BCFC: The Speakman Situation

While Blues CEO Ren Xuandong has been criticised heavily on Blues social media and forums recently, Kristjaan Speakman has been somewhat under the radar. Listed on the official Blues website as Academy Manager, Speakman has been acting as a de facto Sporting Director at Blues in recent times. Is Speakman culpable for the club’s current situation.

St Andrew's taken 26 December 2018

From speaking to people both at the club and formerly at the club, two things have been obvious.

Firstly, that Speakman is somewhat of a Marmite character, with some professing admiration and others visceral loathing for him.

However, despite personal feelings about Speakman the consensus has always been the same – that he is competent and capable at his job.

That’s been evidenced by the improvements the Academy have made over the last few years. I remember times when it felt like no players come through but in recent years we’ve seen quite a few graduates making the step up to first team action.

Not of all them will shine as brightly as Jude Bellingham, admittedly – Bellingham was a generational talent that we probably won’t see the level of again in 10-20 years.

However, there have been plenty who have made contributions and who have potential to become saleable assets at least for the club.

However, since Speakman has linked up with Ren, it seems that the Academy Manager has built a bigger and bigger remit for himself without the accountability that goes with it.

It’s been known for some time that Speakman has been advising Ren on transfer targets and again, people can point to successes on that front. While not every player has made it with Blues, a profit was made on Alvaro Gimenez and will be made on Fran Villalba if he completes his permanent transfer also.

Speakman has also been involved in the search for a manager, and I can understand that too. Anyone who comes in to run the first team side of things needs to work along side the Academy and the under 23s as part of a holistic approach to running the club. I think it’s important that a manager is brought in not only to make the first team better but to help ensure that the club grows and has a more secure footing for the future.

Since the restart of games after the lockdown, Speakman has also been involved in first team affairs. This is where it gets dicey for me, as I can see conflicts of interest appearing.

It’s quite standard for an Academy Manager to have incentives based on academy graduates appearing in the first team – after all, their job is to bring through and nurture talent that will go on to make that step.

However, having the Academy Manager in a position where it could be seen that he has an influence on those young players making their debuts doesn’t sit well with me. There needs to be a clear demarcation between Speakman and the first team if he is to personally benefit from players making appearances.

Furthermore, while being de facto Sporting Director is one thing, it means that Speakman has all the power and none of the accountability in the role. I would much rather see him given the title officially so that he assumes the responsibility of it, along with the bouquets and brickbats that come with successes and failures.

I think being Sporting Director and Academy Manager is probably too much for one person, and I’d like to see Speakman make a decision which he wants to be – and then for the club to hire someone to do the other position, working with people like him and the board.

Part of the issue with Blues right now is a lack of structure on the footballing side of things. If the club is to be successful it’s imperative that there is a proper coaching infrastructure in place with no implications of empire building.

This goes hand in hand with the search for a new manager, and I’m curious how much this lack of structure has had a role in the problems Blues have had with filling that role. The longer that search goes on, the worse things are going to look from the outside.