This week's View From The Town End sees Birmingham fan and Football Lab founder Gabriel Sutton (@_footballab)fills us in our their topsy turvy campaign and thoughts ahead of tomorrow's game with Reading.
How would you sum up Birmingham's season so far?
Not dissimilar to the one you've had. We enjoyed a great first three months but it feels like results and performances are gradually getting worse and we've not played well for 90 minutes since Derby away in January. To be temporarily positive, we've not got a big budget and ninth is two places higher than I predicted last summer, I would have taken this then. We were 2nd in October, since then it's been a regression to the mean.
You're still just about in the play-off mix, how do you rate your chances?
Our play-off hopes are over, I said that before the Brighton defeat. I'd like us just to be solid for the last seven games, re-discover the defensive stability we had in Rowett's first 12 months in charge and build some confidence and composure. We should see this as the start of next season, rather than a small chance to desperately claw back an opportunity that has realistically passed.
Gary Rowett is steadily building his managerial reputation, how good is he?
He had an excellent first year in charge and that should buy him a degree of loyalty, now results and performances aren't what we'd hope for. For the Brighton game however, he made five changes and put Clayton Donaldson on the left wing. That is the sort of thing I would have expected to happen in the 13/14 season, when our team had plenty of passion but there was no consistent, tactical structure in place. Rowett turned that problem on it's head when he first came in, yet recent games suggest he is being panicked into tampering with the system - that's not the Gary I fell in love with.
Who should Reading fans be wary of on Saturday?
Centre-back Michael Morrison has been great for us. The biggest compliment I could pay him is that I never notice him. Some defenders rely on their physicality and want to win the ball instantly - Morrison times his headers, he reads the game impeccably and will be my Player of the Season. Jonathan Grounds is our most undervalued player in my opinion, his discipline allows other defenders to press for the ball and has an ability to slow down opposition counter-attacks.
Any Reading player you've been impressed with?
I like the look of Ola John. He's strikes me as a quick, exciting winger who can make things happen. I rate Paul McShane too, a strong, aggressive centre-back who has been quite consistent this year. Aside from that, though, I'm not convinced you've got much quality in forward areas - a lot of the strikers signed in the last couple of seasons haven't delivered.
We've won our last three games against you but I can't see this being a fourth. 1-1 - Jon Toral for us, Ola John for you.
Finally, who are you tipping to go up and down from the Championship?
The current bottom three will go down, MK Dons and Charlton need around twelve points from their last six games which they are very unlikely to get. I think the promotion race is two from three and it will go down to the wire. Middlesbrough three wins since Aitor Karanka returned has given them some real impetus, they have some reliable performers at the back, George Friend in particular. Burnley are the most complete side in the Championship for me so I'll tip them to go up automatically with Boro. Sheffield Wednesday's open style of play hinders them against the top teams while Derby and Hull have looked unreliable since the turn of the year, so Brighton will be the team to beat in the play-offs. They have the defensive qualities required to win tight games.