EPL: Will This Be The Year That Youth Products Prosper at Birmingham?
Two seasons ago, Birmingham manager Alex Mcleish found himself in a war of words with minor paper-contributor and boardroom element Karen Brady following some ill advised words regarding the average age of the Birmingham team from the latter.
Whilst the comments were unnecessary, there was perhaps a ring of truth about them. 36-year-old Kevin Phillips was one of our most important players and Lee Carsley was captain.
Indeed Mcleish still values experience greatly, as Bowyer, Ferguson, and Carr are testament to, but this season may be the season where some interesting youth prospects can begin to emerge.
At 23, Craig Gardener is hardly a real youth prospect, but this is the first set of consecutive games he has been able to start in the middle and he has impressed.
He is strong, fairly quick, and intelligent. He has a real appetite for work and can be considered a box-to-box midfielder, chipping in with three valuable goals.
Birmingham fans have been hearing Jordan Mutch's name for years now as a real hot talent coming through the ranks, but having been away on loan recently, this preseason was the first time he was seen with any regularity.
Indeed he is out again at Watford for the next month at least, but if he impresses sufficiently, he may return to cover the ageing Bowyer and Ferguson as Mcleish seems to have lost patience with the uninspiring Michel.
Another prospect is young Nathan Redmond who came on in the Carling Cup and impressed with good trickery and intent. Indeed he cut in to great effect and unleashed two decent drives at goal. Due to Birmingham's lack of pace, alongside the collapse of the N'Zogbia deal, Redmond may find himself getting more chances in the season.
Enric Valles is a newcomer but at only 20 years of age he certainly falls under the category of Birmingham youth. He is tall and athletic and has the easy composed passing ability which appears to be part of the Spanish genetic make-up.
Gardner aside, these players are not yet the finished articles, but should they continue under Mcleish's guidance and grab any chances with both hands then they might force their way into Mcleish's short term plans, not merely long term ones. Its a big ask, but one that can separate the men from the boys and may see one or more of the young players force their way past the likes of Keith Fahey into the peripheries of the Birmingham squad.
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