The Midlander: Take a bow... the men who can finish the season with their heads held high

05 May 2011 04:58
Birmingham City's players will take a lap of honour at St Andrew's next week, hopefully secure in the knowledge that they will once again be competing in the Barclays Premier League.

And while I am happy to acknowledge that several have made a contribution to a memorable campaign, I would hope that some are afforded more recognition for their efforts.

Departing gift: Seb Larsson celebrates scoring against Wolves on Sunday

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But 'well done' to one and all for their organisation and hard work. It was difficult not to feel a shred of sympathy for Cameron Jerome, asked to chase and harry without too much assistance.

So, Messers Foster, Carr, Johnson, Jiranek, Ridgewell, Bowyer, Larsson, Ferguson, Gardner and Jerome, step forward. There has to be honourable mentions to the old stagers Phillips and Taylor, too. This clutch have been the mainstays - although there have been contributions from others, notably Jean Beausejour.

But it is with the experienced professionals that Birmingham City have tasted success. And it just underlines the magnitude of the job Alex McLeish has during the summer that several of them won't be around next season.

It is going to be difficult enough for him to find improved quality in a competitive transfer market in the summer. And nigh on impossible to find men of a similarly gritty character.

Only a six-goal swing this weekend would rob Nottingham Forest of a play-off spot. If, as seems likely, the Tricky Trees make it, the Midlander is ready to dof his cap.

Credit where it is due, Billy Davies has steered Forest to a second consecutive shot in the end-of-season lottery. What's more, this is now the fifth time in six campaigns that the Scot has finished in the top six.

On the only other occasion, he ensured that his new club remained in the Championship. That was no mean feat, either.

There are those who say that Davies is a well-balanced individual - he has a chip on both shoulders. But I'm not one of them. He might have an unusual style in public. But I have to say I've not heard many bad words said about him by his players. His training sessions are well-regarded and he is a driven football man. Let's hope he has more luck than last year during the next fortnight.

Give yourself a clap: Billy Davies has impressed yet again at Nottingham Forest

So farewell then, Robbie Savage.

Farewell to blond pony tails, posturing, shameless self-publicity, a wind-up merchant par excellence, a wilful disregard for anyone else's viewpoint, over-exaggerated reactions to tackles, and a nose that has somehow remained in one piece.

Farewell too, to a far better footballer than he was given credit for. But not, perhaps, quite as good as he imagined. But pretty good (as Graham Poll once remarked) for what he was.

I have my own memories of the man. One particularly good row in the West Brom press box after an FA Cup defeat for Leicester ten years ago springs to mind.

On the pitch, his performance for Birmingham City at the Hawthorns, three days after an unforgettable night in Cardiff where Wales beat Italy in 2002 was the highlight for me.

He was little short of outstanding in the first Blues-Villa derby but his display against West Brom when he carried Bruce's team in a 1-1 draw epitomised everything good about him.

Farewell: Robbie Savage walks out with his father at his final home Derby match

However - while he always stood up to be counted - particularly at Filbert Street under Martin O'Neill and at St Andrew's under Steve Bruce - Savage always gave the written press time of day.

And, unlike several of his peers who looked through us during their playing days, but now ask to be regarded as colleagues, you cannot begrudge him his seat in the press box. And, who knows? In the years to come, we might even have a two-way conversation.

It is difficult to overlook Youssouf Mulumbu's contribution to West Bromwich Albion's season. Personally, he will my vote for the Midlands player-of-the-year. I'm convinced he will move on to a bigger stage.

However, if you want one reason why the Baggies have not struggled this season as they have in the past, you can look no further than Peter Odemwingie's.

Fourteen in the Barclays Premier League puts him ahead of Didier Drogba, Wayne Rooney and Fernando Torres.

The Hawthorns' statisticians have worked out that his strikes have contributed to 17 extra points. None other than one of the region's greatest strikers, Trevor Francis, reckoned that he was the best pound-for-pound purchase in the Barclays Premier League this season.

Well, he's certainly better value than Chelsea's ?50m man at present, that's for sure.

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 Explore more:People: Trevor Francis, Graham Poll, Didier Drogba, Alex McLeish, Wayne Rooney, Robbie Savage, Fernando Torres, Billy Davies Places: Cardiff, Italy, Wales

Source: Daily_Mail