BCFC: Big Decisions

Now the dust has settled on a prolonged and difficult campaign in the Championship, it’s time once again for the Birmingham City hierarchy to look forward. With confirmation that the new EFL season begins on September 12, there are less than seven weeks until kickoff to sort out a number of issues.

Birmingham City FC

Top of the list is a new manager or head coach.

When it was announced that Pep Clotet was going to depart the club at the end of the season, I actually thought the board had done something right. There was no doubt going to be rumours about how long Clotet had left in the hot seat at St Andrew’s, and announcing his departure early meant the board could talk to potential successors without it damaging Clotets’s standing.

Unfortunately, it never worked out like that. Blues’ form nosedived and many fans (myself included) quickly decided the lame duck period was never going to work out. Clotet’s hastened departure did nothing to halt the slump in form, and we were once again left to agonise over the last few games of the season.

Likewise, the manager search has not gone well.

While nothing has been announced publicly, the rumours have done the rounds of the press that a number of candidates have either been dismissed as unwanted or have rejected overtures.

I’ve heard from reputable sources that Chris Hughton, Slavisa Jokanovic and Lee Carsley all turned down advances from the club, while Steve McClaren, Nigel Clough and Paul Cook have all had contact with the club turn to silence.

While there does seem to have been some positive talks with Aitor Karanka, it’s unsurprising that he’s asked for assurances. The 46-year-old Basque manger left Forest in January 2019 after disagreements with the ownership there which leads me to think he would be cautious before taking a role with Blues.

I think it’s reasonable for any manager to ask what terms they would be expected to work under prior to taking the job.

It’s obvious that the team needs an overhaul, with maybe as many as eight or ten new players needed. Any new manager or head coach is going to want to know how much money is going to be available not just for transfers but for wages too, as that will confirm how hard it will be to bring in the right players for the squad.

Likewise, I think it’s expected for any manager/head coach to want to know what coaching staff he will have to work with. Blues have a dearth of experience in the coaching department after the departure of Alberto Escobar and Xavi Calm in recent months, and while James Beattie continues to tend to the weeds in his garden it doesn’t leave a lot to work with.

The biggest question is the one of how a new manager or head coach will work with the board. I’m still of the belief that this is a chemistry question more than anything else; the right candidate will be someone who can work with the current Blues board in a positive manner.

I know a lot of people think that Blues CEO Ren Xuandong has to go – and in many ways I agree with them – but I’m also a pragmatist who understands that might not happen, in which case someone who can work with Ren and tell him bollocks without causing a weekly stand-up row like Clotet did would be an improvement.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – this is the big one for the Blues board.

Get this appointment right and Blues could easily be back on track to build for a better, brighter future – and that benefits everyone.