Contrary to rumour and popular opinion, I have a decent record of behaviour.
I’m not talking about my private life (which, suffice to say, I’m glad isn’t under the spotlight) but my record of commenting on City.
After Blackburn on the first day, I pushed back on those who got carried away and predicted a stroll to the title for us. We couldn’t really gauge the quality of opposition and above all it was only one game.
Successful teams in our division win a lot of games – sometimes with style as we did at Blackburn but more often through grinding out 1-0s as we did against Bristol City.
However, no team has ever won the Championship, nor got promoted from it, without a few horror shows across the season.
Last season, for instance, Burnley had a nightmare at home to Preston; Middlesbrough didn’t show up at Charlton and gave them a rare easy win; Hull lost 4-0 in a horror at Derby. All three went up.
Under Alex Neil two years ago we swept our Championship rivals aside – but most of us still shudder at the memory of Brentford (h).
In fact, one consolation for that awful defeat is that its architect, Alex Pritchard, in now a Canary.
So, however successful we’re going to be this year, it will involve the odd ‘mare. Was Birmingham one of those aberrations, or did it tell us that something is fundamentally diseased at City?
The outpouring of invective and abuse following the game suggests that many fans believe the latter. Our Board, recruitment team and manager have been written-off as not fit for purpose. Some would like to see all three, not just our chairman, waltz off into the sunset.
Of course, it’s hard to argue against criticism of our striking options. If Jerome is missing, we don’t want to find ourselves facing a choice between Naismith and Lafferty for the role. None of us would have wanted to get this far into the season without the reinforcements we all know are needed.
But would the presence of, say, McCormack, have made a difference on Saturday? He certainly didn’t help Villa, once their game started to fall apart at Bristol City.
It might have been better if we’d had Pinto and Olsson available; however, the real and simple story of Birmingham is this: we had a collective stinker. Alex Neil’s summary, as usual, seemed to get to the heart of the matter: “as poor as I’ve seen some of these players”.
Yes, we laboured against an exceptionally well organized Sheffield Wednesday and a workmanlike Ipswich but those performances gave no indication of what was to come at Birmingham.
So, an aberration or a signal of something rotten? I can’t say categorically it’s the first, but I’ll say this. We’ve seen Alex Neil in the Championship, including how he dealt with a bad early performance (Brentford). He then took a squad less talented than the present one, and less of his own choice, and led them to success.
There was enough in the first four games to show us he hasn’t lost either his motivational ability or the dressing room. Many teams coming down from the Premier League are mentally ‘there for the taking’ by a Sheffield Wednesday or Bristol City; that’s why so few bounce back.
Those who can remember ten years ago will remember Nigel Worthington’s Norwich as a classic example. Miserable and infuriating as Saturday was, we simply don’t look like that Worthington team.
I said after Blackburn that we shouldn’t make judgements until ten games were under our belt; I’ll stick to it now.
The two home games after the international break will certainly tell us something. We’ll have some key players back, hopefully Pritchard available, and (at least) one new striker option. And they’ll have AN’s words ringing in their ears.
If we repeat the feeble Birmingham performance in either of those games, I’ll concede there’s a serious issue to resolve. In the meantime, we may just be in Mark Twain territory.
During a visit to London in 1897, Twain discovered that an American reporter had filed a story that he was seriously ill, followed by one that he had died. Famously (and perhaps not accurately, but let’s let that pass) he sent the message that “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated”.
It’s up to the City players and manager to show us, against Cardiff on September 10, that our challenge is still very much alive and kicking.