BCFC: A January Problem?

Birmingham City scratched out a 0-0 draw with Coventry on Tuesday night at the Coventry Building Society Arena in a game that wasn’t one for the purists. In a performance marred by a ref handing out a harsh red card to Ryan Woods for serious foul play it could have been much worse had Coventry bought their shooting boots and only went to show just how thin the Blues squad currently is.

Birmingham City FC

As much as Lee Bowyer was unhappy with the red card and a potential penalty that could have been given when Riley McGree connected with air rather than the ball in the Coventry 18-yard area, it’s also fair to say Coventry were denied a stonewall penalty when Dion Sanderson pulled Viktor Gyokeres’ shirt in the first half.

While a point was a good result really, the bigger concern will be if Woods does not get his red card overturned. Serious foul play means a three-match ban, which would leave Ivan Sunjic as Blues’ only first team central midfielder available for the next three games. We can be thankful that the ref didn’t find a reason to book Riley McGree as he was the only player walking a suspension tightrope, with the cutoff for five bookings equalling a ban now passed.

Injuries and suspensions mean Blues are stripped to the bone; the bench for the Coventry game included the seemingly unfancied Juan Castillo, a first team scholar in Jordan James and Jobe Bellingham who is too young to be a first team scholar let alone even think about signing a pro deal.

It’s possible that Blues could have had more to call upon had the under 23s had not also been playing Watford in the Premier League Cup at the same time (they lost 4-1); although one does get the feeling that players like Caolan Boyd-Munce might have metaphorically pissed in someone’s pool due to the lack of chance they have had to impress.

If Woods doesn’t get his red card overturned then the Blackpool game at least could be interesting; but what concerns me more is just how Blues are going to cope deeper into the season.

It’s a fact that Riley McGree will depart these shores at the end of the year to return to his parent club Charlotte FC in the MLS, while Tahith Chong is not going to be back any time soon. Maxime Colin appears to be out for a while and the injury setback to Ivan Sanchez means Blues are looking to be short of players for a fair ol’ while.

I set a poll on Twitter to try and gauge expectations from fans for summer spending; while I have seen fans suggesting that Blues go for Jesse Lingard on loan I think most have the same expectations I have, with 73.3% of the 662 votes cast choosing “less than £1m” or “lol nothing” for the amount Blues will spend in transfer fees and loan fees.

I can’t claim to hold a crystal ball, I don’t know what will happen and I hope people realise that it’s harder than ever to guess what the owners of BCFC might decide for a winter transfer budget… but everything I’ve seen indicates that there will be very little to spend.

The profit-sharing deal set up by Vong Pech and Oriental Rainbow Investments when he bought a stake directly in the club disincentivises him to spend anything unless he knows he’s getting a guaranteed return via Premier League football next season; right now I think our chances of promotion are not that much better than mine of finally getting a call back from Rihanna.

While I agree that football can be weird and it is always possible Blues could go on a crazy run there is nothing more than blind hope that suggests right now could feasibly happen.

As rough as it was to watch that game on Tuesday night, I think I have to accept (as will other fans) that this is who we are and where we are – and that if we can remain in relative safety then that will do us in the short term.

The longer term is a thornier problem; for all the good stuff that both Lee Bowyer and Craig Gardner have done, something needs to change somewhere to ensure that good work is not wasted. How that happens, I do not know.