NO prizes for guessing what Doncaster Rovers’ defender Sam Hird wants for Christmas - regular first-team football in 2012.
The 24 year-old Doncaster-born centre-back has played in the last three games and hopes to keep his place in the starting line-up in tomorrow’s game against Birmingham City at St Andrews after helping Rovers beat leaders Southampton last weekend.
Yet he knows from experience that it doesn’t pay to take things for granted.
“I always think that I’ve got back in and played well and then something happens and I get dropped,” he said.
“That’s why it has been nice to have had a run of games in the side and to get my feet firmly in there and it’s my job to try and keep there
“We’ve kept clean sheets in two of our last three games, so people can’t complain. I think the reason that we’ve done that, as well as working hard as a team, is that we kept the same back-four.
“It helps when you have a settled back-four, and we haven’t had that for much of this year due to injuries and the like.
“I think it is one of the most important aspects of the team because it creates a solid base for the side.”
Hird, who has played alongside any number of partners at centre-back during his time at the club, says he is enjoying playing alongside new loan signing Habib Beye.
“He’s a top player,” said Hird. “He’s been there and done it and he’s got experience at the highest level.
“He talks well, although all the back-four talk to each other during a game, and it has been nice to play alongside him.
“Hopefully we can get a few more games together and get a few more good results.
“But football is a results-based business and if you aren’t doing you job you don’t keep your place. Hopefully I can do that. Having had a run of games my match fitness has improved and I feel good.
“Any player will tell you that it’s important to get a run of games under your belt because it gives you a chance to go out there and perform to the best of your ability, which is much harder to do if you are in and out of the side.
“When everyone is fit there is a lot of competition for places and to say that we are down there at the bottom of the league, we’ve got a really good squad as a result of the loan signings
As well as being impressed by the Aston Villa stalwart, Hird says Wolves loanee keeper Carl Ikeme has also caught his eye.
“Carl has fitted in well and if the ball is hanging up behind you he comes and gets it which gives you confidence,” he said.
Victory over the Saints, coupled with Coventry’s defeat at Portsmouth, saw Rovers climb off the foot of the Championship table and Hird is hopeful that the upward trend will continue in the final games of 2011.
“Before last Saturday’s game you’d look at the next three games - Birmingham (away), Leicester (home) and Burnley (away) - as three hard games, but beating Southampton has given us confidence and a bit of momentum going into those games,” he said.
“It has been nice after picking up a win to have had a week preparing for the Birmingham game whereas they played at Hull on Wednesday. We’ll certainly be going to St Andrews tomorrow thinking that we can pick up points.”
Rovers will be looking for only their second ever win at St Andrews.
Their only success a the ground was back in the 1950-51 season when they beat the Blues 1-0 in a Division Two clash.
Prior to their last visit in the 2008-09 season Rovers hadn’t played the Blues in the league for over 50 years.
A 46th minute goal by Cameron Jerome sentenced Rovers to a 1-0 defeat. City won 2-0 at the Keepmoat Stadium in the return.
One to watch
MUCH-travelled striker Marlon King has always proved a handful for Rovers for his various clubs and Birmingham boss Chris Hughton will be hoping that will be the case in tomorrow’s game at St Andrews.
The 31 year-old forward was at Coventry last season where he scored 13 goals in 29 games and was named Player of the Season.
The London-born striker, who has played 18 times for Jamacia, joined the Blues on a three-year deal in the summer.
Teams and ref
BIRMINGHAM: (possible) Myhill; Carr, Caldwell, Ibanez, Murphy, Burke; Spector, Fahey; Wood, Elliott, King (4-4-2)
ROVERS: (possible) Ikeme; O’Connor, Hird, Beye, Illunga; Goulon, Stock Gillett; Coppinger Sharp, Fortune (4-3-3)
referee: Nigel Miller (Co Durham): Has handed out 56 yellow and two red cards in 19 games including six yellows and a red in the Scunthorpe-Colchester clash and six yellow cards on three other occasions this season.