BCFC: Learned Lessons

Aitor Karanka’s first press conference as Birmingham City head coach was an ode to “sensible, reasonable things” as both the Spaniard and Blues CEO Ren Xuandong spoke of learning from mistakes and long-term futures. Is this the start of something beautiful at St Andrew’s?

Birmingham City FC

It’s been a long time since there was a truly positive chemistry between Ren and an incumbent manager at St Andrew’s.

Pep Clotet’s reign was punctuated with frequent arguments between the Catalan and Ren, while Monk’s tenure ended in ignominy over the future of Jude Bellingham.

Indeed, when Ren spoke of rectifying a mistake made three years ago it could have been the appointment of Steve Cotterill he was referring to rather than the transfer window splurge in the summer of 2017.

The appointment of Cotterill was the last time Ren fronted up for a press conference and was preceded by a failure to bring Karanka to the club. In the three years since then it’s fair to say the club has been on a wild ride, with as Ren said “some hard lessons being learned.”

The hope has to be that the biggest lesson learned is that the head coach needs to be trusted to do what he thinks is right to build the squad.

On paper the squad looks incredibly thin and it would seem very unlikely that it can be made into a promotion chasing squad in just one window.

This is why it’s so very important that Ren does give Karanka the promised “time and authority to build”. The summer of 2017 showed how much damage a transfer trolley-dash can do not only to the makeup of the squad but also the financial stability of the club.

The refusal to commit on how big the “transfer warchest” is might be frustrating to some of the more hyperbolic fans on social media, but it seems the sensible thing for Ren and Karanka to do. Both men were very firm on the line of spending sensibly, bringing in players that wanted to be part of the “project” at the club rather than big names and big figures.

While it’s sensible to make sure signings are right for the club not just in the now but in the future, it’s even more sensible that Karanka wants to properly judge what he already has. Some players did not impress under Clotet – particularly in the final nine post-lockdown games of last season, but with a new coach and new impetus is might be that some find their mojo once again.

There is a lot to be positive about; not least that Ren acknowledges that mistakes have been made in the past and lessons have needed to be learned.

Rather than make excuses for what has gone on before, Ren has made the right noises about how things will be better in the future. Of course, words are cheap and actions are what matter but it does appear that things are on the right track.

The only minor quibble might be that at 16 minutes, the broadcast press conference seemed quite short and it might have possibly showed only the “softball” questions rather than the whole thing.

While it is understandable that the club want to “control the narrative”, it is slightly concerning that the club might potentially be willing to brush under the carpet any perceived criticism or negativity aimed at Ren.

Ren is right in that he shouldn’t be at another press conference for a new manager within the next twelve months.

However, it would be good to see him talk a bit further about lessons learned and how he sees his role in the next twelve months – particularly in the tumultuous financial climate every business currently finds itself in.