It`s been a difficult season again for us Birmingham City fans. I started with some hope only to see us joining the strugglers near the foot of the Championship table in the battle to avoid relegation to the third-tier of English football. It is my own fault for starting with hope I suppose.
Taking charge of the Blues in October, following the departure of Harry Redknapp, Cotterill inherited a side that was in disarray and looked to be in a difficult spot. However, recently, things have slowly started to improve. I`m being cautious here, never a good thing to take things for granted as a Blues fan is it?
With sixteen games left to go in the season, Birmingham currently sit four points above the relegation zone and there`s certainly still plenty to do in the final months of the campaign. However, the past month has seen a big upturn in form and the side have lost just one of their last seven matches.
It shows the improvements that Cotterill has made since taking charge at St. Andrews and we`ve identified three things that have been changed.
Sharing leadership responsibilities
With regular captain Michael Morrison on the bench for the victory against Leeds United at the latter stages of last year, Cotterill handed the armband to Harlee Dean for the narrow 1-0 victory and rewarded the former Brentford man for his encouraging performances.
It followed a spell where David Davis wore the armband and it showed that Cotterill is looking to share leadership responsibilities in a crucial period for Birmingham, establishing a number of regular starters in the side as leaders in order to carry the side to greater form.
It`s certainly proved to be useful and the fact that no single player shoulders the responsibility should ease the pressure, whilst also encouraging those within the squad to improve their performances- as they could then be handed a big honour.
Bringing Jota to form
26-year-old attacking midfielder Jota was signed from Brentford last summer, having made four appearances for the Bees prior to his move to St. Andrews, but he had struggled to make a mark in his new surroundings.
Playing in a variety of positions, Jota has failed to find consistency so far but had been given a spell out of the side by Cotterill in recent weeks, where he has featured off the bench, and that seems to have provided a resurgence.
In the weekend`s valuable win over Sheffield Wednesday, Jota found the net twice and was the stand-out performer in the 3-1 victory away from home. The hope is that Jota can now find that form on a consistent basis, firing Birmingham to safety.
Getting the best of Gallagher
It`s no secret that Birmingham have struggled to find consistency in front of goal this season, scoring a total of just 22 goals in 30 Championship matches – with six of those having come in the last two matches.
Birmingham have therefore been in need of a reliable player in front of goal and Sam Gallagher has established himself as that man, scoring six goals this season across all competitions – all of which have come since the 16th December.
Five of those have been in the Championship, with the other coming in the FA Cup win over Burton Albion, and Gallagher has now scored four goals in his last six matches. Playing regularly through the middle has proven to be the making of the 22-year-old on-loan from Southampton and he`ll be crucial in the months ahead.
Now for one further improvement. Beating Villa this weekend!