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Off to a good start - 25/07/2003

   Titus Bramble

The main purpose of the trip to Malaysia is simply to build fitness – with playing well and getting results following second and third. To get all three in yesterdays win against Birmingham will certainly please the gaffer. The game provided a good workout, which in those conditions will stand us in good stead for the start of the season. I can’t help but contrast the weather, conditions, and hype between the Asia Cup in KL and Hamilton – where I’m playing with the reserves tonight! The trip to Malaysia may not have been massively popular with the players – no one enjoys a 14 hour flight and the heat and humidity of Malaysia, but I’d have been more than happy to travel!

Looking back at the game, the first half performance was particularly strong. We took the game to Birmingham, kept the ball well, and when they had the ball we managed to break up their play. Some of Titus Bramble’s interceptions were excellent, and although he was responsible for their penalty, I thought he had an excellent game. Lee Bowyer also did well, he’s arrived at the club and fitted in very well. There’s been talk about the ‘baggage’ that comes with Lee, but in football terms and in getting along with everyone, there’s been absolutely no problem. He’s slotted in with the younger group of players and with his footballing ability is without doubt, I’ve every confidence that he’ll improve the team this season.

The second half performance wasn’t quite as impressive, but that’s nothing to get worried about. It’s a pre-season game in very tough conditions and therefore it’s only natural that the team wouldn’t boss the game for the full 90 minutes – even after the Kenny Cunningham sending off. Looking at Birmingham I though David Dunn did very well – especially when playing through the middle. He’d been linked with a move to us, but with all the midfielder’s at the club I wasn’t so surprised that the deal never materialised. Stern John, although missing that sitter looked very lively. I feel sorry for him as his team mates and the media wouldn’t let him forget the miss – no matter how well he played before then…but that’s football!!

With the likelihood of playing Chelsea rather than Malaysia on Sunday, I think both sides won’t want to give too much away. I think the starting team will be quite different for that which started yesterday. The lads will want to win though, and it’ll be nice to take the first Asia Cup – especially if it’s going to be an annual tournament.

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