Sad Robson sees Savage shine as Captain Marvel

Birmingham City 4 - West Bromwich Albion 0
Click to follow
The Independent Football

Robbie Savage may be overly aggressive, bad-tempered and prone to fits of pique, but he is certainly no coward and, when he pushes himself to perform like he did against West Bromwich Albion yesterday, there is no doubt that he is a midfield captain to rival the best in the Premiership.

Savage was outstanding and won the game for Birmingham in the first 45 minutes of a bruising encounter. He gave his side the edge in a crowded midfield and provided the foundations for what turned out to be a blue cakewalk to the club's biggest win in the Premiership.

The Welshman has never been the most gifted with the ball at his feet but his energy and sheer devotion can be as important to Birmingham as any deft through ball or defence-splitting pass.

His day started well, largely thanks to the West Brom defender Darren Purse who, just four minutes after getting a rousing reception on his return to St Andrew's, bear-hugged Clinton Morrison in the area when chasing an innocuous-looking through ball. Savage stepped up to slot home the penalty in front of the baying away supporters.

Savage then shone in the 20-minute scrap that followed. Zoltan Gera may have struck the Birmingham crossbar with an opportunistic effort but Savage refused to allow the visitors' five-man midfield any time on the ball. With the Wales manager John Toshack looking on, Savage battled with international team-mate Jason Koumas and won, despite receiving an ugly foul on an already injured ankle. He clattered into Andy Johnson, bit into Jonathan Greening and took the best that West Brom could muster in return.

And, with West Brom distracted by the Savage show, Birmingham scored a second after 23 minutes. Darren Carter raced down the left before pulling the ball back to Morrison, who had enough time to right himself following a poor first touch before hitting home.

Six minutes later and Birmingham had a third. David Dunn, following Savage's lead, crashed through the defence before flicking a pass to Emile Heskey to fire in past Russell Hoult. The goal was made by Dunn's quick thinking but owed its heritage to Savage's breathless leadership.

Bryan Robson, the West Brom manager, changed his formation at half-time and introduced Robert Earnshaw. The switch had the desired effect and the visitors looked capable of holding their own, if not fighting back.

Johnson then went close and Earnshaw chipped weakly into Maik Taylor's arms. But despite the glimmer of hope, Birmingham added a fourth on 80 minutes when substitute Darren Anderton, with his first kick of the game, blasted a free-kick that deflected off Heskey into the net.

The win, coming on the back of a victory over Aston Villa, gives Birmingham the Christmas bragging rights in the Midlands. But manager Steve Bruce had sympathy for opposite number and former team-mate Robson after he was heckled by West Brom's disgruntled away support.

"I hoped last week's win would give us a springboard," said Bruce. "They just couldn't handle big Emile all day long. I do feel for him [Robson] but he's only had six games. If anyone can turn it around then he can."

Robson admitted that his post-match dinner date with Bruce would not be quite so enjoyable after his team's drubbing, but promised supporters that January will see new faces arrive at The Hawthorns. "It was awful defending in the first 20 minutes and then you have no platform on which to build anything. The chairman has said I can bring a few players in and we obviously need to do that."