Much Ado About Redmond
Hyperbole is something that is common among football fans of every club, up and down the country. At Blues, nowhere is hyperbole more prominent than when starting a discussion about Nathan Redmond.
The loan signing of Robert Hall from West Ham has seen the fans favourite pushed out of the current first-team squad. Much to the bemusement of many supporters, Redmond has failed to make the cut for the last two games away to Derby and Blackpool, with Hall seemingly taking his place as Lee Clark's 'quick, tricky winger' option. However, the truth is, if we are honest, that Redmond is performing nowhere near the exciting levels he produced last season.
Cast your mind back to the Europa League knockout game at home to Nacional; Redmond's first competitive home start. It was a fairy tale beginning for the local lad as he rifled Blues into the lead from 25 yards before hitting the inside of the post later that night. It was an electric performance from Redmond. He was running at defenders, executing trickery that took him by players, getting into dangerous areas and tracking back at the other end.
In truth, having such a good game that night played into the hands of a fan base desperate for some genuine talent to emerge from the youth academy. In recent years, only QPR striker Andy Johnson has come through the ranks at St. Andrew's to forge a real career for himself. Therefore, the excitement around Redmond was always going to be intensified - and that is where the hyperbole started.
However, as the season progressed, the hype around him seemed justified. His appearances became more than fleeting and intermittent and he was starting to state his claim for regular starting berths. He was continuing to terrorise opposition defences and, having opened his account in December, ended the season with six goals. Scouts from Premier League clubs were said to be keeping their eyes on him and, with the behind-the-scenes issues at the club, selling Redmond seemed a possibility.
Having done so well in the first season, it seemed that Redmond would become a more important member of the side this season and that alleviated the pressure on Lee Clark to sign a 'natural' left-winger.
Unfortunately, this campaign has seen the England U19 star regress and has forced Clark into signing Hall, whom he evidently sees as a starter were he not throwing up in team meetings. Whilst some may blame the manager change for the youngster's decline, there is no doubt that he also has to take personal responsibility.
Redmond seems to have forgotten that his main attributes are his pace and his ability to dribble with the ball at his feet and commit men. Too many times this season he has been happy to receive the ball to feet and float in the kind of balls that centre-backs in this division will relish. Gone is the tricky wideman looking to get to the byline or in to a dangerous crossing position.
Equally as bad as his performances, though, has been his attitude. It is evident that there has been a noticeable shift in his demeanour since returning from the summer break. There is now an air of arrogance around him, a feeling that he feels he has already made it; a feeling that he does not need to track back so much; a feeling that he should be given the ball at every opportunity. It is noticeable, when playing on the left, how close he finds himself to David Murphy when the full-back has possession. Despite being on Murphy's toes, Redmond demands the ball and is often seen reacting petulantly when that request is not granted.
However, all is not lost. A similar hiatus for Ravel Morrison, followed by candid talks with Clark, seems to have worked wonders for the on-loan West Ham man who now seems integral to Blues' team.
Whilst he may not be as naturally gifted as Thomas Ince or Wilfried Zaha, there is no doubting that Redmond could quite easily outgrow this club and move to bigger and better things. However, for that to happen, he needs to show true character to come through this spell and concentrate on reverting back to the player who got fans so excited last season.