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Lee Clark and Nigel Clough up against it: The Midlander

Football is a results business… but it's never that clear cut for Clark and Clough

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UPDATED:

18:02 GMT, 15 November 2012

Results define a manager's success. Pretty obvious, that.

But perhaps following on from last week's theme regarding Martin O'Neill, it might be worth bearing that in mind when the relative merits of two of the region's other managers are discussed.

I'm referring to Birmingham City's Lee Clark and Derby County's Nigel Clough.

Up against it: Birmingham manager Lee Clark has not made the best of starts at St Andrew's

Up against it: Birmingham manager Lee Clark has not made the best of starts at St Andrew's

More from Neil Moxley…

The Midlander: Was O'Neill a good Villa boss Let's end this debate once and for all…
08/11/12

The Midlander: Coventry can begin to paint rosy future with morale-boosting Wembley run
19/10/12

The Midlander: Pearson deserves so much more as Leicester target the Premier League
12/10/12

The Midlander: Bent mystery at Villa making life under Lambert very interesting
04/10/12

The Midlander: Baggies crashed out, but at least they took the Capital One Cup seriously
27/09/12

The Midlander: Dan the Man will be a tough act to follow at West Brom
20/09/12

The Midlander: Birmingham need to avoid Paladini for their own good
14/09/12

The Midlander: Whisper it quietly, but Forest could be on the road to success…
07/09/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

We'll take a look at Clark first. Now, I'll be the first to admit that the Geordie's reign hasn't started well.

It's difficult to erase that performance against Barnsley from the memory, even now, two months later.

But it always struck me as odd why a manager who had a couple of years to size up players in League One wouldn't go there to breathe some excitement into a club in the Championship.

It would seem logical that Clark would pluck a couple of hungry youngsters from the third tier and give them a chance at a higher level.

Supporters of any club love to see players get a chance to prove themselves and here was an obvious opportunity to blood a couple.

Cash is too tight to mention at St Andrew's – a point I'll come onto in a minute – but the likes of Hayden Mullins, Darren Ambrose and Peter Lovenkrands aren't playing for nothing.

Hello, these are ex-Premier League players. And Ambrose cost a transfer fee, too.

It would have made sense for Clark therefore to have given a couple more, such as Swindon Town's Paul Caddis, the chance to earn themselves a reasonable increase in pay and the opportunity to advance their careers at a higher level.

Not so. Not so because the powers-that-be deemed that Clark should only sign players they had actually heard of.

Therefore, those with a Premier League profile were always going to find a way to St Andrew's, irrespective of whether they were, in fact, the type of players that the Geordie wanted in the first place.

Now, they might well have been. But
surely a manager has to have a say over who he brings into the club
After all, it's his neck on the chopping block.

Furthermore, evidence suggests that
the reason Clark was not able to re-sign Barry Ferguson was because
Fleetwood Town put together a more attractive package than the Blues for
the Carling Cup winner's services.

Hands tied: Derby manager Nigel Clough is also in a difficult position at times

Hands tied: Derby manager Nigel Clough is also in a difficult position at times

I know. Incredible, isn't it But that's the state of the club finances at the moment. Critical.

Which is why, in the absence of a credible buyer, (my hopes of substantial investment from overseas have diminished as the party concerned appears to have cooled any interest) the boost of new owners would at least bring an air of positivity to the place.

Over at Pride Park, Clough will not be in the least bit surprised that he once more finds his hands tied in the transfer market.

Despite the denials from the manager, my understanding is that the club has to make seven-figure cost savings in the New Year.

That means one of his youngsters – in all likelihood Will Hughes – will be sacrificed.

It is difficult for supporters to understand and appreciate the goings-on behind the scenes at any football club as the finances aren't always taken into consideration when the any boss, Clough in particular, has had a difficult job to do.

Only a horrible season in 2010-11 – one in which the Rams were beset by an horrendous injury-list – has he failed to improve the club's league position.

Supporters may think that four years is sufficient to make a mark. They might have a point. But the manager has had to operate against a backdrop of financial difficulty.

No return: Boss Lee Clark was unable to get Barry Ferguson back in a Birmingham shirt

No return: Boss Lee Clark was unable to get Barry Ferguson back in a Birmingham shirt

For instance, where is the logic in selling Jason Shackell, if Clough did not have to

Shaun Barker had a long-term injury. Before Shackell's knock it appeared that the Rams finally had a capable Championship pairing at centre-half.

But Shackell disappears to Burnley and, for the same money, Connor Sammon is recruited from Wigan.

Something doesn't quite add up. But – and here is the rub – if managers speak out about those problems they are immediately hauled in front of their superiors and told to keep their mouths shut – or they can be found in breach of their contract for talking about confidential business in public.

It's why neither Clark nor Clough will break ranks. Even if he the latter has to find 1.8m, he will remain tight-lipped and refuse to moan about his lot.

Price to pay: Youngster Will Hughes (left) could be sacrificed at Derby

Price to pay: Youngster Will Hughes (left) could be sacrificed at Derby

The alternative for both is to speak out, thereby jeopardising their position and give their own bosses the window of opportunity to sack them.

It is, after all, far easier to remove one manager than it is to dump and entire team of players.

In some ways, it's a classic middle-management problem, taking flak from all sides, yet you are still expected to achieve results.

So, even though any manager has to stand by his results on a Saturday afternoon, they may not paint an accurate picture.

In the oh-so-murky world of football, it's left to the rest of us to join the dots as best we can.

Coventry City need Wembley cup run – Neil Moxley

Coventry can begin to paint rosy future with morale-boosting Wembley run

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UPDATED:

15:53 GMT, 19 October 2012

News that Coventry City have been installed as second favourites to lift the Johnstone's Paint Trophy probably passed by without too much notice.

It would have been greeted by stifled guffaws in some quarters – mainly those with Leicestershire postcodes, it must be said, but nevertheless here is a pot that the Sky Blues clearly have a decent chance of lifting.

I realise that last sentence sounds patronising. But it wasn't written to sound as such. Hear me out.

Wembley run: Robins will be hoping to use the cup run as a springboard for success

Wembley run: Robins will be hoping to use the cup as a springboard for success

More from Neil Moxley…

The Midlander: Pearson deserves so much more as Leicester target the Premier League
12/10/12

The Midlander: Bent mystery at Villa making life under Lambert very interesting
04/10/12

The Midlander: Baggies crashed out, but at least they took the Capital One Cup seriously
27/09/12

The Midlander: Dan the Man will be a tough act to follow at West Brom
20/09/12

The Midlander: Birmingham need to avoid Paladini for their own good
14/09/12

The Midlander: Whisper it quietly, but Forest could be on the road to success…
07/09/12

The Midlander: Thorn sacking is one of many strange decisions by Coventry
30/08/12

The Midlander: Lambert has work to do in the window to add the goals he craves
23/08/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

Standing in the way of an area semi-final in early December are Sheffield United. Not the easiest of ties, but at least it's at the Ricoh Arena.

Now, while new boss Mark Robins may have more pressing concerned than the Blades' visit, I would hope he recognises the value of a decent run in the competition.

For years, Coventry City supporters have had nothing by way of excitement to cheer about.

It has been one slog of a campaign after another. Players sold off to meet mounting debts. One failed adventure after another.

What was it that Paul Fletcher attempted Operation Premier League
I can't remember. There have been so many changes of manager. So many issues, anxieties, problems. So many different negatives.

At last, here is an opportunity for the club to give itself a major boost. A trip to Wembley, dust off the pictures from '87 and all that.

Some younger readers won't recall the Sherpa Van Trophy. Or the Leyland Daf Trophy either, for that matter.

But they had a hugely positive effect on both Wolverhampton Wanderers and Birmingham City two decades ago.

In the doldrums: The Sky Blues are desperate for a change in fortunes

In the doldrums: The Sky Blues are desperate for a change in fortunes

They were the forerunners of today's
Johnstone's Paint Trophy. A cup to be contested by those teams in
Division Three and Four (as was).

At the time when both of those west Midlands' sides went to Wembley, they had seen better days. Far better days.

Wolves
were recovering from the depths of despair. A broken club until Graham
Turner's shrewdness in the transfer market allowed a pair of strikers
called Andy Mutch and Steve Bull to revitalise a club on its knees.

Over at St Andrew's, Lou Macari was attempting to do likewise with another club that was slipping in and out of playing consciousness. John Gayle was the unlikely hero on a great day out for around 50,000 Bluenoses at Wembley.

Glory days: A trip to Wembley would bring golden memories flooding back

Glory days: A trip to Wembley would bring golden memories flooding back

Both of those teams are regarded with fondness by their respective supporters, basically because winning that competition put some much-needed pride back into the club.

It's no fun, slipping into the third (and fourth) tier of English football.

Particularly for Coventry City's supporters who have had nothing, absolutely nothing, to celebrate of note since that day at Villa Park when their Premier League status was lost.

So I hope whatever Mark Robins does – and I'm convinced the Sky Blues have finally sourced a good, capable manager – I hope he doesn't regard this competition as in any way inferior to the league campaign.

He has plenty of time to mount a charge back into the Championship.

He would do well to give the Johnstone's Paint Trophy his fullest attention. It could be a happy first step back towards giving the club a much-needed shred of self-respect.

Grounds for praise

If you shout repeatedly at a child, it will end up ignoring you. Worse still, disliking you.

If you criticise and do nothing else to a football club, it will accuse you of highlighting negative stories and never the positive.

So, it's time to dish out some praise.

Take a step forward Aston Villa after the news that they offer the third-cheapest match-day experience in the Premier League.

That's good going. And well deserved too if a visit to Villa Park is a cheaper day out than one to the Priestfield Stadium, Gillingham.

Generally, the facilities are excellent at Villa Park. Yes, supporters can (and will) moan, but as I'm in the privileged position of visiting stadia for a living, Villa's fans don't do badly.

Grounds for concern: Results aren't great, but it's a cheap day out at Villa Park

Grounds for concern: Results aren't great, but it's a cheap day out at Villa Park

You know, Doug Ellis was many things. But let it not be said that he did not place a value on customer service. (As a student, I remember writing a letter to him as part of my thesis. He wrote a four-page reply).

That legacy has been continued by Randy Lerner.

The American has already pumped 200m into Villa, chasing his dream and that of thousands of others.

But he has clearly maintained a degree of benevolence in his patronage of the club. He is not fleecing the fans in an attempt to claw back some of that cash.

The figures speak for themselves. And for that, both he and chief executive Paul Faulkner should be given a pat on the back.

Jack Butland on Everton and Southampton radar as Birmingham consider sale

Everton and Southampton on alert as Birmingham consider Butland sale

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UPDATED:

05:36 GMT, 18 October 2012

Everton and Southampton are ready to swoop for Birmingham goalkeeper Jack Butland.

The England youngster could be sold by the npower Championship club during the January transfer window to help ease their financial plight.

Birmingham are actively seeking a new owner and are in talks with two parties.

In demand: Southampton and Everton are interested in Butland (right)

In demand: Southampton and Everton are interested in Butland (right)

Former QPR chairman Gianni Paladini is among those interested in buying the Midlands club but his 25milllion offer is way below the 40m wanted by the Birmingham hierarchy.

Butland, 19, has emerged as one of the brightest prospects in English football, and although Birmingham insisted earlier this year that they didn't want to sell one of their most-valued assets, their hand could be forced in January.

Manchester City are also monitoring the situation.

The Midlander: The Midlander: Baggies bow out, but at least they took the Capital One Cup seriously

Baggies crashed out, but at least they took the Capital One Cup seriously

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UPDATED:

12:56 GMT, 27 September 2012

It was a shame for West Brom that Steve Clarke's best intentions in the Capital One Cup were not rewarded on Wednesday night.

One glance down the team-sheet showed that the Scot was taking the competition seriously.

There were no wholesale changes. No real suggestion in his starting XI that the Baggies have the mother of all derby confrontations at Villa Park to look forward to this weekend.

Serious: Steve Clarke fielded a strong side to take on Liverpool

Serious: Steve Clarke fielded a strong side to take on Liverpool

More from Neil Moxley…

The Midlander: Dan the Man will be a tough act to follow at West Brom
20/09/12

The Midlander: Birmingham need to avoid Paladini for their own good
14/09/12

The Midlander: Whisper it quietly, but Forest could be on the road to success…
07/09/12

The Midlander: Thorn sacking is one of many strange decisions by Coventry
30/08/12

The Midlander: Lambert has work to do in the window to add the goals he craves
23/08/12

The Midlander: How West Brom emerged as the unlikely flag-bearers round here
16/08/12

The Midlander: Tremendous track record Solbakken faces test from the start
09/08/12

The Midlander: All change at Villa but fans will relish new era of Lambert's Lions
02/08/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

Of course, Clarke could have taken another option. He could have fielded a below-strength West Brom side. (That on Wednesday night's evidence would have been taken to the cleaners by a very good, young Liverpool team.)

So on that basis, it was pleasing to see him treat the competition like something West Brom actually wanted to be involved in.

Thank goodness.

Why do I say that

The football-supporting public have been brain-washed, believing the Champions League and Premier League is the be-all and end-all.

Of course, for the clubs involved, it is.

The revenues generated by both competitions are staggering.

Next season, when the new television deal kicks in, those participating in the Premier League will see their bottom-line income balloon by over 20m. (That figure includes overseas rights.)

What does that mean

Well, it means if you are a supporter of West Brom it means you have earned the right to play against 19 other clubs during the course of a season in the hope that you will garner enough points to play in the competition again.

Sunk: Nuri Sahin's double saw off West Brom in the end

Sunk: Nuri Sahin's double saw off West Brom in the end

Sunk: Nuri Sahin's double saw off West Brom in the end

Does anyone think the Baggies have a chance of winning the competition

Good lord, no! Any notion of equality in that respect has long disappeared.

So what are fans in it for, then

This may come as a shock to the Premier League. But, first, there are supporters out there who don't follow the top six clubs.

Secondly, there is a notion of glory. A day in the sun. When you can puff out your chest and say: 'West Brom – FA Cup winners 2013.'

It's there. In black and white. 'Birmingham City – Carling Cup winners 2011.'
Under the all-consuming push to sell satellite subscriptions, we are bombarded with messages that the Premier League is the place to be.

But does it really matter to a West Brom fan if they finish 10th or 13th
Of course not.

It matters to the Hawthorns' bean-counters. They will bank an extra 3m in merit money.

But is that passed on to the punters in the form of lower ticket prices or other benefits

Again, of course not. They won't see any 'real' benefit. Hopefully an improvement in the quality of player. But 11 players will still take to the pitch wearing navy blue and white striped shirts, regardless.

If Birmingham City supporters had a straight choice between winning that Carling Cup on February 27, 2011 or another season in the top-flight, I can absolutely guarantee what they would (actually do) say.

They do say: 'I'll take the trophy, thanks.'

Them too: Aston Villa knocked Manchester City out of the Capital One Cup at the Etihad

Them too: Aston Villa knocked Manchester City out of the Capital One Cup at the Etihad

Were I a Baggies' man, it would stick in my throat that Roberto Di Matteo did not play a recognised first-team at Ipswich in the same competition that Birmingham ended up winning.

On that very night, when Nikola Zigic's scrambled goal defeated Aston Villa, I know for a cold-stone certainty that Alex McLeish would not have fielded his strongest XI had it not been a quarter-final against the club's rivals from across the Aston Expressway.

What happened subsequently bears out the absolute folly of not treating this competition seriously.

Birmingham went on to win it. Alex McLeish picked up another job (at Villa) because of it.

There's no way that he would have been employed at Villa Park without that triumph on his CV. No way.

A set of players received greater exposure, enhanced their reputations and probably, when Birmingham were relegated, also picked up lucrative transfers because of it.

And the supporters

They enjoyed one of the best days out…ever.

It is a difficult line for some managers to tread. Their own personal short-term futures might depend on staying in the Premier League.

But Jose Mourinho went hammer and tongs at the League Cup. It was the first trophy he won with Chelsea.

Brian Clough had bigger priorities than the same competition when Nottingham Forest won it a couple of times in the early 1980s.

Troublesome: Gabriel Agbonlahor wreaked havoc in Manchester

Troublesome: Gabriel Agbonlahor wreaked havoc in Manchester

And I didn't see Sir Alex Ferguson cocking a snoop at it either, when it was the only pot Manchester United won in 2006 against Wigan Athletic.

Those top-six clubs may now have different priorities.

But – and this isn't just aimed at West Brom, it's directed at every other club of a certain size out there – there has to be room for glory in this game.

The glory of a League Cup win, or FA Cup final win. It does matter to the fans, it does.

Don't field reserve teams. Treat the competition seriously. Who knows, you might end up winning it.

Let's face it, if just staying in the Premier League is the be-all and end-ell, what really is the point of that

This column is supposed to reflect the week's events in the Midlands.

So the stand-out stories

Villa's win at Manchester City Yes, a fantastic result to follow a second-half wipeout at St Mary's.

It was heartening to see Villa defeat a team they aren't supposed to. ie One of the Champions League mob.

It happens every so often. Like at Chelsea last December. And at the Emirates against Arsenal the season before.

But not nearly as often as it should. It was genuinely heart-warming. Promising, although you suspect the season may contain lows as well as highs.

Over at Coventry, they have welcomed a new manager's arrival with a 6-1 drubbing at Arsenal.

Pick your battles: Clarke (right) knows that West Brom fans relish the cup competitions

Pick your battles: Clarke (right) knows that West Brom fans relish the cup competitions

I was quietly impressed with Robins hearing him speak during the pre-match press conference. I think the Sky Blues may have landed a good 'un there.

Other than that, what else is there

Derby's reversal to Burnley was surprising as I'd seen the Clarets lose to Leicester last week.

They were nothing to write home about so I did raise an eyebrow at the Rams' defeat – although with Charlie Austin back in the team at the King Power Stadium, Eddie Howe may have been missing a cutting edge.

No, all that apart, the most alarming story of the week was Birmingham City 0 Barnsley 5.

I watched that particular horror unfold from the press room at the Baggies.

After being fortunate enough to witness about 80 live matches during the course of a season for the best part of two decades, I have to say it was the single most inept, lifeless and gutless showing I can remember from any side, anywhere, at any time.

And remember, I've only just returned from watching Wales ship six in Serbia.

The players were bad, the manager's decision to switch to a three-man defence was ill-conceived and Barnsley – average at Wolves a few weeks ago – should have filled their boots.

You can say what you like – and there is no doubt that there is a current malaise at the club – but those responsible out on the pitch – and in the dug-out – need to take a long look at themselves.

Bigger fish to fry: Teams like Manchester City will be more focused on the Premier League and the Champions League

Bigger fish to fry: Teams like Manchester City will be more focused on the Premier League and the Champions League

I'm not just talking about Clark either, what are Terry McDermott and Derek Fazackerley supposed to be doing The latter was part of England's set-up under Kevin Keegan, after all.

With away-days to follow this weekend at Brighton and Cardiff next week, Lee Clark could be treading on the thinnest of ice if he is not careful.

The least Birmingham City supporters demand is effort.

When even that vital ingredient is missing, you really are in trouble. Clark would be wise not to let it happen again.

Finally, talk about being put in your place.

I pitched up at Ryton to speak to Mark Robins and was greeted by first-team coach Lee Carsley, full of his gently teasing humour and dry wit.

After pleasantries are exchanged, the conversation goes as follows:

Carsley: 'Me and Kev (Kilbane) are thinking about doing a bike ride for charity next summer, do you fancy coming

Me: 'Er, dunno. How far is it'

Carsley: 'Well, it will take about a week, possibly a bit more.'

Me: 'Well, if you really think I could do it. Do you think I'd be fit enough'

Carsley: 'I don't need you to ride a bike, you muppet, we need someone to drive the van….'

Nottingham Forest approach for Darren Ferguson angers Peterborough

Peterborough and Cotterill furious at Forest approach for Fergie Jnr

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UPDATED:

22:26 GMT, 30 June 2012

Darren Ferguson, son of Manchester
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, is at the centre of a row over
allegations that Nottingham Forest have made an illegal approach for the
Peterborough manager.

Peterborough will make an official
complaint to the Football league, claiming that Forest approached
Ferguson through Gianni Paladini, the former QPR chairman.

Controversy: Darren Ferguson

Controversy: Darren Ferguson

Paladini is understood to be acting as a consultant for Forest prior to their takeover by a consortium of Kuwaiti businessmen.

Current Forest manager Steve Cotterill is understood to be furious about the move for Ferguson and intends to put the matter into the hands of the League Managers' Association.