And so it begins.
It didn’t take long to be reminded just how stressful this Championship lark can be and how you can be transported from agony to ecstasy and back again in minutes. And my god this lot put us through the ringer.
But, once the St Andrew’s dust had settled, City had earned a decent point and it had been a solid start to the season, although I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t have been the consensus view if Onel Hernandez hadn’t squeezed in that late equaliser.
Those fine margins are not going to go away anytime soon.
Thankfully, Onel did precisely what Daniel Farke asked of him and, after a more than promising pre-season, responded in style to his head coach’s request for more end product in terms of both goals and assists.
His all-action, high-tempo style means there will always be fallow periods in games where he simply has to catch his breath, but judging by yesterday there will be an awful lot of havoc wreaked in between if City can get him on the ball and running at full-backs in advanced areas.
It’s been some time since we’ve had a player of Onel’s ilk – one with that low centre of gravity that makes him almost impossible to knock off the ball. It’s not something that can be taught – it’s inbuilt – but for a winger, it’s an absolute godsend and when allied to an eye for goal, like yesterday, it makes for a lethal attacking weapon.
He’s set the bar now. It’s up to him and Team Farke to ensure the potential is fully realised.
Overall, it was a mixed afternoon with, despite the 71 per cent of possession that Farke holds so dear, there being still plenty of room for improvement – just as you would expect after the first competitive 90 minutes of the season.
It was a cobweb blower – it always is – and to read too much into opening day is a mistake all of us have made at some stage, but there’s no escaping the fact that most of City’s good moments came in the final quarter when Mo Leitner and Kenny McLean were thrown on to make things happen.
On that score, both delivered and it was admittedly an odd sight to see Marco Stiepermann’s name on the team-sheet ahead of Leitner and McLean, especially as the Tetbull duo had been reunited to offer the ballast at the base of that midfield.
I seem to be in the minority in that I quite like Stiepermann, and can see a lot of good in his versatility, but would I pick him ahead of the other two in a midfield that’s crying out for some creativity?
(I do fear however that, along with James Husband, he’s in line to take over the Marley Watkins scapegoat baton).
That Husband had to start at left-back was met with the usual derision, but in fairness to Farke he clearly wanted to play four at the back and had few other options. Jamal Lewis is still not fit, Max Aarons was probably considered a little too green (and is a natural right-back) and so, therefore, what were the alternatives other than to give Husband the chance to do what he was brought in to do?
The decision to revert to a 4-2-3-1 was also a curious one, given that much of pre-season had been spent trying to bed in a 4-1-4-1, but one wonders if the scars of having just Harrison Read as the lone defensive midfielder in the second city almost a year ago still remain.
The Tettey/Trybull combo did us proud last season, so I suspect it was the desire to pair those two together, coupled with the ghosts of Villa Park, that led him to the 4-2-3-1. Ultimately, if offered a point before the game, Daniel would probably have taken it, so while he expressed disappointment at not taking all three, he’ll know a point represented a steady start.
In addition to Leitner and McLean lighting up St Andrew’s when they came on, Dennis Sbreny – him of the ‘never be good enough’ label – showed more than a few signs that actually he might well be; his run and nicely weighted pass to Hernandez for the equaliser being beautifully executed.
He and Onel will both have benefitted massively from having had a taste of Championship football in the second half of last season and then a full pre-season to get in the right physical shape to tackle it. That Farke has enough faith in Sbreny to include him in his plans speaks volumes for the potential he, and Webber, see in the young German.
At the opposite end of the Championship experience spectrum, Jordan Rhodes, despite not getting on the scoresheet, did more than enough to demonstrate precisely why he was so desired in these parts.
He’ll be gutted he didn’t bury that second-half header from point-blank range – nothing beats getting off the mark on your competitive debut – but content he’s not lost that happy knack of popping up in the right place at the right time. And that’s something we’ve not had since a certain Grant Holt regularly banged in 20 goals a season.
So, a decent start but equally nothing to get too excited or too alarmed about. Perspective is everything after opening day. Whichever side of the divide you’re on, I reckon you should keep your powder dry.