The advance of Birmingham City into football's elite has been testimony to their shrewd management behind the scenes. Having secured my bashful pal Barry Fry several seasons ago to give them an initial lift, they have slowly made many accurate and innovative decisions, not least with their clever direction of funds and the wisdom in purchasing promising British players for sensible fees like Damien Johnson, Darren Purse and the three boys that I know well, Matthew Upson (ex-Luton) and ex-Spurs duo Stephen Clemence and Jamie Clapham.
With Steve Bruce now in charge their aim will be to re-establish the pedigree of the days when I first saw Birmingham play with the likes of Murphy, Smith, Astall, Govan, Warhurst, Boyd, Brown, Hall, Green ... I could go on.
Our own form has been a disappointment recently. It is always said in football that a run of three successive victories is no cause for wild celebrations, by the same token three successive defeats gives no cause for instant depression. But we have to face up to some of the criticism coming our way, even though some of it is unfair. It has developed into a situation somewhat changed from the optimism that opened the season but it is not over until the last kick of the campaign and from the real possibility of a European position we are now having to drive back into that area.
We have been hampered by injuries leading to changes in pairings and partnerships and our share of unlucky breaks. But we all accept that our supporters demand and expect wholehearted performances. Our club has the resources and support to match any top Premiership club with many international players and we know our supporters are demanding - but we must aim for the highest standards.
Sven Goran Eriksson was at our game against Liverpool and, surprisingly in my view, decided that Ledley King wasn't to be readmitted to his latest England squad. Centre back is one of the few positions in which this country is comfortable with Rio Ferdinand, Sol Campbell, Wes Brown, Gareth Southgate, Gareth Barry, Jonathan Woodgate, John Terry, Martin Keown and Co. Ledley's promise needs cultivating on the international stage, in a similar way to Simon Davies, who was recently forced to play right-back for the emerging Welsh team.
It was the young boys - Davies, Jonathan Blondel and our Irish trio - that were noticeable by their absence from our training ground last week which only proves that we have a nucleus here of some fine young talent.
A bright spot recently has been the success, whilst on loan, of John Jackson, Stephen Kelly, Lars Hirschfeld and Dean Marney. It is to be hoped that these experiences will enable them to challenge for senior positions within the next two seasons. Marney and Kelly, whose contracts were expiring, have put their names to new agreements. Stephen is now on loan at QPR whilst John Jackson is with his second loan club, Colchester.
Anthony Gardner, another one of our younger brigade, is coming back to fitness and we are all pleased that Christian Ziege is now back in training.
The break since the Bolton game has given time and space in the press for some fierce criticism and divisive comment about our club. We accept the concern of our supporters, but Glenn and the coaching staff feel defeat as much as anyone. Our aim is to be successful but when you have been in football a long time you understand and accept that there are always setbacks. We are working hard to make sure we win games and this afternoon we have an opportunity to pick up vital points to put everyone in a more positive mood.
Enjoy the game.
We welcome Birmingham City this afternoon and sincerely hope that they complete their first season in the Premiership in style but today, hopefully, we can turn around our own fortunes.