rory the low down on the managerial upheaval at St Andrews, whether or not he thinks Steve Cotterill can turn it around and what he thinks will happen in Saturday’s game.

Sunderland v Birmingham - Premier League Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

RF: Be honest, are you still absolutely furious about the boards decision to sack Gary Rowett? It seems to have totally destabilised the club.

CP: One hundred percent, yes! Although it was only just over a year ago, it feels like it has put the club back five years.

We had such a good thing going under Rowett. We weren't blowing teams away or running away with the league, but we knew what we were: a team difficult to beat, organised and the players were behind Gary, and so were the majority of supporters. Since then, we have had three different managers who between them haven't been able to recover from the shock and disappointment of the Rowett sacking - they haven't been able to get the fans back onside and they haven't been able to get the players back onside either.

Some Blues fans maintain Rowett would have walked had he not been pushed, but we don't know that, and whether they like it or not, his sacking has ultimately put us in the position we are in now.

Derby County v Queens Park Rangers - Sky Bet Championship
Gary Rowett was surprisingly dismissed as Blues boss last year
Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

RF: What was the general feeling amongst the fans on Harry Redknapp? Did the fans want him to stay after keeping you up last season or were you sceptical when he extended his contract?

CP: I'll be completely honest - I fell for him hook, line and sinker! Harry came in when we were in a seriously precarious position last season with three games to go to save us from relegation. In his first interview he sang Keep Right On’ - he bought into the fans, and he did everything Zola wasn't doing. The fans loved him for that.

After keeping us up, in hindsight, he should have left it there but I think most Blues fans were optimistic when he extended his contract in the summer. The transfer window was erratic - it went from the sublime to the ridiculous at times - and we were linked to every player and his dog. We got fourteen through the door in the summer, so he had the overhaul he wanted, but after a second half collapse and defeat to Burton, he outed the Rowett players and criticised them and from that moment he was a goner.

If I am being honest, I would rather him still be here than Cotterill but I don't think he was the right man to carry on this season.

RF: Staying on the subject of managers, you don't have to tell Sunderland supporters about Steve Cotterill and things going wrong at the club. Are there any green shoots though? Do you think he can turn things around?

CP: Absolutely not!

We had Lee Clark in charge before Rowett came in and I thought he had an ego, but Cotterill is something else! To be fair to him, we won his first game in charge, at home to top of the league Cardiff at the time and the first half was OK. I remember after that game his interview was as if he had just been appointed Barcelona manager - he had the best squad, best fans, best tea lady, everything, but since then we have just been progressively worse.

Confidence is at an all time low with fans and players alike, and the club looks doomed under him. His tactical choices have baffled us - he left Jeremie Boga out for his first seven games when fans had been crying out for him, then plays him away at Sheff Utd and he scores a belter. Striker Sam Gallagher has been either left on the bench or played left wing as well.

The players are clearly not buying in to his methods and we look so defensive and scared against any team we come up against. We are barely getting shots on target, let alone goals. Injuries to Che Adams and Isaac Vassell haven't helped him, but Cotterill is out of his depth.

Birmingham City v Nottingham Forest - Sky Bet Championship
Steve Cotterill was brought in as Birmingham manager when Harry Redknapp left the club but their struggles have continued.
Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

RF: Despite a lack of goals this season, what worries should Sunderland fans have as we go into the game?

CP: Good question!

Football is a funny game and despite our awful form we do have players, on paper, that are capable of hurting teams on their day. Jota is our £6m record signing from Brentford and he has shown in this division he is a silky player that can take on a man. Jeremie Boga, on loan from Chelsea, scored a belter out of nothing away at Sheffield United, so if these two are allowed time on the ball they could be dangerous - but our problem has been the other players around them! They don't appear to have the confidence in their team mates so often try to go it alone, which is why we don't see a lot of the ball.

David Stockdale is a good solid goalkeeper, but a wrist injury alongside the fact that he hasn't had a regular back 4 or 5 in front of him hasn't helped him. As for Gardner, he made his first start in ages last weekend, so I wouldn't be expecting him to be bang on match fit just yet.

RF: On a similar note, is there anyone in the Sunderland side who you're fearful of?

CP: I think my main fear of Sunderland is the manager. Chris Coleman has come in and revitalised the club and its supporters, and the players are clearly enjoying what he has brought to training and games.

Grabban has scored as many goals as our whole team this season, so it would seem he is the main threat. An issue of ours has been conceding possession in midfield too easily and in Gooch and Honeyman, you have two young bright players that could outrun our boys.

Hibernian v Sunderland - Pre Season Friendly
George Honeyman has been in good form since Chris Coleman’s arrival and Chris thinks he could do Birmingham some damage.
Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

RF: How do you expect Steve Cotterill to approach this game and what is his likely starting line up?

CP: The first part of this is easy to answer - we will sit back and be happy for you to have the ball, hope it remains 0-0 for as long as possible and attempt to hit you on the counter attack.

The starting line up is a tricky one. Cotterill has very rarely kept the same starting eleven, but we played three at the back away to Sheffield United recently, and that was one of our more solid performances, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him match you guys up with that system.

RF: To round it off, can we have a score prediction please?

CP: A month ago I would have backed us to nick a point or more. Since Coleman has come in and lifted spirits and, more importantly, got that home win under the belt, I can't see us troubling you. 2-0 to Sunderland.


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