BCFC: GIFS And Soft Soap

Do Not Want. Three words encapsulated in GIF format in reply to Brummie grime musician Jaykae’s plea to “splash the cash” made up the first non-official website communication from Blues CEO Ren Xuandong in six months. Is this a beginning of a social media rapprochement between Ren and Blues fans?

St Andrew's taken 26 December 2018

Naturally the tweet wound up a few fans. With money banked from the transfers of Che Adams last year along with Jude Bellingham and Alvaro Gimenez this year, it’s fairly natural for some fans to want new Blues manager Aitor Karanka to be given a transfer “warchest”.

I don’t want to read too much into it, but I don’t disagree with the perceived sentiment that Ren doesn’t want to splash the cash.

We saw back in the summer of 2017 the damage a transfer window of reckless spending can do, and we do not need to go through that again. While I’m sure transfer and wage budgets would have been agreed with Karanka, I’m sure that it would have been more about setting boundaries and expectations than making promises of huge amounts of cash to spend.

Last summer was proof that Blues can find diamonds in the rough; that it is possible to buy quality without spending huge amounts of money. The Brentford example gets used a lot but I look at Said Benrahma, who cost the Bees around £2.7million when signed from Nice, or Ollie Watkins who was around £1.8million when signed from Exeter in 2017.

Both players were given time to settle and bed into the system and while Brentford may have fallen at the final hurdle in the promotion hunt this season, there is no doubt in my mind that they will be challengers once again next year even if Watkins and Benrahma move on.

If Blues can once again find some good quality players for cheap, why shouldn’t Ren say “do not want” when asked to “splash the cash”?

Some people took umbrage with the way that Ren answered.

I can understand that too – after all, it’s not like Ren has spoken in “proper terms” outside of club press releases in the last few years. In fact, since the Monk sacking in the summer of 2019, I can’t recall a single interview with him.

In some ways I get why this is the way it is.

Firstly, actions speak louder than words. It’s better to do stuff than to talk about it; we always got wound up by how Sullivan and Gold would talk about making signings so why should we expect Ren to do the same? I do appreciate that the club keep a professional silence on things, and it makes it easier for people to understand gossip is exactly that and the deal isn’t done until the obligatory socially distanced scarf on the Kop (or in Karanka’s case, empty office with computer waiting to be used).

Secondly, I also understand that the club want to “control the narrative”. It’s important for the club to focus on positive things and to get people engaged with what is going right at the club – which makes sense. Therefore, it’s better to keep all news in house rather than share with local media – especially when the club knows local media is on its knees with bosses chasing clicks over proper stories.

That’s all fine, except what you get is a club website that earns it’s “Pravda” nickname from the cynical few because of it’s relentless need to show everything as positive and bright.

Sometimes, however, that’s not the case. I know that some people think that people like me talking about the “bad stuff” is doom-mongering but I don’t see that as the case. My loyalty is to the badge as it were over everything else, and I want nothing but the best for Birmingham City. That means understanding what isn’t right and making it so; by whoever needs to do it.

My biggest pet peeve about the way things are is that they don’t need to be this way. It’s obvious that there are journalists out there who the club and Ren in particular trust to put out information. That’s great – because at least we’re getting some information out, even if it’s second-hand.

However, the fact that these journalists and broadcasters still can’t secure any kind of interview – even a soft soap one where Dong tells us who his favourite players are and how everything is wonderful – makes me wonder how much he’s using them for his own ends.

I don’t need to know the ins and outs of everything, personally. It would be nice though to see Ren talk about how he sees his role in the next twelve months, and what he’d like to achieve for the club. What wouldn’t be positive about that?