By Nick Xydias (Birmingham City supporter)
I’m going to be honest. When I watched Jesse Lingard’s interview (see Video One) after signing on loan from Manchester United for Birmingham City, he looked about as enthused as a man about to go on a double date with Vanessa Feltz and Susan Boyle. “How do you feel about joining Birmingham City on loan?” “It’s alright” came the response. Okay, then.
Video One: Jesse Lingard on Blues move
You get the impression that Lingard is a shy, understated kid. Still only 20 and standing at 5 foot 9 inches, it may have been too much to expect Lingard to have an immediate impact against Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday.
How wrong we were. Lingard was nothing short of sensational. After scoring a 13 minute hat-trick (the second fastest for a Birmingham City Player), he added a 4th for good measure in his first league start at any level. Now that’s how you introduce yourself.
Here’s the proof too, if you don’t believe me!
Video Two: Blues 4-1 Sheffield Wednesday
He looked like everything Birmingham City need at this very moment. He has pace to burn, an obvious eye for goal and, perhaps most importantly, provides intelligent movement for those around him.
His first was a tap in after Chris Burke’s shot was blocked, his second was a cool finish after being slipped through by Wade Elliott but his third really did show the glimpse of a player that could be something special. After Paul Robinson found him on the edge of the area, Lingard got the ball just where he wanted before hammering it home from outside the area. His fourth was a neat 6 yard box finish after another assist from Chris Burke.
Saturday’s performance was significant for a number of reasons. Firstly, we actually looked like we were capable of scoring. In other games, it’s looked as likely as Paolo Di Canio attending a course in assertiveness. Secondly, for the first time this season, the players exuded real confidence once we were ahead. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the fans were actually enthused beyond the first few minutes of the game. It has to be said that our home form has been wretched under Lee Clark and this was the kind of win he has so desperately craved.
It may seem a tad desperate, but extending Lingard’s loan until January and then perhaps until the end of the season may be the most important bit of transfer business Lee Clark does this season. Zigic is still not match fit. Lee Novak is a trier, of that there is no doubt. He is not and never has been a consistent goalscorer. His only goal this season came after the Yeovil players stood aside and let him score after their shenanigans in our League Cup tie earlier this season. Matt Green provides less physicality than Novak but is a livewire player, effective at closing down defenders and running the flanks but is clearly still finding his feet at this level. Asante seems to be cursed by injury and the less I say about Ambrose and Lovenkrands, the better. Lets just say “could do better”.
Lingard gave an interview after The Miracle of St Andrews and has indicated a desire to stay at St Andrews until the end of the season (Jesse Lingard hoping to spend season at Birmingham). This is great news for Blues fans and it does suggest that he feels at ease with the squad and realizes he will get far more game time with Blues rather than at Manchester United. That said, after United’s 4-1 drubbing yesterday and the anonymity of Young, Valencia and Welbeck, there is risk that David Moyes may well like to have the option of Lingard as an impact substitute in their less challenging games.
Full credit must go to Lee Clark for battling so hard to bring Lingard to St Andrews, to the extent that he met personally with David Moyes to seal the deal. After his blistering form in pre-season with United and with other clubs sniffing around for a loan deal, Lingard’s capture represents something of a coup for Blues. Lingard’s instant success poses another test for Clark’s management skills. I hope he lets Lingard play with freedom and belief and that their relationship works on the basis of a calm, healthy equilibrium.
I got the impression last year that Clark had a turbulent relationship with some of the younger players in the first team, with Ravel Morrison (Ravel Unravelling?), another Blues loanee with United links, being a prime example. There were times when Morrison, perhaps the most technically gifted midfielder to play for us in the last 30 years, did not even make the bench when players with less ability but more desire did. In fairness to Clark, he did manage to inspire consistent, effective performances from Morrison towards the end of last season, a point not lost on Henry Winter (Southampton 0 West Ham United 0).
Blues play Swansea in the Carling Cup on Wednesday. I’d be surprised if David Moyes allowed him to play, thereby leaving him cup-tied. Our next league game is against Reading away on Saturday. A point would be a decent result and with Zigic nearing fitness and with Jesse Lingard’s explosive start at Birmingham City, our forward line may at last inspire a little fear in our opponents.
I understand that the duration of Lingard’s loan will be reviewed at the end of his first month at St Andrews. Let’s hope that he continues to impress and flourish and that United’s forwards find a rich vein of form in the meantime.
Onwards and upwards, Jesse. Make a name for yourself, lad.
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