While Blues are very much still in a relegation scrap for the first time in months it feels like there is hope out there.
I can’t overstate how important that win over Hull City was – not just for the result but for the manner of performance. For once it was hard to pick a “Man of the Match” because so many players played well – and with so few games left this season Blues need a run of good performances.
Garry Monk has been quick to make mention of the work that players will be doing over the international break; no warm weather training in Dubai or Miami for Blues, it’s all been about doing what needs to be done at Wast Hills.
However, one of the things I’ve most been pleased about is that Monk is looking further than the first teamers for the answers to the problems Blues have.
— Birmingham City FC (@BCFC) March 23, 2018
Coach Richard Beale confirmed after the u23s recent 1-0 defeat to Ipswich in the Premier Development League that eight of his usual u23 players were training with the first team, which had meant call-ups for players from the Academy like 16 year old Josh Andrews, first year scholar George Baker and second years Kieron Dawes and Nick Okoro.
I’ve long held the belief that if Blues are to become a proper long-term success story then it has to come from within – and right now, with an u18 squad in the FA Youth Cup semi finals and promising players bursting from the u23s this is the time to capitalise on that.
I’ve said all this sort of stuff before – but I wanted to take those thoughts a step further, looking forward to the summer window.
Regardless of the division we are in, I think we have to learn from the mistakes of last summer – and for me, chief among them was the number of loan players signed.
I’m of the belief that Blues should make it their aim not to sign one loan player next summer.
For me, the loan system has become a way to prop up the current youth setup in England where the “big clubs” hoover up all the talent. Those players need to develop somewhere, so clubs farm them out on loan with seemingly very few actually making the step up to first team football.
Every time Blues loan one of these players, we deny a place in our team for one of our own.
Consider the loans of Carl Jenkinson and Cohen Bramall. While once-England international Jenkinson has been unfortunate with injuries, has loaning him stunted the development of Josh Dacres-Cogley or Wes Harding? Has bringing Bramall in ensured that Steve Seddon has another hurdle to step up – or even that the investment in Cheick Keita has been wasted?
I’m not saying that the young players in Blues development squad or Academy are guaranteed to make it as first teamers.
Indeed, we only have to look to the fates of some of the players given a chance in the Blues first team like Callum Reilly, Mitch Hancox and Reece Brown to see that the step up from reserve football to first team is as huge as ever.
However, I think that the chance has to be available – because every once in a while, a player will seize on it and improve beyond expectation.
What pleases me about Garry Monk is Blues have a manager for the first time since the maligned Lee Clark who believes in youth – as we saw with Harding’s Championship debut.
Trusting in youth will make FFP worries less of an issue – and in the longer term will make it easier for Blues to develop real assets; something I can only believe is a good thing.