Experienced defender Michael Morrison was the first player brought in by Gary Rowett when he began his rebuilding process of Birmingham City some 16 months ago.
He was thrown straight into Rowett’s first match in charge at Wolves after arriving from Charlton where he had been deemed surplus to requirements under Bob Peeters.
Morrison made an immediate impact at St Andrews, helping to steady the ship and shore up a defence that had been leaking goals left right and centre.
In his first eight games the team were able to keep four clean sheets and conceded just four goals in that time.
His loan deal was made permanent in January 2015 as the 28-year-old signed a three-and-a-half-year deal with the Midlands club.
He also built up a solid relationship with veteran defender Paul Robinson as Rowett’s men propelled themselves from the relegation zone to a 10th placed finish at the end of the 2014/15 season.
Prior to the start of this current season, Morrison was given the captaincy, taking over from Robinson who would continue to be club captain.
But, fast forward to the present moment and Morrison is leading his side in their push for a play off position, something which they are just two points away from.
The ex-Sheffield Wednesday centre half has been an ever present this season, playing every minute of every Championship match. But does he get the credit he deserves?
I, personally, feel like his form has been somewhat overshadowed by that of his teammates with the likes of Jon Toral, Maikel Kieftenbeld, Jacques Maghoma and even Robinson taking plaudits for their displays.
Luckily Gary Rowett has had the ability to play Morrison in every game this season but, when injury kept him out of the team at a stage last season, the team really struggled and his presence was missed.
In the 11 games he missed between the end of January and March 2015, The Blues were able to win just two games in his absence.
He then returned for the final eight games of the campaign where Rowett’s side finished strongly, winning five of those and drawing one which highlighted Morrison’s value to the team.
A solid backline is something Rowett prides his teams on and Morrison is the most important cog in this current Birmingham rearguard.
His know-how in simple, but effective, defending is a rarity in today’s game but Morrison has showed time and time again throughout the season that he is competent in doing so.
Not only is he comfortable passing out from the back and moving forward into space but he also reads the game expertly, trusts himself in a footrace and puts his body on the line.
It is certainly no coincidence that he has consistently been part of a team who have kept 14 clean sheets this season- the fourth best in the league.
He also adapts very well to having a different partner beside him. For most of the first half of the season, Morrison was paired with American Jonathan Spector before 38-year-old Robinson fought his way back into the side.
Their pairing is as strong as ever at the moment and, despite their ‘off day’ at Blackburn, the two have led from the back as examples and have been tough nuts to crack for opposition attackers.
A recent run of six clean sheets in the nine games only supports the case for a player who Rowett has branded as one of the best centre backs in the league.
I am of the same opinion as Rowett and do believe that Morrison is one of the best in the league. He joined the club with a point to prove and has well and truly repaid the faith put in him by his manager.
It is not only clean sheets that Morrison helps to bring to the team though. He has contributed with three goals and two assists in all competitions this season and will no doubt add to that tally in the remaining fixtures.
He is, in some ways, the unsung hero of this Birmingham side who, many would say, are overachieving with the resources that Rowett has to work with.
It could still prove to a dream end to the season for a club who have been out of England’s top flight since relegation in 2011 and, if they are to reach the promised land of the Premier League, it will be Morrison leading the charge in taking them there.
Featured image: All rights reserved by Ian Johnson.