Date: 22nd November 2018 at 1:48pm
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Like many football fans up and down the country, I have recently downloaded and started spending my time playing Football Manager 2019.

Naturally, Birmingham City were my first choice and to my amazement, I found that Cheick N’Doye and Greg Stewart are amongst the finest players currently contracted by Birmingham City. Greg Stewart!! One scout certainly needs to up his game.

Anyway, it occurred to me looking through a few of the names that Vital Birmingham hadn’t done a loan update for a while. So below is a guide to the players still contracted but plying their trade elsewhere, from Hungerford to Eupen.

Jonathan Grounds

Club: Bolton Wanderers; Age: 30; Appearances: 8 (7 starts)

Why did he leave?

After an indifferent beginning, Jonathan Grounds genuinely became one of Blues’ most consistent performers and was arguably our Player of the Season until injury struck last term. However, Monk clearly fancied more from his full-back than mere solidity and moved to sign Kristian Pedersen. Grounds found himself without a squad number and told he could leave.

How is he getting on?

Truth be told, not very well. Since his debut, Grounds has played 8 games, starting 7, but his performances haven’t impressed sufficiently with fans mocking him on social media and questioning whether he merits a role ahead of Andy Taylor. In his eight matches, Bolton kept two clean sheets and won once.

Are we missing him?

Well, Kristian Pedersen has been performing excellently at left-back and has already provided half as many assists in 17 matches than Grounds did in 158 for Blues. Grounds was a solid performer at Blues but we required an upgrade, somebody who could provide more mobility and power from the full-back position and Pedersen is certainly fitting the bill.

Cheick Keita

Club: KAS Eupen; Age: 22; Appearances: 10 (10 starts)

Why did he leave?

I’m not sure anybody really knows quite why Cheick Keita has been bombed out by Harry Redknapp and Garry Monk but it was clear from the start of the summer that Keita wasn’t going to play for Blues this season. The young full-back/winger was a joy to watch but remained something of an enigma, many unsure what his best position was and what kind of effect he would have on the Blues side. Monk wasn’t going to use him so first-team football was needed.

How is he getting on?

Quite well looking at the basic statistics. Keita has started 10 of Eupen’s 15 matches, scoring twice and picking up five bookings. He’s understandably rough around the edges but when your coach is Claude Makelele, you’re bound to want to impress. His performances have not gone unnoticed, the 22-year-old receiving a maiden call-up to the Mali national side.

Are we missing him?

It’s hard to say you’re missing somebody that hasn’t played for the club for 18 months. Based on his displays for Blues under Zola, Keita would be another fan favourite amongst the current group but his ability to weave beyond players with ease. However, little has been said about his work ethic and there must be a reason why Monk has moved him on. I’ll side with the gaffer.

Cheick N’Doye

Club: Angers; Age: 32; Appearances: 12 (11 starts)

Why did he leave? 

After an indifferent opening season, Cheick N’Doye played each of Senegal’s three World Cup matches and played in Blues’ first two games of this season, starting against Middlesbrough. Then he disappeared back to France without a trace. Presumably, Monk knew he had a stronger, cheaper option in Gary Gardner and N’Doye likely wanted to return once he knew of Angers’ interest.

How is he getting on?

Quite well by the looks of it. N’Doye has returned to Angers as a hero after the role he played in helping the club win promotion and then survive in the top flight. N’Doye is evidently a giant presence for a diminutive French outfit and it says plenty that he was installed as vice-captain upon his return.

Are we missing him?

From a footballing perspective, no. N’Doye was clumsy, he looked awkward in possession and it’s evident that Monk made the right choice in replacing him with Gardner. However, few players got the crowd going quite like N’Doye and the sight of the popular figure gave the whole of St.Andrews a real boost, something that could have been useful at times this season.

Greg Stewart

Club: Kilmarnock; Age: 28; Appearances: 8

Why did he leave?

Greg Stewart arrived with a good reputation having plundered home 22 goals in his two seasons with Scottish Premiership outfit Dundee and assisted a further 17. However, he never got going in a Blues shirt, struggling to prove himself under Gary Rowett before being forgotten about by Gianfranco Zola. Stewart spent last season with Aberdeen where he started 17 times before moving to Kilmarnock this year.

How is he getting on?

Kilmarnock are absolutely flying this season under the tutelage of ex-Chelsea coach and West Brom manager Steve Clarke, The Killies sitting in fourth position just two points behind league leaders Celtic. Stewart has played eight of their 13 matches and had a major impact, scoring four and assisting a further three.

Are we missing him?

His form at Kilmarnock suggests that somewhere, Blues were missing a trick. However, Stewart never looked like possessing the ability to become a regular Championship match-winner and he certainly lacks the power, pace and quality of Jota, Jacques Maghoma and Connor Mahoney.

Steve Seddon

Club: Stevenage; Age: 20; Appearances: 13 (12 starts)

Why did he leave?

In short, to gain first-team football. With Wes Harding and Josh Cogley at the club, Blues have plenty of options in the full-back positions so Seddon was allowed to leave the club and gain experience by playing regularly in League Two.

How is he getting on?

It is telling that since joining Stevenage, Seddon has started 12 of the 13 games he has been available for. The youngster’s tenacity and confidence in possession have led him to become a hit at Broadhall Way, his two goals only adding to his reputation as one of the finest full-backs in League Two.

Are we missing him?

Given his age, his inexperience and the quality that remains in the full-back positions, the answer is no. However, Seddon is fast proving to be a very impressive full-back and if he continues to shine at Stevenage, he may force his way into the Blues squad next term.

Corey O’Keeffe

Club: Solihull Moors; Age: 20; Appearances: 12 (7 starts)

Why did he leave?

Like Seddon, Corey O’Keeffe has had a taste of life as part of the Birmingham City matchday squad. Unlike Seddon, he actually made his debut, Gary Rowett giving the youngster a run out at St.James’ Park of all places during a 4-0 defeat. Another case of a young player hoping to make his mark in the mans game.

How is he getting on?

I have the luxury of seeing O’Keeffe play quite a bit given my regular appearances at the Automated Technology Group Stadium, or the ATG for short. O’Keeffe has slotted in seamlessly at Solihull Moors, proving extremely capable back-up for Tyrone Williams at right-back and Kyle Storer in the middle of midfield. A youngster unafraid of getting stuck in but also confident in possession wherever he plays on the pitch.

Are we missing him?

Again, O’Keeffe was unlikely to feature much this season and given the competition in midfield and at right-back, he’s certainly not being missed. The big question is whether he can return and put pressure on those in front of him.

Luke Maxwell:

Club: Solihull Moors; Age: 21; Appearances: 16 (7 starts)

Why did he leave?

As above, first-team football is the name of the game and having received so much of it during his early days at Kidderminster Harriers, Luke Maxwell was definitely craving it. Spells at Grimsby Town and Gateshead weren’t overly successful so a move to nearby Solihull Moors offered a final chance for Maxwell to prove himself to those at his parent club.

How is he getting on?

It’s fair to say that Tim Flowers likes having Luke Maxwell around but hasn’t quite found a position for him in his starting XI just yet. Maxwell is a tad unfortunate that his competition includes Kyle Storer, Darren Carter and Jamey Osborne, three of the finest midfielders in the National League. Maxwell’s height and power has become a useful option from the bench and his three goals show the kind of impact he is capable of having.

Are we missing him?

Again, no. Maxwell wouldn’t have played for Blues this season and his rashness ensures he’s the type of player that Monk is unlikely to trust. That said, his natural power and ability to do the unthinkable means he will surely have a career somewhere in full-time football.

Jake Weaver

Club: Hungerford Town; Age: 21; Appearances: 8

Why did he leave?

Weaver is now our third-choice goalkeeper but has never played first-team football. It was a necessity for him to depart on loan and get experience playing against the kind of strikers looking to bully a raw, youthful goalkeeper in order to earn their win bonus.

How is he getting on?

Hungerford Town have endured a difficult beginning to the new campaign and things haven’t really improved with Weaver inbetween the sticks. The Crusaders have kept one clean sheet during Weaver’s eight matches in goal but reading through a few match reports, it’s evident that he has made some crucial saves. Amongst those saves was a penalty stop, though he did give it away.

Are we missing him?

Again, no. Weaver is our third-choice goalkeeper and has only just played first-team football for the first time in any of the top-six tiers. That said, with many fans still against Lee Camp being our number one, I’m sure a few would suggest we would be better off with Trueman and Weaver challenging for the number one jersey.

 

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