Birmingham v Spurs: Blue day for Tottenham?
SOMETIMES in life you have to put your hands up and say sorry, we underestimated you and you have proved us very very wrong . Football fans up and down the country have probably been forced to review their pre-season predictions...
PREVIEW BY BEN PEARCE
Birmingham City v Tottenham Hotspur
SOMETIMES in life you have to put your hands up and say 'sorry, we underestimated you and you have proved us very very wrong'.
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Football fans up and down the country have probably been forced to review their pre-season predictions for Birmingham, and apologise to any City fans.
And now, unfortunately, it is time for a certain local newspaper to eat a sizeable slice of humble pie and apologise for writing them off in August.
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As Spurs prepared to face the Blues in the fourth game of the league campaign, our analysis of the opposition was less than flattering.
"[Alex] McLeish may be aiming for the tried and tested blend of youth and experience, but a glance at the teamsheet reveals a poisonous cocktail of tiring, over-familar faces and new blood who are untested at the top level," we said.
How wrong we were. The warning signs were immediate and Tottenham only overcame the Midlanders at the Lane deep in injury time with an Aaron Lennon winner.
Since then, McLeish's side have refused to go away, staunchly stalking Spurs, Manchester City, Liverpool and Aston Villa.
Only two weeks ago, Redknapp insisted that there was no reason why Birmingham should automatically be discounted from the race for the top four - before the latest round of fixtures they sat five points behind fourth-placed Spurs, with a game in hand.
Before Wednesday's clash with Chelsea, City had gone 12 games unbeaten in the top flight, a club record which included draws with Man City, Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea.
The key to McLeish's success is continuity and, before the visit to Stamford Bridge last night, the Scot had named an unchanged line-up for the nine consecutive league matches.
City won six of those games, drawing the other three, and taking 21 points from a possible 27 - 10 more than Tottenham over the same period.
Perhaps the biggest testament that can be given to Birmingham is that McLeish has opted to spend very little of new owner Carson Yeung's money so far this month, only bringing Craig Gardner across the city from Aston Villa for a meagre �3million.
Pricier players may well arrive this week, but the boss is loath to upset his current group and lose momentum with a large-scale Man City-style recruitment drive, and it is hard to argue with his logic.
Worryingly for Harry Redknapp and Spurs this weekend, Birmingham's home form - and particularly their defence - has also played a major role this season.
The Blues have lost two of their 11 league games at St Andrew's and conceded just six goals in that time, giving them the joint best home defensive record in the division, matched only by Fulham.
That is largely due to goalkeeper Joe Hart, on loan from Manchester City, who has kept 10 clean sheets in all competitions this season, and is quickly looking like the future England goalkeeper.
Ham&High Sport verdict: Birmingham have rarely been a daunting name on the fixture list in the past and they don't score many goals, but their rearguard may force Spurs fans to lower their expectations this time, and settle for a 1-1 draw.