Back in May 2017, things seemed so different.
Blues Women proudly walked out to face Manchester City in the SSE Women’s FA Cup Final. Although the result was a clinical victory in favour of the Sky Blues, things had been looking good.
A strong 2016 season saw Blues Women push hard in the WSL, only just losing out on placing for European competition.
The takeover by Trillion Trophy Asia of Birmingham Sports Holdings saw the women’s team properly unified with the men’s side. A historic photo taken in September 2018 saw the men’s and women’s teams mixed together as a symbol of that unification.
However, the good times weren’t to last.
The animosity between Ren Xuandong and the senior management team of the football club ensured that not only did the club lose four highly experienced members of staff, but that Chief Co-Ordinating Officer Jo Allsopp also stood down as director of the Women’s team.
Club director Edward Zheng Gannan stepped up to be director in her place, but it was Ren who was still to call the shots.
Things started to fall apart in January 2019 when manager Marc Skinner was offered the chance of a lifetime to coach in the US. His replacement was Marta Tejedor, but her appointment was not without controversy.
Introduced to Blues by Nama Sports, the company behind UE Cornella, Tejedor was appointed by Ren over the advice of his staff.
The decision didn’t go down well with players or staff.
Since May 2019 Blues have seen 20 players leave the club and seven come in. Of the seven who did come into the club in the 2019 close season, two have left during this close season.
Behind the scenes, Blues have haemorrhaged staff too.
General Manager Heather Cowan and RTC Manager Chris Gould left for Spurs, while Youth Technical Director Cristina Torkildsen crossed the Aston Expressway to take up the same role there.
It all made for a tumultuous 2019.
Under Skinner Blues had started the 2018/19 season strongly but they had fallen away from the top two to finish in fourth position under Tejedor.
There were high hopes among club staff for the 2019/20 season – indeed the in the statement given by the club to announce the departure of Garry Monk they referred to the women’s team as thriving.
By the time the season came to a shuddering halt as Coronavirus gripped the nation, Blues Women lay in 11th place, one point ahead of Liverpool with a trip to the bottom side still to come.
The team won just two league games all season and hadn’t scored a league goal in five games in 2020. It’s not hyperbole to say that had the season not been curtailed, it could have been Blues who were relegated rather than Liverpool.
Hopes for next season (when it does start) do not look good either. The team is now down to 14 players, and still lacks a head coach.
They’re in danger of being passed by the mob from B6, who stormed the second-tier last season and who have built up a side that will compete in the WSL when it restarts.
I know that there are a section of fans who for their loss don’t care for the women’s team but I think even they should heed the lesson here.
One decision – taken against the advice of experienced staff – has precipitated a decline of the side to a point where I wonder if there even will be a Blues Women team competing in the next edition of the WSL.
From wanting the Women’s team to be properly integrated as part of the club, to me it feels that the women’s side is seen now by Ren Xuandong as a mistake that needs to be brushed under the carpet lest he is given flak for making a bad choice.
We heard from Portuguese coaches about Ren’s failure with Winning League, and his disastrous spell with Nei Mongol Zhongyou in China.
Mistakes are a hard thing to swallow, but by owning them and learning from them we grow as human beings.
If Ren can’t swallow his pride and admit that he’s ballsed this one up, what hope does the club have with him as CEO?