‘Gamble’ Birmingham City star reveals transfer risk as Leeds United have double injury doubt
Lee Camp has put last week’s error at Wigan firmly behind him.
The Birmingham City goalkeeper showed that with a composed and assertive display in Blues ’ 2-1 victory over Middlesbrough on Friday night.
But even at 35-years-old he could be forgiven for feeling a little trepidation as he emerged from the tunnel at St Andrew’s.
After all three days earlier he’d allowed a relatively innocuous shot from Anthony Pilkington to squirm from his grasp and decide a dour Championship game in the Latics’ favour.
To be fair to Blues fans, before kick-off on Friday Camp was still afforded the customary round of applause as he took his place in the goal in front of the Tilton Road End.
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On the field he showed no signs of anxiety – and even less off it.
“I’ve been there before but it happens to all goalkeepers,” Camp said.
“I mean Dean Henderson made a mistake last weekend, I made one [last] Tuesday and there will be people throughout the Football League making one tomorrow.
“It’s just unfortunate that when it happens to a goalkeeper nine times out of 10 it results in a goal and the even bigger kicker was we lost the game off it when we probably deserved a point.
“You know what, these things happen, and no one died.
“It’s part and parcel of a goalkeeper’s life. I’ve played in many games where goalkeepers have made mistakes.
“Some of the best goalkeepers in the world will drop a howler like that but these happen.
“These boys hit the ball fantastically well and you’ve got players that can make the ball dip and wobble and sometimes you can do everything right, but you need a bit of luck.
Have your say
From dazzling against Middlesbrough to disappointing in Swansea, from Danish headers to Croatian screamers, from the old warhorse up front to the young buck in midfield, it’s been a rollercoaster start to Birmingham City’s season.
One that has seen performances span both extremes but has somehow left Blues neither up nor down, sitting 12th in the Championship, six points off the top, eight from the drop.
And of course there’s the youth movement. Nineteen-year-old Odin Bailey grabbed the winner on Friday night, Jude Bellingham, three years his junior, has done it twice.
So far it’s been a campaign of empowering the youngsters and changing the style whilst all the time trying to fill the demands of a promotion challenge.
With the international break now upon us, BirminghamLive has opened up a fans’ panel like an old-fashioned ‘letters to the sports editor’ opportunity for you to have your say.
Give us your name and hometown in the form below and then get on your soapbox.
Marc Roberts is better placed than most to judge the progress made by rising star Dan Crowley.
The 22-year-old has been one of the stand-out performers for Blues in recent weeks, a constant threat drifting infield and affecting games – just as he did against Middlesbrough last Friday.
“When he came to Barnsley he was only 17 and very immature. He’d come from a big club and did have a bit of an attitude, so to speak.
“But seeing him in training at Barnsley, at 17-years-old he was unbelievable and you knew he had talent.
“Obviously it was a bit disappointing not seeing him kick on from there. He didn’t really fit into our team, so we did send him back.
“But I always knew that if he got a team that fitted right for him then he would be a good player and I think you can see that he does fit into how we want to play here.
“In the games when we have played to his strengths and got him on the ball, especially against Derby, you can see he’s very talented.
“He has matured a lot as a lad and as a footballer, I think the more games he plays for us the better he will get.”
Growing up fast
St Andrew’s was packed with people happy with and for Odin Bailey last Friday night.
As the 19-year-old rose to head Dan Crowley’s cross beyond the excellent Darren Randolph, nearly 20,000 fans, including ten members of his own family, acclaimed the youngster’s match-winning heroics.
His team-mates surrounded him, the Tilton Road end enveloped him and a few miles down the M5 there would have been smiles of appreciation that a ‘nice kid’ had done well.
That’s because Bailey had impressed many at non-league outfit Gloucester City, with whom he learned a few footballing and life lessons during a two-month loan spell last season.
Chris Todd, now an academy coach with Torquay United, was the manager who took him to a team that was struggling in National League South – and who helped him become the player the live television audience saw on Friday evening.
“When I took over they hadn’t won for a month, they were in a situation down the bottom of the league scrapping for any point whatsoever,” Todd told BirminghamLive.
“I just felt we needed a bit more quality so I contacted Birmingham and said ‘What players do you have available?’
“They sent me footage and when I saw Odin it made so much sense, the quality I could see I knew he would be someone we could use.
“It was kind of a no-brainer – they wanted to get him game time, he had been around the first team for a few years, or been told that.
“No disrespect, you do worry when you get a lad from an academy, I could see what quality he had but until they turn up you just don’t know about their attitude.
“He came in and what I loved about him was in his head he wanted to play and be a first team player, wherever that may be. That was striking straight away.
“Sometimes they get found out if they don’t really want to be there, that can happen with Under 23s, they would rather be wrapped in cotton wool and not pushed out of their comfort zone.
“He didn’t have that. I had a quick chat with him, he seemed a lovely kid and I said ‘Look, I will give you opportunities, you will play’.
This is what happened next.
Fran the man
Fran Villalba is confident he made the right decision to turn down offers in Spain to move to Birmingham City.
And Blues fans have helped him come to that conclusion as the 21-year-old noted the devotion they show to his new club.
“I had teams here in Spain, but after all, I had to take a step forward, I had to look for my future, and I think I chose well,” he said.
“I think we were right because that option was the best for me. Both me, as my girlfriend, as my parents and my representatives, we all knew that we had to go there and struggle through.
“At the beginning, you know that it will be a struggle because it is totally different. I am convinced that we have been right and it will bode well for my future.
“We took a gamble, I decided to go play there because it is a league that I like, that will help me, and hopefully we are very close to playing in the Premier League; that is one of the best leagues in the world.
“I am convinced that the team will move further up the table. We are six points from the leader and four from sixth, which is the one that marks the play-off.
“There’s still time for anything to happen, but it is true that it is a very tough league with 46 high-performance games.”
When Birmingham City took a punt on €1.5million striker Alvaro Gimenez it was something of a step into the unknown for both parties.
At 28-years-old Gimenez was making a big career move at a relatively advanced stage in his career.
Looking for goals after Che Adams’ departure Blues took a chance on a striker who was coming off his best ever season in professional football.
So far he’s scored once, a delicate lob against Barnsley, had one ruled out, won a penalty at Derby and had a few other unconverted chances.
This is what Blues fans have made of him to this point.
Jake Santiago: Great work ethic and clearly has some technical ability
Stephen James Smith: Curates egg, so far. But then, so was Che Adams when he started his Blues career.
Raouf Swedek: He’s not the appropriate striker partner to Juke if he can link up better with the midfield however, he might be a different kind of threat as his work ethic is unbelievably good
Geoff Yates: Not the right partner for the Duke but we should support him as he does a decent job for the team….
Carl Evans: Excellent
Lots more here.
Adam Forshaw and Pablo Hernandez have both missed recent matches through injury but are hoping to be fit for the game at Elland Road on Saturday, October 19.
Club captain Liam Cooper will definitely be out – as will Jamie Shackleton, who started so impressively in the last home match.
He then came on in the loss to Charlton Athletic on September 28 but felt a recurrence of the same hip problem which has plagued his fitness over recent weeks.
As for Hernandez, a muscle problem has seen the talented attacker miss the last three league games which has allowed Wolves-loan winger Helder Costa to make two highly-anticipated starts in midfield.
Marcelo Bielsa told the press the Spaniard was ‘better’ ahead of the Millwall clash, but not fit enough to make the squad. Speaking after that 2-1 defeat in South London the Leeds boss suggested both Hernandez and Forshaw could be available to face Blues.