Editorial: A look back over 2018

Blues’ final match of 2018 finished in a dour draw yesterday to bring what has most things considered been a successful year for the club. The turn of a new year is a time for reflection on what has passed and thoughts for the future, and in that vein I thought I would share mine.

St Andrew's taken 26 December 2018

It seems weird to say it, but 2018 started with hope with Steve Cotterill at the helm. If you include the 1-0 win over Leeds United on December 30, Blues won four of six league games between then and the start of February.

However, the farcical nature of the final victory of that run against Sheffield Wednesday amplified why Cotterill wasn’t a good fit for the club and a run of five consecutive league defeats culminating in a 2-1 defeat to Forest did for him.

The second half against Wednesday should have been shooting practice against a dispirited team with only nine men on the pitch.

Cotterill didn’t think that.

“It would have been nice to go for the jugular, however players have quite a lot of respect for each other these days and they don’t need to turn the screw, because sometimes the shoe can be on the other foot.”

It would be over eight hours of football before Blues scored again after Jota’s second against Sheffield Wednesday.

Eventually, Birmingham Sports Chairman Zhao Wenqing flew to Birmingham from China to have crunch talks with Cotterill, and eventually to hand the Cheltenham-born manager his P45.

Zhao must have had a smile to himself while watching Blues at St Andrew’s on Boxing Day to see how far things have come since he appointed Garry Monk.

Words don’t do justice for what Monk has done for Blues.

Since his appointment on March 4 Blues have gone from probable relegation candidates to potential promotion candidates.

In 36 league games under Monk, Blues have taken 54 points – 1.5 points per game.

Compare that to 22 points in 24 games under Cotterill.

Monk’s 14 wins as Blues manager is one more than the previous three permanent managers of the club combined, in 28 fewer games.

Blues have scored 52 goals in 36 league games under Monk; which underlines the improvement in the team when considered against 40 goals scored in 60 league games under Zola, Redknapp, Carsley and Cotterill.

What makes it all the better is the way Monk talks off the pitch.

For the first time in a long time we have a manager who “gets” the club.

When asked by the Birmingham Mail about his connection with the club, Monk responded with just about the best answer.

“It’s because I’m a nutter”

For me, “getting the club” isn’t about drunkenly singing Keep Right On at fans evening, or about taking fans aside from a club coach to rant about why everything is going wrong.

There is an obvious desire in Monk to be involved in things away from the pitch that help to make Birmingham a better place.

Without getting too gooey, I think Monk understands that fans want to be seen more than as a marketing opportunity or potential trouble.

It’s clear he understands fans have been through a lot and want better.

“It’s just a feeling you have, you can walk into some clubs and with it still being a good club, it’s just a different feeling.

“I knew instantly when I walked into the club that it was a club that was going to suit me. Because of what it’s been through, everyone is so willing to do better.

On a personal level, I’m more inclined to believe what Monk says and to trust him because he’s given me reason to do so.

There is a lot of hope that 2019 will be another positive year of growth, but there are still challenges to meet off the pitch.

February should see the disciplinary panel meet and decide a punishment (if any) Blues must face for their breach of P&S regulations last summer.

I’ve seen people predicting all sorts but the truth is I don’t think anyone knows for sure what the outcome will be.

However, on a personal level I’m more confident than I’ve ever been that whatever the outcome is, Blues will be able to deal with it and move on.

In Hong Kong, BSH’s largest shareholder Paul Suen Cho Hung faces the prospect of a court case himself after proceedings were commenced against him by the Securities and Futures Commission.

While the offence seems trivial there is a small possibility that the outcome could have potential implications for both the listed company and therefore by extension Blues.

Suen has already told the Stock Market he vehemently denies the accusations and that he has sought legal advice.

If 2018 has taught us anything, it should be that while there are bumps in the road they can be overcome.

Happy New Year everyone – let’s hope for more joys than sorrows in 2019.

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