BCFC: A Ludicrous Hand?

Birmingham City blew a 2-0 lead on Saturday to draw 2-2 with Cardiff City at St Andrew’s. It was a bitter pill for Lee Bowyer to swallow, with the Blues Head Coach admitting that his side weren’t good enough in either box. With 22 games gone Blues lie in 15th place, eight points shy of the playoffs and the same number shy of the drop zone.

Birmingham City FC

The big question now for Blues is if the team can be reinforced in the upcoming transfer window next month.

It’s not looking hopeful at the moment, with Bowyer confirming that he has to sell to buy in January in what he has termed a “ludicrous” situation for Technical Director Craig Gardner.

Bowyer has also confirmed that there have been changes to what he was originally told with regards to investment, although he did also make it clear that he was not disillusioned and that he knew he had to get on with it.

Why is there no money to spend?

This seems to be the big question among some fans – especially as Blues have not paid a transfer fee in the last window. From what I have seen on social media there is some feeling of a lack of ambition from the owners but what I think we are seeing is some (belated) financial prudency.

I think people have also been caught out by the red herring that is P&S rules, and the fact that clubs are allowed to lose up to £13M per year under those. It’s fairly easy to see that Blues have no worries on that front having received a wedge of money for Jude Bellingham, so any tightening of budgeting is not because of P&S.

Instead, what I think we are seeing is the football club being forced to get closer to break even than it has in previous years – in other words be self-sustainable.

Due to the terms of the partial sale of the club to Vong Pech’s Oriental Rainbow Investments vehicle, Vong Pech is on the hook for losses made by the club and has to recompense BSH their share of the loss while the club are in this division.

This means it makes sense for Vong Pech (who has the largest stake in the club as explained in this piece here) to ensure that the club doesn’t make a loss – especially as the main source of funds that BSH has to put into the club is a loan facility granted by Vong Pech.

While the accounts for the club for last season are only due out by the end of this month, we can get an idea of where the club is from the segmented results provided by BSH in their annual accounts.

blues make a profit

The image above is taken from page nine of the annual results and shows that the football club made a profit of HK$4.836M last season (about £467k), which backs up my theory.

However, that profit was made thanks to the club receiving a huge chunk of cash from the aforementioned Bellingham sale.

This season will be better in that covid restrictions have been relaxed and there are fans in the ground but the money made from season tickets will not come close to replicating the income from the Bellingham transfer.

That in turn means that Blues have to either find some other source of revenue or reduce outgoings.

What about new contracts?

I had to admit on Twitter that I was somewhat surprised that Marc Roberts agreed a two-year contract extension with Blues last week.

While it’s true that Roberts was on nothing like the rumoured £35k per week, he was on a substantial weekly wage and I was fairly sure that Blues were either unable or unwilling to match that for a new deal. The fact that Roberts has signed a new deal indicates that Blues have been able to work something out and they deserve credit for that.

Although the signing of Roberts to a new deal surprised me, the contracts handed out to young professionals hasn’t.

I think Blues have learned from the Amari Miller situation in the summer that it makes sense to tie down at least some of the scholars quickly so that they become saleable assets.

Players can be offered a professional deal once they reach their 17th birthday and it makes sense right now for Blues to tie down players who have potential.

I would not be surprised if Blues follow up George Hall and Jordan James with other players signing pro terms to ward off predatory clubs.

After Marc Roberts, there are three other first team players out of contract at the end of this season, all of which are interesting positions.

There have been reports online that Kristian Pedersen is keeping his options open. He will be free to negotiate terms with clubs outside of the English League system from January 1, and it might be that he can secure a more lucrative wage in Europe than Blues can offer.

Blues have a one-year option for Jeremie Bela in their favour which means that they can tie the Angolan international to the club without having to agree anything. However, that option comes at a price and would add to Bela’s current wage substantially; something that Blues might not want to do.

Lastly there is Connal Trueman. As third choice keeper and with Zach Jeacock waiting in the wings it might be that Trueman is not seen as a player who would be kept. However, I think as a cheap option it might be that he’s offered a deal – particularly with Matija Sarkic due to return to Wolves at the end of the season.

One player who might be expected to leave on a free at the end of this season is Fran Villalba. Villalba signed a three year contract in August 2019 when he joined from Valencia, but has only made 17 appearances for Blues with the last coming in December 2019.

However, documentation in my possession shows that Villalba signed a second contract with Blues in January 2020, tying him to the club until the end of the 2022/23 season. That means unless Villalba is sold this season, he will be back at St Andrew’s next summer.

There are also decisions to be made on some of the younger players; Adan George, Remi Walker, Alfie Chang, Mitch Roberts, Ryan Stirk, Marcel Oakley, Tate Campbell, Renedi Masampu, Oliver Basey, Archie Matthews, Josh Andrews, Oriol Soldevila, Kane Thompson-Sommers, Josh Williams and Leo Dos Reis are all out of contract this summer.

Blues hold options on George, Stirk, Matthews and Andrews.

If money is tight for the summer, it’s possible Blues will look to tie down more of their younger players to keep them as saleable assets and to bulk out the squad without dipping further into the transfer kitty than they need to.

I’m willing to accept that as fans things don’t feel great right now but I think we have to accept that Blues are in a situation of their own making.

That mad trolley dash in the summer of 2017 didn’t just knacker the club for P&S reasons; it also proved that spraying the cash around doesn’t necessarily work.

I know some people might see a lack of spending a bad thing but I don’t – especially in the current situation affecting all clubs. I’m of the belief that while this winter won’t be a great window that the summer could be very interesting with lots of clubs unwilling or unable to commit to new contracts for players.

It might be a ludicrous hand for Craig Gardner to deal with, but I’m hopeful he can bluff his way through this window to see if he gets a better hand in the summer.

Provided we can keep picking up enough points to stay out of trouble – something I firmly believe Blues can do under Bowyer – then next summer might be the start of something better.