I’m going to make it clear from the outset that I’m not going to talk about transfer rumours; partly because I’m pretty out of the loop on those these days, and partly because I think there are much better people who are able to offer opinions on that such as We Are Birmingham, Blues Breakdown and Blues Analytics.
Instead, I want to talk about how issues with the squad currently are going to have an impact on what business the club does – and how it’s unlikely anyone is going to come in without players going out.
25 Man Squad
I mentioned at the start of the season that the EFL have implemented a 25-man squad rule this year. The rules state that Blues can have a maximum of 25 players aged over 21 in their squad for the season; with the additional rule that loan players of any age must be in the 25-man squad to be allowed to play.
With the recall of Steve Seddon and Connal Trueman from AFC Wimbledon, Blues currently have 27 players over the age of 21. They are:
Andres Prieto, Maxime Colin, Kristian Pedersen, Marc Roberts, George Friend, Maikel Kieftenbeld, Daniel Crowley, Adam Clayton, Scott Hogan, Lukas Jutkiewicz, Jeremie Bela, Harlee Dean, Jonathan Leko, Jake Clarke-Salter, Josh McEachran, Ivan Sanchez, Riley McGree, Mikel San Jose, Gary Gardner, Jon Toral, Josh Dacres-Cogley, David Davis, Connal Trueman, Neil Etheridge, Ivan Sunjic, Alen Halilovic, and Steve Seddon.
Of those players only Prieto, McEachran, Trueman, Davis and Seddon have not made an appearance in the league this year. Prieto, Davis and Seddon have all featured on the bench and McEachran has travelled with the squad for one game as a spare player in case someone has been injured in the warm-up.
The appearance of Seddon on the bench for the Blackburn Rovers game means that one other player has already had to be pushed out of the 25-man squad when the transfer window re-opened.
Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing who that was. Unlike the Premier League, the EFL does not release details of which players are on each club’s 25-man squads, and when I asked them by email about it I got fobbed off. Why clubs feel there is no need for transparency on a simple thing like this, I have no idea.
My suspicion is that it could be Dan Crowley, as it seems clear he’s persona non grata and there have been rumours that he is already on his way. I also think it’s unlikely that Connal Trueman will be added to the squad, as I suspect Blues will be looking to sell him this window with Etheridge, Prieto and Jeacock on the books.
However, that means that for Blues to add anyone else to the squad, the same number have to leave… and that’s not as easy as people think it is. For a player to be sold someone has to want to buy them; likewise for a player to be released, there has to be an agreement with regards to the remainder of their contract and the player is well within their rights to insist on the full amount being paid.
The other wrinkle the club have to deal with is to name one player in each matchday squad who is “club developed”. A club developed player is one who has been a professional with the club for one year on or before the season the player was 19 years old.
In the current Blues squad (excluding players out on loan), nine players meet this criteria who have made first team appearances for the club. They are:
Josh Dacres-Cogley, Connal Trueman, Miguel Fernandez, Zach Jeacock, Steve Seddon, Geraldo Bajrami, Caolan Boyd-Munce, Jack Concannon and Jayden Reid.
As I’ve said before I expect Trueman to be sold; while Bajrami, Boyd-Munce and Jeacock have been injured. Of the remainder, only Dacres-Cogley and Seddon have been in the match day squad this year and only Dacres-Cogley has made an appearance.
For this reason I think it’s incredibly unlikely Josh Dacres-Cogley will go anywhere this window. It’s clear that Karanka likes him, and right now it would appear that Seddon is the only alternative for a club-developed player in the matchday squad; at least until Jeacock or Boyd-Munce return to fitness.
The club-developed player issue is why I see the under-19 section of the Academy being important. While I do agree that there are potential late-bloomers we can pick up who could go into a B side, the club must ensure that it keeps developing players between 17 (the earliest they can sign a pro contract) and 19 to continue to meet this criteria.
I think this is going to be a very quiet window, if I’m honest. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has made finances very difficult for all clubs, which means there is going to be less interest in spending than usual.
Blues have to get rid of players to make space for others, or face having to pay players wages that they cannot play for the remainder of the season if they want to bring anyone else in.