I have started my report today almost 12 hours before the match is due to kick off. High winds (over 40 mph) and hail are forecast for the whole of the game and nothing ruins a game like high winds. I am expecting an awfully dull 2 hours spent shivering under the lights in a freezing cold gale, musing upon why my team (a team limited by its youth and lack of skill) is playing the way it is, in conditions that are totally unsuited to the style of football the Chief Coach is trying to play. Nevertheless, the question has popped into my mind because I have been wondering why the last three coaches have all played football that is unsuited to the conditions found throughout the United Kingdom during the typical British winter. Well, when you put it like that, it is obvious isn’t it. Our last 3 coaches have not been British. Here in Britain, we have a maritime climate. Compared to continental Europe, we have milder winters and cooler summers. Our weather is heavily influenced by the jet stream, a high level wind that blows from west to east. It crosses the Atlantic Ocean, where it picks up the moisture that falls as rain, heavier in the west and over the Pennine Chain than it is in the east. Compared to continental Europe, our winters are mild, but they are also wet and windy. In spite of improvements in ground drainage, the pitches are still often heavy, and this along with the wind reflects in the way that the game has developed here. The European game is much more technical, with much more emphasis on passing and control. It is less about physical strength there, with much more emphasis placed upon ball skills and possession. That is fine. It is the reason that the game has been able to be adapted to the local conditions of countries all over the world. Nevertheless, it means that the game that is played in one part of the world, does not adapt as well to being played in another part of the world. Try playing the high pressing game in Brazilian conditions, and see how long your players last. Barnsley is trying to play the game with no tall player in the forward line. This would have been unthinkable when I was a kid, when the accepted logic was for a big lad to win the ball, and a small, quick lad to score the goals. I am trying to give the new world of total football a chance, and I have been reluctant to dismiss change ‘out of hand’ but, it is fair to say that I am struggling not to be seen as the typical reactionary traditional footie fan, at times. Preston was one of those times. It was clear that the coach wanted the team to get the ball forward through short passes along the ground. It was equally clear that the Preston plan was to stop our game plan at source. They pressed our back four and they marked all the passing options from the short pass. It worked like a dream, and we were unable to play. What we needed was an alternative strategy. What we needed was a big man up front, so we could hit the ball over the press, and into the space that lies beyond, and a coach who is prepared to play the old fashioned game when needs must. What we needed was a coach that understood the British game, played out in British conditions. It will be no different tonight. The wind destroys timing and accuracy, and particularly the timing and accuracy of the pass. In the conditions that will prevail tonight, the typical British manager abandons all pretence of playing a sophisticated game. He tells players to keep hitting the ball forward, keep supporting and keep hoping for a break, and above all play safely and do not make the first mistake. It is not pretty, but it is a reflection of the conditions that you get during a British winter. I dread to think how our Austrian manager will have us playing, but the following paragraphs will answer that question. ____________________________________________________________ Once again tonight, I felt sorry for my team and I felt sorry for the players that represent it. An unsympathetic home crowd were not in a mood to make any allowance for the awful conditions. There were only a few fans in attendance given the awful conditions and those that were there were looking for someone to blame almost from the off, and were not particularly interested in taking aim in any particular direction before opening fire. It was not pretty. In Birmingham City, Barnsley found the wrong opponent on the wrong day. Whilst Struber did play slightly differently to allow for the conditions, cutting out much of the short passing from the back, and playing Cauley Woodrow further forward for goal kicks to try to win more of that long stuff, the basic system remained the same. If anything, the coach reacted to the challenging conditions by picking an even younger and less experienced squad, with Callum Styles replacing Luke Thomas from Saturday’s team. Days such as today are not for the inexperienced, although admittedly, it would be hard to pick an experienced team from our squad this season. Nevertheless, it was not just the conditions that conspired against us today, it was also circumstances. Struber had said pre-match that we needed to win, and that was no secret, but needing to win translates into desperate, and desperate teams do desperate things. Birmingham were not desperate. They were the away team. They were in a comparatively safe position in mid-table. They could afford to adopt safety first tactics. They could afford not to commit too many players forward in a desperate search for a goal. They could afford not to take any risks. So we saw an away team with plenty behind the ball, with limited attacking intent, and with a safety first attitude. The 64% possession statistic for the home side shows the effort that my team put in. There was no chance of a breakthrough though, and in the end, it was always likely to be the pressing team, the team taking the risks, the team that was risking all in foul conditions who made the mistake that led to the winning goal. The ball was Williams’. It was easy to put it out of play, but there was pressure to keep it in play, to keep hammering away at them, so he hesitated. He was on the wrong side because of the early substitution of a struggling Oduor, and knew that whilst he could not keep the ball in or win the throw in, the covering Andersen could. For a second, he hesitated. So did Andersen, because he did not read Williams’ mind. In that moment of hesitation, the City player, who did not hesitate, was first to the ball and was clear. He crossed and Hogan scored for Birmingham. It happens to us too often. In a game that the first mistake wins the game, we make that mistake. Rather than blaming those concerned, I feel a deep sympathy for them. It was their mistake, but theirs is not the fault. The fault was with the risk that they were forced to take. Birmingham reacted to their good fortune by going to a very deep back 7 for the remaining 14 minutes, and denying us any possible route back into the game. Others will allocate the blame where they will. I do not feel like getting involved in the blame game again tonight. It is a game with no winners because no matter who the majority choose to point the finger at, my team still loses, and my team still gets relegated. It is as simple as that.