BCFC: Searching Far and Wide

It looks like the transfer window is kicking into life at St Andrews with purported deals for Rene Krhin from Granada CF and Craig Gardner from West Bromwich Albion edging close to completion. While these transfers and more will be discussed ad nauseum on the internet, I wanted to look at the Krhin deal in particular as a change in focus at Blues.

Birmingham City FC

Krhin really looks to be a signing out of left-field. I don’t think anybody truly saw him as a possible and even now I can visualise Blues fans scrambling for Youtube clips and copies of Football Manager to judge him on.

Blues have had mixed luck in recent times with European signings – Maikel Kieftenbeld has been a first team staple since signing from Groningen while the less said about Nicolai Brock-Madsen the better. Signings from Europe are always a gamble – it’s as much judging how well a player will adapt to the English game and culture as it is their ability on the pitch.

In past times, Blues have had things like freelance scouts, the ubiquitous DVDs and applications like Wyscout to be able to sift through the incredible amount of players potentially available. While Gary Rowett’s transfer record was a bit hit and miss at times I think it’s fair to say he did well – particularly as he was doing it in the traditional role of manager rather than as a coach with a director of football.

Times change however, and the club must change with them. I think the days of a manager literally doing everything are almost over; with the amounts of money moving around in football these days it’s ever more crucial to get deals right because of how horrendously expensive a mistake can be. I don’t think Rowett was ever going to agree to a director of football approach at Blues – but with a change of management a change in approach to how management is handled can happen too.

Away from football I’m a fan of baseball – a sport which is (and this might hard to believe) even richer than football and which has higher wages in it’s top echelons. My team in baseball are the San Francisco Giants – who are pretty successful of late. Their manager, Bruce Bochy, is considered one of the best in the game – but like all baseball teams he doesn’t handle anything to do with trades. That’s done in the front office, where Brian Sabean has built an excellent reputation for being able to find and bring in players to enhance the team. Bochy and Sabean work in tandem for the best of the club – one on gameday, the other in preparation for it.

You see where I’m going with this?

If Zola is to be a true success at the club then the partnership between him and Ewan Chester has to work. Blues have changed the situation at the club so that while Zola is coaching the team, Chester and his team are out scouring for players. Obviously, Zola will have to tell Chester what he wants; not only what position but what style of player and what kind of personality. With Chester having responsibility for finding players, all of his time should be spent doing just that, so that when Zola is choosing who he wants he has the widest selection to do so.

It’s not just about time either. From my interaction with football I’ve seen how important knowing the right people is. People do deals with people – while money is a big help in securing the right players I think it’s almost as important to have a link to the people the club are doing business with. If your staff knows and gets on with the right people then it’s more likely a reasonable compromise can be thrashed out when looking to seal a deal.

I believe this is one reason why Trillion Trophy Asia went for Zola – because he apparently has these sorts of contacts – and I hope they were right. I understand Ewan Chester was brought in by Panos Pavlakis for similar reasons.

Is Rene Krhin the start of a revolution for Blues? Will we see a cosmopolitan lineup of players plucked from obscurity to star in B9? Only time will tell if the Chester/Zola combination works – but for the club’s sake I hope it does.

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