Birmingham’s Cameron Jerome has now scored eight goals this season, making him their top scorer. In comparison to teams around them, that is a paltry figure and does not stand up. Birmingham’s frugality in front of goal makes their league position even more impressive – it renders their achievement amazing but does leave the thought that had they bought another goal scoring striker in the summer, or indeed in January, they could have been challenging with the likes of Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur for those European places.
As it is, Jerome’s goal tally is beginning to show Alex McLeish exactly what he needs to do in the summer – eight goals means that Jerome has scored just under a third of Birmingham’s total and as frustrating as he can be at times, his importance is unquestionable. For instance, on Saturday, his deft flick reinvigorated Birmingham, a resurgence that culminated in a well-earned 2-2 draw against an in-form Everton. What Jerome, McLeish and Birmingham really need now is a striker that can add a similar, if not higher amount of goals in a season. The other options upfront do not conjure images of goals – Christian Benitez is not a natural finisher and for all of his effort, he does not seem to have the necessary calmness in front of goal to become a double-figure tally a season man. Kevin Phillips used to be that player but now he is too old to play often enough to really provide what McLeish needs. Garry O’Connor has not started a game this season and looks to be on his way out of the club in the summer.
The tamest attack in the top half of the table is only excusable because of the emphasis manager Alex McLeish puts on defence – for a time on Saturday, it seemed that Birmingham would be certain to lose due to some defensive mistakes but fortunately, the attack finally delivered and scored more than one goal for only the seventh time this season. On this occasion Birmingham were saved by their attackers but McLeish knows that this will not happen consistently enough. If Birmingham want to finish higher in the league next season, venom needs to be their greatest acquisition.
As a club that was deemed to be struggling for Premier League survival prior to the season’s kick-off, Birmingham knew that they needed to make St.Andrews’ a fortress and a place where they could gain vital points. As things have panned out, their away form has been sufficient to excuse an average home record but St.Andrews’ has been one of the most difficult grounds to play at this season. Birmingham have only lost at home twice, to Aston Villa and Bolton, both fixtures occurring in September. Since then, their home form has been admirable. The teams lower down the league table – the teams that Birmingham were touted to be battling with – all have far more losses at their respective grounds this season which is testament to Birmingham’s efforts. For the first 23 minutes on Saturday, it seemed that Everton would be delivering a third home defeat to Birmingham but as Scott Dann said: “We showed the sort of spirit we have all season and got ourselves back in to the game.” The comeback delighted fans as it showed that Birmingham truly do belong in the top half of the table – although Everton looked in control for much of the match, Birmingham had the confidence and the nous to slowly grind Everton down and get a result.
That is not to say that Everton should have won the game, or that Birmingham drew with pure grit – the Midlands outfit played some extremely fluent football and took their chances well, in particular Craig Gardner who scored an absolutely fantastic goal which was his first for the club. Next up is a trip north to face Sunderland, and old boss Steve Bruce. It is gratifying for Birmingham fans to think that they are now fairing far better than their former manager Bruce who will undoubtedly awaiting this fixture with a certain amount of trepidation. Indeed, Birmingham have now become a side to be feared.