- Garry Monk sacked amid allegations regarding transfer dealings
- Jota, Adams, Morrison amongst players to have left the club this summer
- Rebuilding job is needed – remains to be seen if Pep Clotet is the right man
In these tumultuous times, it can be difficult to find a fanbase who are actually happy with their club’s owner. To name a few;
Often creeping under the radar, Birmingham City supporters are seldom in for a slow and steady ride, and this summer has seen yet more upheaval in the “Second City”.
The End of the Road for Gary Monk!
Garry Monk was relieved of his managerial duties last month, to the chagrin of many supporters. Up there with Chris Hughton and Gary Rowett, Monk was widely seen as one of the best managers at the club since relegation from the Premier League in 2011, and his departure led fans to direct their ire at the board, frustrated that a seemingly capable manager had been dismissed.
His was not the only departure, as assorted members of the playing staff also moved on to pastures new. Attacking midfielder Jota may have proved divisive, and failed to replicate his Brentford form at St. Andrews, but it was galling to see him move to newly-promoted rivals Aston Villa. Still the club’s record signing, the Spaniard often flattered to deceive, but was one of the few in the team capable of those moments of magic. Fringe winger Viv Solomon-Otabor has also been let go after failing to agree a new deal. A surprise move to Bulgarian side CSKA Sofia has been mooted.
Perhaps the saddest departure was that of captain Michael Morrison. Signed by Gary Rowett, initially on loan from Charlton, the centre-back became symbolic of everything Birmingham had started to do right following the Lee Clark era. That he leaves unable to agree a new contract does not reflect well on the club. Che Adams, in contrast, was widely expected to leave. The £16 million deal agreed with Southampton means that he leaves with the best wishes of supporters, having had an outstanding final season with the Blues. His contributions won’t be replaced easily, but there remains a chance for Isaac Vassell to finally break into the starting line-up.
A Lack of Stability.
In hindsight, Gary Rowett’s sacking may well have been vindicated by the club. After joining Derby, he jumped ship from the Rams to Stoke, and was sacked from the latter as the Potters languished in lower-mid table. Unfortunately, his successor at Blues Gianfranco Zola was not up to the task of managing Blues, and neither were Harry Redknapp or Steve Cotterill. Short of signing Nico Kranjcar, Redknapp was up to his usual tricks (Carl Jenkinson, anyone?), while Cotterill felt stale at Championship level, as we have begun to see the likes of Daniel Farke and Marcelo Bielsa ply their trade here in recent seasons.
Thus, Garry Monk’s appointment in 2018 felt like a departure from the norm. An exciting young manager with both Premier League and Championship experience, he seemed a solid choice. He kept the club in the Championship despite a points deduction, and young striker Che Adams had the best season of his career under the tutelage of Monk, assistant manager Pep Clotet and coach James Beattie.
His sacking was initially, like that of Rowett, met with outcry. But then allegations started to swirl about the former Swansea stalwart and his agent Jamie Featherstone, relating to transfers made at his past clubs. Monk has vehemently denied all allegations, but if they did turn out to be true, could anybody really complain about his firing? Promoting Pep Clotet to manager is a gamble, however, as his previous managerial reign at Oxford United proved unsuccessful. Senior Professional Development Coach Richard Beale leaving has also unsettled fans, though time will tell if the arrival of coach Xavi Calm from feeder club UE Cornella will reap rewards.
Is there any Hope?
At the time of writing, Saido Berahino may be on the move to St. Andrews. The Burundi international hasn’t had the best of times at Stoke, but Blues have had a knack of getting the best out of troubled players in recent years, the likes of Federico Macheda and Ravel Morrison having some of their best spells in blue and white.
The squad is in need of some fine-tuning. It’s not that all of the players are bad; Lukas Jutkiewicz had a great season up front alongside Adams last term, while the likes of Maxime Colin, Mikael Kieftenbeld and Jacques Maghoma have been faithful servants to the club since their respective arrivals. But a change in goal is needed amongst other tweaks, David Stockdale unlikely to play again for the club and Lee Camp not fully convincing.
What does the future hold?
Whatever happens for the rest of the summer, it doesn’t look particularly promising for Birmingham City.
No Monk, Morrison, Jota or Adams, but perhaps that relegation to League One that has been looming over the club will finally arrive. There’s no Nikola Zigic, or Paul Caddis, to save them now.
If the 8-0 home defeat to Bournemouth in 2014 was the nadir, Birmingham haven’t quite sunk to those depths yet. But even the 10thplace finishes under Gary Rowett look a long way off. Where can Birmingham go from here? On paper, there are at least three weaker sides in the Championship, but this is one of the most unpredictable leagues in the world we are talking about. Literally anything can happen.