The headlines at St Andrews before today’s game have been dominated by the club’s resigning of former player Nikola Zigic, subject to a work permit. Zigic divided opinion during his 4 year stay. He scored goals in important matches but at times a lack of control and balance exasperated supporters. Overtime his supporters were louder than the detractors and, especially towards the end of last season, his big hearted performances showed how he could respond to the crowd. This was particularly true in the last match at Bolton where he kept battling even when all looked lost and with a goal and am assist saved the club from relegation. For that effort alone he deserves a warm welcome back.
As a new manager, Rowett quickly identified the need for a balance of creative, composed players and those whose tackling disrupted the opposition. The main beneficiaries have been Shinnie and Gleeson. Under Clark, they did not perform well in the occasional matches they started or in the constantly changing and reactive tactics. Rowett has given them the reassurance of a place in a more settled team and, although look off the pace at times, their ability to pass is clearly now valued.
By bringing back Zigic, Rowett is showing confidence that, as a manager, he can get the best out of the big 34 year old without disturbing the balance he has so far achieved. Under Clark, if Zigic started at home, the long ball game that was used failed to break defences down. With passing players in the team, we can hope that a greater variation in attacking play will create more chances for Zigic and whoever plays just behind him to take advantage of. In the last 2 seasons, Zigic best performances have been at the end of games when players are tired and the match stretched. I would have him on the bench to come on for the last 20 minutes in most games. Whatever people thought of his skill level, it was obvious that defenders were discomforted by his introduction to the point where teams beating us would panic.
I am looking forward to the reception he receives if we get a permit and he returns to the team but I am equally interested to see how Rowett manages him.