Pre-season talk in the Football League was dominated by two sides, its fairly safe to say.
Newcastle United and Aston Villa’s relegation into the Championship really set tongues wagging and they’ve continued to dominate as the season has begun, both on and off the pitch. Newcastle got off to a pretty disastrous start, losing their opening two games to Fulham and Huddersfield Town but they’ve had something of a mini revival. Three wins on the bounce has lightened the mood around the Toon once again and they seem pretty confident they are on set for promotion.
As for Villa, its been a less than impressive start, and they go into the international break in sixteenth place in the league, far below where they’d realistically want to have been at the start of the campaign. But the real shock with these two sides has been the money spent. Over £115m worth of talent has been brought in by Rafael Benitez and Roberto Di Matteo, far more than any other Championship side.
But there is another Championship team that has gone about their business quietly as the season has begun and then gotten underway, and that is Birmingham City.
Under manager Gary Rowett, the Blues seem pretty settled these days and despite the obvious lack of investment, they’ve made an encouraging start. They sit tenth after five games, with two wins, two draws and just a single loss.
But it was the win over Norwich City last weekend that really showed the league what the Blues can do, as they swept promotion-fancied Norwich City aside in an impressive 3-0 win at St Andrews. Clayton Donaldson got his first of the season scoring twice, with David Davis getting the other.
But it was the manner of the win that impressed fans and neutrals alike, with many being impressed by the cool, calm and assured display on show. Perhaps for the first time this season, the Blues controlled the game in the middle of the park with David Davis and Maikel Kieftenbeld chipping away, giving the Norwich players no chance to breathe.
Che Adams played 90 minutes for the first time in a Blues shirt and looked sharp whilst Clayton Donaldson scored a couple of goals – he will be glad to have to his name on the scoresheet after a tough start to the campaign.
Nothing has been achieved yet but this is a massive step in the right direction for Rowett’s side. They face a tough Fulham outfit after the international break and will have to keep it up if they want to compete with Slavisa Jokanovic’s side.
All the ingredients seem there should Blues mount a successful play-off push. With new signings Lukas Jutkiewicz and Rhoys Higgins now also in the side, the team is looking bigger with more depth.
Of course, good results can always come crashing down, but the foundations are there for Birmingham. They’re one step ahead of rivals Aston Villa with a tenth of the budget and that in itself is something to shout about.