COT­TER­ILL RE­LIEF AS BLUES CASUALTY WARD EMPTIES

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Chris Dunlavy

FAC­ING Wolves is a daunt­ing prospect for any­one this sea­son, but at least Steve Cot­ter­ill can fi­nally call on re­in­force­ments. Since re­plac­ing Harry Red­knapp in Septem­ber, the Birm­ing­ham City boss has dealt with more in­juries than an A&E ward on Satur­day night. Of the Blues’ nine sum­mer sign­ings, five have missed hefty chunks of the cam­paign, - in­clud­ing former Black­burn skip­per Ja­son Lowe, last year’s Cham­pi­onship-win­ning goal­keeper David Stock­dale and £6.5m record sign­ing Jota.

An­other, ex-Lu­ton striker Isaac Vas­sell, rup­tured knee lig­a­ments in Oc­to­ber and is out for the sea­son.

But, with Jota now fully fit, Stock­dale back last week and the ham­strung Maxime Collin ex­pected by mid-December, Cot­ter­ill fi­nally has some­thing ap­proach­ing a full-strength squad.

“Ja­son Lowe is back in train­ing,” he con­firmed. “Stephen Glee­son and Craig Gard­ner have started train­ing. We’re able to have a good look at the squad for the first time, re­ally.

“Now it’s about get­ting ses­sions back into peo­ple, but we’re not about to take any risks. We’ve got to make sure we stay in­juryfree now for as long as we pos­si­bly can be­cause we’ve had enough in­juries to last us a sea­son.”

An­other man ready to re­boot his Blues ca­reer is Carl Jenk­in­son. The Arse­nal loa­nee, re­stricted to just six games in the last 22 months fol­low­ing a se­ri­ous knee injury, dis­lo­cated his shoul­der 30 min­utes into his Birm­ing­ham de­but.

“Carl’s been back in train­ing this week,” re­vealed Cot­ter­ill. “I don’t know what the time-span will be or if he’s ready now. We’ll as­sess him and make a de­ci­sion.”

The strug­gling Blues have won just one of the last five and re­main in rel­e­ga­tion trou­ble, but Cot­ter­ill says last week­end’s 1-1 draw at high-fly­ing Sh­effield United shows progress has been made.

“When you don’t get the re­sults, peo­ple on the out­side don’t see the im­prove­ment,” he said. “But I have seen us grow week by week. There’s a lot of hard work that has been done to get us where we are now.”

FALSE START: Carl Jenk­in­son

BACK: David Stock­dale

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