Perspective is a swine at times like this.
A rotten performance against an average side, riddled with individual errors and set against the backdrop of a flawed team selection was bound to stir a reaction, but the toxic cocktail of Canary Call and Twitter was sufficient to send the Yellow Army into a Saturday night meltdown.
There were even ‘Alex Neil: should he stay or should he go’ polls. And all after one defeat in six.
Yet there is no sugar coating the paucity of yesterday’s performance and try explaining to members of the Yellow Army who made the trip that defeats of such ilk are ‘one of those things’ – even if they are.
Much of the venom was fired in the direction of the board and how their struggles to land Alex Neil’s transfer targets are finally biting us on the bum (more on that later) but there’s no doubt the manager did have sufficient tools at his disposal to beat Birmingham; if not to win to certainly produce a higher level of peformance.
Equally however, the collective gasp that greeted news of Steven Naismith leading the line told a story of its own. Kyle Lafferty, while clearly not in the manager’s long-term thoughts, would have offered a more conventional focal point for the afternoon; so too Carlton Morris.
There was little evidence to suggest that Naismith leading the line was going to work – and the general consensus at 2pm yesterday was, unfortunately, bang on the money. He’s looks, and is playing, like someone who’s unhappy in his current surroundings and is a shadow of the player we dreamed of when parting with £8 million.
That the ball didn’t stick and that City had no presence up front came as no surprise, and against that background it was incumbent on the midfield being organised yet creative and the back-four being solid and error-free.
Alas all four elements went missing for the afternoon.
Part of the aforementioned perspective is of course that Alex’s hand is currently being hindered by injuries to key players; in particular in the full-back positions, where Steven Whittaker’s afternoon was unworthy of description and Robbie Brady, along with an array of loose passing, had a watching brief for the Blues’ first goal.
Both are naturally capable of better, and have proved it many times in the past, but neither will be playing in those positions when Messrs Olsson and Pinto are fit.
Alex Tettey’s role in the third goal also needs no description but was symptomatic of his afternoon and the team in general: loose, lacking awareness, sloppy and lackadaisical. None of which have any place in the footballing maelstrom that is the Championship.
It’s a phrase I detest (partly because Worthy trotted it out so regularly), but at any level of football you really do have to earn the right to play, meaning the physical battle has to be won in order to offer yourself a platform to get the ball down and play.
Right now it feels a little as if we’re skipping that particular element and fast-forwarding to the pretty stuff. It worked against a very ordinary Blackburn; we just about got away with it against Wednesday, Bristol City and that lot, but we were found out yesterday.
There’s no fast-track to a win in the Championship; they have to be earned and more often than not in an ugly, brutal manner. Alex knows it – he was super-fast in his appraisal of the league’s requirements first time around – but it appears a message that’s still being processed elsewhere.
But – to paraphrase a fellow MFW columnist – the brown stuff does occasionally manifest itself and in a 46 game season there will be days when everything goes wrong and you look for all the world like a team of ill-equipped strangers. Under Neil Adams that day was away at Middlesbrough, when we got tonked 4-0.
Lessons of course have to be learned from the debris of St Andrew’s and while a wake up call should have been totally unnecessary, if it acts as one in a positive way then we just remember it as the shocker it was and move on.
But it can’t become a Premier League type habit.
I don’t consider it an over-exaggeration to suggest the next three days could make or break City’s season.
The summer-long search for a striker, or strikers, looks likely to bear fruit in the next 24 hours, with the signing of Nelson Oliveira, and the noises emanating from Nottingham – where he had a loan spell last season – appear promising. And, fingers crossed, there may be another new face appearing before the deadline.
There is absolutely no question that behind the scenes masses of work has been ongoing to bring in new faces – and the calls for Ed Balls to shelve Strictly and ‘get back behind that desk and sign someone’ are pure nonsense – but there is equally no questioning the club’s struggle to land the names on Alex Neil’s list of most wanted.
Oliveira sounds like a decent player and will no doubt offer something different to our attack but he isn’t the ’20-goal striker’ that we were reportedly in the market for. Neither, I suspect, was he anywhere near the top of said list.
Recruitment is a problem for us. Not through a lack of effort or a lack of desire but there is a problem.
Whether that problem relates to the depth of our pockets, unwillingness to delve sufficiently deep in the pockets, reputation, geography or setting unrealistic targets in the first place I have absolutely no idea, but it’s a system that is currently not delivering in the way we’d all like.
It’s failed consistently for some time now and with different individuals in situ. It appears, from the outside looking in, a systematic failure rather than one that boils down to individuals failing to deliver.
And, in order for this club to thrive, it’s a deficiency that has to be addressed.
Good luck Jez.