Cameron Jerome expects Birmingham City's promotion credentials to look good once Christmas has taken its course — but he says that the need to sign a striker in January will intensify.
With Mikael Forssell injured, Birmingham only have three available strikers. Jerome knows that another will make competition for places more fierce but is more worried about how Birmingham will cope if another striker is injured.
For now, Jerome is joined by DJ Campbell and Nicklas Bendtner. Any club with serious title aspirations would need four strikers. Gary McSheffrey could play up front but he has become essential as a winger.
Steve Bruce, the Birmingham manager, has conceded that they need to sign a striker during the transfer window, which will come as music to the ears of Jerome.
"I agree that we are one striker short," Jerome said. "Mikael has injury problems, so there is only really myself and DJ Campbell, because Nicklas is only here on loan. Gary McSheffrey is obviously a winger.
"I think we are all top players so it can be a nightmare for defenders. Myself and Nicklas create a lot of space, which can help Gary get in there."
Regarding his own form, Jerome is reasonably happy after a difficult start to the season. "From my point of view, it is going OK," he said. "I have had a few good performances. As a team, we have gone back to basics. We are playing as a team rather than a group of individuals. It did take us time to settle."
Birmingham will play five matches in 15 days over Christmas and Bruce is hoping that the team are ten points clear by the end of January. It is a realistic target, especially given that Birmingham now have momentum. They are three points clear at the top of the Championship table.
"The manager wants us to be clear of the pack after the Christmas period," Jerome said.
"On paper, there should be some easier fixtures coming up. Every team regards Birmingham as their biggest match of the season. Not many teams will enjoy playing us because we give everyone a run for their money and we scrap for everything."
The turn of the year, when the season reaches its halfway point, is often a time when the battle for promotion takes shape. Usually, teams who go into January maintain their progress to gain promotion by the end of April.
"The Christmas period is where the pendulum will swing," Jerome said. "These fixtures will stand us in good stead for January, so long as we do not slip on a banana skin. There are a lot of clubs waiting for us to lose. It is a funny division. You have to dig in. Ten points out of 15 would be a decent return but we need to keep clear of injuries."
If Birmingham are promoted, Jerome is sure to be vindicated by his decision to leave Cardiff City for St Andrew's last summer.
"Even when we were struggling and when I was getting stick for leaving Cardiff, I knew it was the right move," he said. "It is a long season and hopefully we will be laughing at the end.
"Everyone can have a good start. Last season it was Luton Town, but they never had the squad. Once they got injuries, it takes its toll. We are lucky in that sense because we have a squad of good players."
There is good news for Bruce concerning his injured players. David Dunn and Mikael Forssell can now see light at the end of the tunnel after difficult spells on the sidelines.
"David Dunn is running now," Bruce said. "Mikael Forssell is still eight weeks away. That [up front] is the area of the pitch where we are looking at. We are light in that area."
Robbie Savage has admitted that he is haunted by the prospect of swapping places with Birmingham City if they are promoted and Blackburn Rovers go down in May.
The former Blues midfielder, once a hero at St Andrew's, is vilified within the dressing room and on the terraces since his acrimonious move to Ewood Park in January 2005.
He did himself no favours when he returned to Birmingham last month to pass comment on his former side's Carling Cup home defeat to Liverpool, admitting publicly that he was glad Blues had been relegated.
That led to Blues captain Damien Johnson branding Savage an "idiot". And now Savage fears that, with Rovers 17th in the Premiership after six defeats in eight games and Blues top of the Championship, his former employers could end up having the last laugh.
"I thought my days of battling relegation were over when I left Birmingham," said Savage. "I had a great time there and I'm sure they'll come back up but the one thing I don’t want is for them to pass us on the way, because that would be a devastating blow for me."
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