BCFC: The Silent Man

Another day, another defeat. Millwall were the victors this time, beating Blues 2-0 at the Den on Wednesday night to condemn Aitor Karanka’s side to their ninth defeat in 13 league games. Blues lie one point behind Rotherham in 21st place, although the Millers have two games in hand. For any other club the assumption would be Karanka’s place is untenable – but there is no sign of change. What needs to happen?

Birmingham City FC

It seems clear that Blues CEO Ren Xuandong is not going to make a decision any time soon. Ren talked of “growth” and “progression” in his interview with Richard Wilford. It was interview that went down like a lead balloon with fans and has almost certainly angered Birmingham Sports Holdings, who released an embarrassing clarification announcement earlier in the day advising shareholders and potential investors that they should take no notice of the financial figures spouted by Ren.

However, as we know from the Steve Cotterill sacking Ren isn’t the only person with the power to fire a Blues manager. Back then Birmingham Sports Holdings Chairman Zhao Wenqing flew over from China to personally sack Cotterill and sort out the installation of Garry Monk as his successor. Ren almost joined Cotterill in the dole queue but was saved by his would-be replacement Edward Zheng Gannan being unable to finalise the contracts for Monk and his staff.

So where is Zhao now?

The simple answer to that question is that Zhao is here in the UK. He came to Birmingham in December 2019 to sort out another Ren Xuandong mess – this time financial – and due to the coronavirus pandemic breaking out found himself staying here and settling into a house in the area.

It’s not like he hasn’t seen games either. He’s been present for games this season both home and away and while I don’t know for sure if he was present at either the Luton game on Saturday or the Millwall game last night, he will have seen with his own eyes the problems the team has on the pitch.

Yet as I write this in the aftermath of another defeat, there is nothing to show that Zhao has acted or is likely to act any time soon.

In some ways I have a tiny bit of sympathy for Ren as he is very much the public face of the current regime. While he’s not tweeted many GIFs recently, everyone knows his Twitter handle and you can bet your bottom dollar his mentions have been flooded with vitriol after defeats of late.

Up until now, Zhao has got off scot free. Despite his lofty position, I don’t think many people even know who Zhao is or the power he wields both here, and in Beijing / Hong Kong. A cursory examination of company registries here, in Hong Kong and in China show that Zhao is an executive not only for the holding company and the club, but also for most of the subsidiaries the company runs in Hong Kong and China.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Zhao is one of the elusive Mr King’s right-hand men – yet like his boss Zhao has managed to remain in the shadows.

When Blues dropped into the bottom three of the Championship, I pushed BSH for a comment on whether they were going to take action to prevent relegation. As I wrote last week, their frosty reply did confirm that they were concerned about the team dropping a division and were doing everything in their power to stop it.

My concern is that those words seem incredibly hollow right now.

Judging by his recent post-match interviews, Karanka has given up. Despite wanting the Spaniard to succeed as manager, being willing to stick with this three year plan™ for as long as possible, I can’t see how Blues can go any further forward with Karanka at the helm.

Likewise, the interview with Radio WM confirmed to me what I’ve long suspected; that Ren isn’t just a bit egotistical, but incompetent to the point of making an incredibly daft financial prediction, twice.

I can only speak for myself here, but I think the time has come for both to be shown the exit door and wished well for their future careers.

The time has come for the silent man Zhao Wenqing to speak up. Failure to do so will (in my eyes at least) make him just as culpable for the shocking state the club finds itself in right now.