Opposition view – Birmingham City

We speak to Blues fan Gabriel Sutton of The Football Lab ahead of the Swans’ visit to St Andrews tomorrow evening…

Firstly a word on last season. You had three managers and after a season of struggle you survived on the final day. How do you look back on it now?
It’s been a catalogue of errors for a while now. With a massive turnover of players and managers since Gary Rowett left, it has been very difficult to develop a clear playing identity.

We’ve found ourselves in danger of going down on the final day in the last two seasons and we’ve got out of it with committed performances that seem to get the fans going; culturally, I feel we have a fighting spirit about us that serves us well in those dogfights. Blood-and-guts though will only help us temporarily tread water – it’s not enough to progress in this league, especially now there’s more technically refined teams around.

You’ve been under a transfer embargo for much of the summer. How frustrating has that been and what’s the situation with it now?
On the plus side, the embargo meant we haven’t had a massive overhaul of players which could be seen as a good thing, especially with talented youngsters like Wes Harding (right-back), Bez Lubala and Viv Soloman-Otabor (quick wide men) waiting in the wings.

The problem is though, we’re stuck with the same players that only turned up once Garry Monk took over; I don’t necessarily trust this group to reproduce the top half form and performances we saw post-February over a whole season.

What are your aims and expectations this term?
Steady progress. I’d be pleased if we could finish midtable, further develop some of our young players, get closer to establishing a footballing philosophy as a club and finish the campaign with the same manager who led us into it.

Who are your star performers and who needs to up their game?
Jacques Maghoma was by far our best player last season. Once Monk took over, we played a narrow 4-4-2 and Mags and Jota were given freedom to roam inside from wide areas and we got a lot out of them.

As for who needs to up their game, Michael Morrison was one of the best centre-backs in the Championship a couple of seasons ago and I really appreciate what he’s done for us; since Rowett left though he’s unfortunately had something of a decline. He doesn’t look comfortable in possession and for me, that’s a slight problem for a modern centre-back.

Swansea legend Garry Monk has just started his first full campaign in charge, what do the Blues fans make of him?
I really like him. He uses social media very cleverly to get fans onside but equally, once the whistle goes, he looks very focused on the touchline and strikes me as somebody who obsesses over the details which I like.

At the end of last season, he got us playing further up the pitch and creating more chances, even with a squad that isn’t as good as it could be. I believe he’s the best man we’ll get to re-build the club and personally, I’d back him to the hilt.

What do you make of Swansea and which players if any do you fear?
It seems your fans aren’t too happy with the board due to a lack of investment and the price of sale for certain players – I can certainly understand why as we all want the best deals for our club.

What I would say though is I admire that Graham Potter has not put public pressure on the board, but embraced the challenge of developing the existing players and elevating them to new levels.

You played some excellent football for one of the goals at Sheffield United – McBurnie’s I think – and if that’s what you can do in August, I look forward to seeing how you look once Potter’s methods truly take hold.

As for a player I fear, I’ve always been a big fan of Barrie McKay – I think he’ll be a real threat with his tricky runs in from the left channel and he showed at Forest he’s capable of the spectacular.

Predict the score and where both teams will finish…
I said 16th for Swansea and 15th for us in pre-season as I thought this might be a transitional year for yourselves, but now starting to wonder if I underestimated you and overestimated us.

As much as I’d love to be positive about Blues going into Friday night I’m just not feeling it – especially considering we were largely dominated by Middlesbrough – so I’ll go 1-0 to Swansea with McKay to score. Really hope I’m wrong.