Wayne Rooney has openly criticised a number of his players after Birmingham City fumbled a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 with Ipswich Town on Saturday. The new manager was denied his first win in charge of Blues despite his side dominating the first half and showing great resilience for much of the second period.
There was a late pile-on from the visitors as Kieran McKenna brought on a whole host of substitutions and ran Birmingham into the ground. Rooney was left with no choice but to make some changes of his own as the likes of Ethan Laird, Oliver Burke and Jordan James had no energy left to exert.
The late switch-ups changed the game as super sub Marcus Harness scored twice for Ipswich to save a point – the first goal coming as the clock struck 79 and the second just 10 minutes later. Rooney, who believes the goals could’ve been avoided, has accused his own reinforcements of a lack of effort in the dying embers.
“The one thing I can fault is some of the lads who came on off the bench didn’t do enough. If you’re not in the starting XI – and I make this point all the time – you need to be ready to come on. The lads worked extremely hard to put us in the position we were in and when you come off the bench you need to do better than a few of us done. That’s something we need to look at and improve on,” Rooney said in the post-match press conference.
“The quality on the ball, I think we all have to improve. That has to get better throughout the team. A big focus this week has been without the ball and how we play really front-footed and make it difficult for Ipswich. But when you make changes and you bring players into the game, they have to pick it up – especially when Ipswich were starting to get a bit of control – and give us that energy to continue doing what we were doing. I just felt there were a couple of players who didn’t really do that for us,” Rooney continued.
Saturday’s visitors certainly showed plenty of improvement of their own and most would argue they deserved a point out of the game, but the inability of Blues’ substitutes to read the pace of the clash was inexcusable, it has to be said. Although Rooney didn’t name those who disappointed him, the substitutes involved for the longest period were Siriki Dembele, Krystian Bielik and Emmanuel Longelo.
From the press box, it appeared Bielik and Longelo were particularly lethargic as they failed to match the tempo of Ipswich right away. The changes should’ve given Blues the positive impact of fresh legs but they had the opposite effect. Nonetheless, Rooney has admitted there are plenty of positives to take and lots to learn from.
“Their subs made a difference. I felt ours didn’t. Sometimes, you can look at that from different ways. Ideally, where we want to be is making them changes for tactical reasons not necessarily for physical reasons. But, listen, the way I want them to play is different – it’s more front-footed and it does take a lot more energy for that. We’re constantly trying to build that and get them to a level where they can do that for 90 minutes,” Rooney concluded.
Birmingham are without a win in their first four games of the new management era but there has been a steady improvement; a point against one of the biggest title challengers proving a momentum swing perhaps. Blues have another full week of preparation to get things right before their next match, away at Sunderland on Saturday, November 11.