BCFC: Speakman to Depart

Reports broke on Thursday that Birmingham City’s Academy Manager Kristjaan Speakman is in talks with League One outfit Sunderland to become their new Technical Director. Should Speakman leave it will end a 14 year association with Blues having joined the club as a coach from Derby County in 2006.

Birmingham City FC

Speakman joined Blues from Derby along with Terry Westley, replacing Westley as Academy Manager in 2011 when he departed by mutual consent.

The departure of Garry Monk saw Speakman take up a Technical Board position. His role encompassed responsibilities with succession planning, building player progression pathways and designing the coaching curriculum across all age groups.

The role made Speakman de facto “Sporting Director” as he also took a hand in player recruitment, retention and professional contract negotiation. This made Speakman a very powerful figure in the club, which had consequences for other members of staff.

The 41-year-old was seen as somewhat of a “marmite” figure at Blues, despite being a more than capable administrator. Those who fell out with him such as former under-23s manager Richard Beale and Paul Robinson found themselves marginalised and pushed out.

The height of Speakman’s influence was seen during the belated end to the season as it was confirmed then head coach Pep Clotet was leaving the club.

Despite having a conflict of interest (as pointed out by this website at the time), Speakman had a say in first team matters ensuring that an array of Academy graduates made their debuts in the difficult post-lockdown period.

However, the winds of change have come to St Andrew’s.

The arrival of Aitor Karanka as Head Coach has seen Speakman’s influence on the team rapidly wane. Karanka has been eager to use his own men such as Head of Analysis Juanjo Vila to lead recruitment, pushing Speakman out of the picture.

Having once been seen as one of the closest confidantes to Blues CEO Ren Xuandong, Speakman has found himself being replaced by Karanka as the CEO’s favourite, which has ensured the Academy Manager’s influence has on team affairs waned further.

It would appear the move to Sunderland by Speakman could work out for the best for all parties.

Speakman leaves with credit for turning Jude Bellingham from child prodigy into a £25million asset and senior England international. He can also take satisfaction in the Academy pushing for Category One status this season and potentially securing the future of the team for years to come.

The club would benefit from Speakman’s departure now as it would ensure that there is no messy internal power struggle as roles continue to be redefined.

From my perspective, I think there is a lesson to be learned for other people within the club.

While the confidence of Ren can offer all kinds of power and influence within Birmingham City, the impending departure of Kristjaan Speakman proves once again that confidence is at best temporary – and that a fall from grace can be quick and severe.

Speakman is fortunate in that his stock outside the club is high and he’s found a comparable role to move to before things have had any chance to get messy. That may not be the case for others.

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